By now, I am sure you will have discovered one of the most irksome challenges on our Artist’s Way. I am referring to times of drought.
This is when the morning pages get harder to stick to, but are the most valuable. They feel like slogging through the desert, being dogged by doubt (“Oh, what’s the use? I am not getting anywhere with this”). The practice of morning pages, even the whole attempt to call ourselves artists, starts to feel pointless, even painful.
Julia describes our disenchantment, especially with morning pages, perfectly: “They feel like empty gestures – like making breakfast for the lover we know is leaving us anyhow.”
Droughts, she acknowledges, whisper to us that they will last forever; they haunt us with fears about our own mortality, and that we will never ever have done anything of value before we depart this life.
“Hoping against hope,” she writes, “we go through the motions. Our consciousness is parched. We cannot feel so much as a trickle of grace.”
As usual, her timing is dead on. Because frankly, I am sort of feeling this way. I tell myself I am ready for this to be over with. I want to go off and do something more fun. I am sick of my morning pages, tired of talking about this stuff, and too busy anyhow to really deal with my artist urges.
Bingo. This is really what the drought is all about, and I, for one, am right there. And truly, the fact that this is even happening shows that I am not lost. Yes, it is dangerous territory, where many do give up. But it is a very predictable part of this journey.
She tells us, “During a drought (during a doubt, I [Julia] just accurately wrote with a slip of the finger), we are fighting with God/dess. We have lost faith – in the Great Creator and in our creative selves. We have some bone to pick, and bones to pick are everywhere. This is the desert of the heart. Looking for a hopeful sign, all we see are the hulking remains of dreams that died along the path.
“And yet we write our morning pages because we must.
“During a drought,” she emphasizes, “emotions are dried up. Like water, they may exist somewhere underneath, but we have no access to them… We are between dreams…Too listless to even know our losses, we put one page after another, more from habit than from hope.
“And yet we write our morning pages because we must.”
So here’s the thing. Droughts do end. And like the desert, one day what appeared to be all dead and empty will suddenly bloom. It will if and only if you hang in there, keep showing up, and going through the motions in your morning pages. Once again, they really are a non-negotiable, mission-critical part of this recovery. They become the habit, the practice, that will save the day when you feel you can no longer make it happen.
If you don’t need a map for your recovery, good for you; maybe you don’t need morning pages. But for the rest of us, who have already spent years wandering in the desert, they will truly show us the way home. So let us keep journaling; let us keep going forward.
More next week!