Many of the best books on writing, and pretty much every book on dreaming, recommend establishing a daily practice.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, both propose the idea of ‘morning pages’ – setting aside half an hour first thing in the morning to write stream-of-consciousness, before your mind gets distracted by the mundane concerns of the day.
The wonderful Writing down the Bones, by Nathalie Goldberg, develops this idea, comparing writing with Buddhist meditation practice.
The daily practice approach focuses on the process of writing rather than the products. It’s not instead of your books and stories, but as well; it’s the seed-bed from which your finished creative pieces grow.
In the same way, writing down any dreams and dream fragments you remember upon waking isn’t just about big dreams and insights – it’s about deepening your awareness of the continuous dream-life that runs parallel with your life in the dayworld.
As with morning pages, you have to set aside value judgements and simply write, whatever comes, because that’s how you find and develop the authentic writer or dreamer that you are.
Betty Edwards, in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, says it doesn’t make any difference what you do – the point of any daily practice is the experience of ‘flow.’ Knitting, jogging and gardening are all a form of meditation, as are writing and other creative activities.
Anything in which you are able to lose yourself and the world, will change and enrich your life, and doing it every day makes this out-of-time experience part of you; it grounds you in something bigger than yourself.
Do you have a daily practice? What are its benefits in your life?
28 thoughts on “Do you have a daily practice?”
Do you know, I wish I did have more of a writing routine! In theory, I do. I sit down with the lappo every day and I do write, but it can be hit and miss, punctuated by social media stuff, pot washing, hound walking, housey jobs… etc, and with the school hols in full swing, even more interruptions. So, I am not as disciplined as I could be. As the teachers always used to tell me in my school report… I could try harder! 😉
Haha – you’re right, Abi – there’s always a bit of a gap between the theory and the practice!! I was very disciplined for decades with dream recording, which was my daily pages really, but I think once the flow is established you can let go a bit and take time out without losing any of that lovely creative awareness. Now I record if I’ve incubated a dream, if I’m struck by a dream, or regularly for a while when I feel the connection has become less strong
I think one of the hardest things of working from home as a writer is keeping to my routine. It’s so easy to be distracted by other things that need doing and I wish I could be more disciplined and have a daily practice of free flow writing. ( Life would be a tad easier aswell if I had a husband who understood why I write. He just doesn’t get it!)
Hi Carolyn – you’ve reminded me how fortunate I was to have a hubby who totally understood how important my dreamlife and writing was to me, especially when it was hard to find that little oasis of calm in a busy family environment. I think the great value of free writing is that it’s not for anything – a lot of people would consider it a waste of time – and that means it’s a pure gift of time for the self, like having a massage or a daytime snooze.
At long last I have created enough space in my life for writing to be the main thing that I do. That makes me very happy but is also scary because I’ve got rid of all my hiding places. Sometimes I write morning pages, I record particularly notable dreams, I go on an artist’s date once a week to re-fuel my creativity, I sit in grave yards when I’m stuck (the dead are peacefully supportive), I write longhand in cafes at the planning stage, and on a little netbook in my study when I’m physically into the writing flow. Mainly I use the word ‘persistence’ as a mantra. That word gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me going when I want to cry because my perfectionist nature makes life so hard.
Hooray, Josie! It’s a brave step, getting rid of those hiding spaces, not least because you find out so much about who you are, as a person, as a writer. For you, the mantra is persistence – for me, ‘Impatience is a form of resistance!’ I take my notepad to the beach at the planning stage, summer and winter – but have to prise myself off the computer for such details as sleeping and eating when I’m in the writing flow. I love the way this work has different phases. I’m so happy you’ve been able to clear enough space to fully engage with it.
Thanks for all your encouragement over the years Jenny – I made my first mood board during one of your workshops, they are now an important tool of focus for my writing – and the act of creating them fills me with excitement – just one of those lovely different phases you talk about.
It was lovely working with you, Josie – it’s always lovely working with someone who feels the excitement you talk about here. Our mantras help to steer the course, but that excitement is the fuel we need in order to begin and keep on going.
