Photo credit: Michael Grosicki

The value of writing every day

In the spring of 2009, I took a class taught by a man named Artie Isaac. He was the only professor that ever told the class, “I work for you.” Artie is revered by the students who have had the pleasure of taking his class, and without a doubt, he changed my life.

While almost every distinct class of Artie’s probably merits a post of its own, one practice he encouraged has proven uniquely useful to me over time.

As part of the class’s curriculum, we all read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. While each chapter was fascinating, one of the first things we had to do was start a daily journal where we were to write three pages (~750 words) of a stream of your consciousness thought before we left the house each morning. For three months, I wrote these three pages probably 3–4 days a week in a paper notebook that I’ve since lost.

After a few weeks of writing in the morning, certain themes kept coming back up. Notably, at the time, I was frequently hungover while writing. While I understood the connection between bars and my morning headaches, writing about it forced me to make a choice about whether I wanted to keep this up.

Full disclosure, I opted to shoot for drinking more water.

At the time, I was working on starting a microbrewery with a friend. Writing each day brought every single ounce of frustration about the venture and my partner to light. Often, it’s easy to bury a frustration under the rug when you’re thinking about it, but when you have to write the same damned sentence week after week because you’re avoiding a conflict, you make a change so you can write about something new.

Near the end of the class, I broke up with my business partner and got a job folding clothes at Express to pay off the debt I incurred from buying him out. I stopped writing my morning pages that summer, but years later I picked the practice back up.

Starting with 2010, each year I’ve written 11, 5, 10, 31, 14, 52, 65, and 49 entries thus far this year.

Sometimes, writing 750 words just lets me get my thoughts together or get other thoughts out onto paper so I can think about other things. Other times, I capture memories I might have otherwise forgotten like this one from July 5, 2015:

“Next to my coffee mug is a yellow bottle of Super Miracle Bubbles. It’s nearly twice as tall as my coffee mug, and yesterday I learned my nearly three year old nephew doesn’t yet understand surface tension with regard to bubble making. That’s a memory worth saving.”

Now that I’m publishing a daily blog, the trouble with these morning pages is that I have to keep them going to get a coherent thought out in the morning. On the other hand, they’re an endless source of inspiration for future posts, and I wouldn’t trade the time spent writing them for just about anything.

If you’re even slightly curious, I can’t recommend enough writing ~750 words each morning for a few weeks. Don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a few days, but keep it up for a few weeks. And always remember to ask yourself when you get two or three paragraphs in, “What am I avoiding writing about?” Then write about that.

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