I made a big collage for a book I’m pondering a few weeks ago, and it was just like that – exciting to create, and still exciting every time I look at it 🙂
And how often do we make the excuse that ‘there is no time for a daily practice?’ Well, as I tell myself and others, even 10 minutes counts. If 30 minutes feels unmanageable, as John Kabat-Zinn says, then do what is manageable.
Absolutely, Kate. It’s like another daily practice for me – walking. Ideally, I aim to walk for at least half an hour, but on busy days a quick ten minutes round the block is good enough.
I have to force myself to make time for writing. I finally found a full-time job (although it’s contract), so between that, my blog and other activities, I’m wrangling with my schedule. Still, writing is my calling, and it keeps me sane and productive.
Hi Alejandro – I think, for writers, a blog is great writing practice – I find it works best for me having a regular day for writing new posts. I’ve just had a look at your blog – great stuff – lively, interesting, well written and full of personality. And I so agree – if writing is your calling, it really does keep you sane and productive – I feel kind of scattered when I’m not able to ground myself in that particular way of thinking and being in the world for any length of time.
First I read. (since I never dream) Then I write using the reading as a springboard. The writing always turns out to be something keepable. Thanks for this reminder.
I’ve never thought of using reading as a springboard for writing in such a direct way, Katherine – I tend to read in furious bursts between writing projects. But I really like the idea of using reading as a springboard for writing in a more direct way – thank-you for sharing 🙂
You’re welcome. The reading is something I discipline myself to do one chapter per day of inspiration, first thing every morning.
I do other readings in those ravenous bursts you mentioned. 😉
P.S. I was so shocked to awaken one morning last week, having dreamed. Could not really remember it, but wondered if talking about dreaming, here, could cause me to dream? Do you study dreaming, as a science, or just make good use of it as an artist?
Yes – that’s exactly how it happens, and you aren’t the first person who has wondered in the comments whether suddenly starting to dream could be related to talking about it here on this blog. Opening to awareness that we dream every night, and adopting a positive attitude to dreams as a wonderful creative resource, is all it takes to start the flow. If you would like to dream more, and recall, take a look at my tips page, and start recording something – anything at all- as soon as you wake up. I’ve been a student of dream theories as well as a practitioner for four decades now; I teach creative dreaming because people find it freeing to come to dreaming, at least in the first instance, without the normal scientific/psychological/interpretative agenda we bring to it in Western culture
Thanks for being here. I am full of questions but short of time, today. I will return. 🙂
Fantastic – I love questions – they give me ideas for new posts!
I guessed that!
Oh! Thanks for the follow! 🙂
What a great piece. I have tried the morning writing and found it quite invigorating (lately I’ve been awaking with my husband which means I can’t roll right out of bed and in front of a computer since our house has no walls — open loft — and I need QUIET. The stream of consciousness is killed immediately, with the TV going).
I constantly struggle to find that sense of flow, but I agree with all the sources you’ve quoted that “practicing” it is what makes it happen. I would love nothing more than to train myself to experience those periods of creative flow ON COMMAND. I KNOW it can be done … if I repeat the cycle enough.
Hi Melissa – I’m really glad you enjoyed it – I love your blog 🙂 You’re so right about TV disrupting the flow. But I think that in daily life, as in dreamwork, intention is the most powerful agent for change, so I’m sure you will find the space to develop a wonderful practice.
I write inbetween everything else I do. Because I don’t have large blocks of uninterrupted time to write, I set asside time inbetween my day job and family. However, when I get right to the article I am working on, I have difficulty giving myself permission to let those creative juices flow. Now I understand why. Great tip! Any suggestion for a topic?
It’s wonderful that you find time to do any writing at all, between family life and a day job, and important too, because creative activity is a great way of nurturing the self. I have some topic suggestions and I’ll schedule a whole article about that after ‘archetypes month’ here in the House of Dreams – thank you for planting that idea!