Morning Pages – Clearing the Head Clutter

Morning pages — if you already do them, you know their benefits.

If you don’t do morning pages or haven’t heard of them, read on.

I learned about morning pages through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It’s one way to work through the clutter that can fill your mind and stump your writing (or any creative) progress.

In the image included here, I have a copy of The Artist’s Way as well as The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal. There is no real reason to purchase the journal, I simply like that it follows along with the book (if you’re interested in a 12-week program to increase your creativity), and it allows 3-pages-per-day to fill in for those 12 weeks.

Morning pages are simply journal pages you do first thing in the morning (for best results).

The best benefit of morning pages – no thinking! The morning pages are meant to clear your head space before you fully wake up and start any creative activity.

The morning pages are stream of consciousness and never for anyone else to see.

Decluttering your mind of whatever filled it while you were sleeping allows you to focus quicker when you move into your day.

How to do morning pages:

  • wake up
  • roll over
  • grab the journal and pen
  • open to the next blank page
  • write — whatever flows out of your fingertips

Of course you can vary the process depending on your life – bathroom rituals might take priority. You may prefer to grab a cup of coffee. Maybe you want to sit at a desk to write. The earlier you can start writing, the better, though. Get the clutter out and move on!

Writing three pages before I’m fully awake is easier than writing them any other time of the day, because once the day begins, it’s so easy to drift off and think about things on the to do list.

I truly feel that morning pages ‘clear the clutter’ out of my head so I can get to the words I need. Like shoveling a path to the car on a snow day — if the snow isn’t cleared I can still get to the car, but it’s a struggle. So it’s best to clear a path to be most productive!

What writing habit do you find useful to clear your head clutter?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, AlignableInstagram, and Twitter.

Spell Against Self Doubt

This summer, I almost turned down a writing residency.

Before fully considering the offer, doubt crept in. A friend pointed out that I was more focused on my self-doubt than the opportunity in front of me. And so, I cast a spell against self-doubt.

The spell was quite simple; it was to complete four actions before starting work.

Those actions were:

  • An act of kindness
  • An act of strength
  • An act of creation
  • An act of bravery

My Spell Against Self-Doubt

In the weeks leading up to the residency, and during the residency itself, my spell against self-doubt became a daily practice. Each action was an antidote to my most frequent doubts.

The manifestation of my casual witchcraft was to:

  • Make coffee for my partner  (Act of Kindness)
  • Bust out 30-50 Pushups (Act of Strength)
  • Sketch a quick cartoon (Act of Creation)
  • Scribble three pages of automatic writing (Act of Bravery)

The culmination of this practical magic was that when I started work on my play I was energized, centered, and eager to tap into the fictional world I was creating. Whenever doubt started to murmur, I refuted it, with my proof of kindness, strength, creation, and bravery

Centering my writing practice on acts of kindness towards others (and myself) let me shed my fear that writing is a selfish pursuit. The adrenaline rush from my act of strength let me draw with energy and abandon. I started sketching because it was a form that had no repercussions on my sense of self as a creative.


Satisfaction: holding a grudge / letting it go

I gave up on “learning to draw” in seventh grade when I was unable to render a realistic bouquet of flowers. Last July, when I decided to start drawing, I was unencumbered from any pressure to be good. Unlike writing, it’s not something I’ve practiced.Surprisingly, I fell in love.

Armed with paints, I was full of stories. Freed from any understanding of technique, I was able to let go of my bias that realistic is good. Drawing in my own perspective, freed me to write in my own voice.

After the joy of splashing my thoughts into colorful cartoons, I was able to face myself on the page and write.

By the time the residency started, the spell had taken hold. Instead of bringing my toolbox of doubt, I brought my watercolors and a play I was excited to share.


Ready, Set, Draw!

Over the past six months, the spell has stuck. I continue to count acts of kindness, feats of strength, and drawing as an essential to my writing. What started as an act of desperation has become a source of inspiration.

Do you have your own version of the spell against self-doubt?

Have you ever tried drawing/dancing/singing as a way to warm-up before writing?


Naomi is a writer, performer, and project manager.  She has dueling degrees in business and playwriting.


Walking and Writing Toward Wisdom

Writing and Walking

Writing is an act of discovery. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was a girl. Photo courtesy of Leadership’N Motion

My colleagues here have written eloquently about the value of journaling. Lisa describes journaling as A Method for Creative Discoveries, and Jamie lists 10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer.

Like both of them, I’ve been journaling since I was quite young. As an only girl in a household of boys, writing was sometimes the only way I could make myself heard. It’s still sometimes the only way I can hear myself.


But now that I’m a professional writer, I sometimes need a break from my desk; that’s when I walk.

Walking is a lot like journaling. Instead of unspooling my thoughts in ink, I hike over the uneven terrain of my mental uncertainty. Before long, my footsteps shake my ideas into place, and I return to my desk with mental clarity.

writing and walkingSometimes, it’s emotional upset that blocks the words, and walking helps calm me. Being in nature changes my perspective with a long view. I’m reminded, “It’s not about me,” one of The Four Agreements that I find so helpful since reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s book about personal freedom and Toltec wisdom last February.

I read The Four Agreements in preparation for attending two-day “aWALKening to Personal Leadership Retreat” that deepened my understanding of how walking aids my writing and my life.

The Retreat was sponsored by Leadership’N Motion, co-founded by two dynamic coaches with international experience: Kate Lampel Link and Marjine van den Kieboom.


The retreat affirmed how walking literally and metaphorically helps me move forward.

One of the unintended consequences of that retreat was connecting with Kate – with whom I’ve crossed paths for years, usually on local cross-country ski trails.

Since February, we’ve been walking side-by-side in a deepening friendship. Our walks through the forest have led us to understand better the synergy of walking and writing, two activities that reinforce our personal leadership and help us to live mindful, fulfilling lives.

writing and walking

Kate Link Lampel and I are collaborating on Women Women Walking and Writing Toward Wisdom on 11/4/17. Photo courtesy of Leadership ‘N Motion

Kate’s a coach and I’m an educator. We both work primarily with women pursuing self-empowerment, whether pursuing a dream of entrepreneurship (Kate) or reframing the narrative of their lives (me). We hadn’t walked very far together before we started collaborating on a way to bring our knowledge and skills to others.

So it is with great excitement that we’ll be offering Women Walking and Writing toward Wisdom, and all-day WALKshop on November 4, 2017.

Please note: Space is limited and Registration is required.

walking & writing

At the end of the Long Trail, 9/8/2016.

When she’s not walking, Deborah Lee Luskin is writing and Living in Place.





Can We (as writers) Have Too Many Journals or Notepads?

Small sampling of my journals and notebooks

Small sampling of my journals and notebooks

I enjoyed all the responses to my post last week about personal libraries and how many books we have, don’t have, need to get rid of, and so on.

On a similar track… I’ve always enjoyed journaling and my mom and friends know that, so I’m always receiving beautiful journal books for special occasions.

I can use journals for:

  • Personal thoughts
  • Notes about individual novels I plan to write (someday)
  • Short stories that need to spurt onto a page
  • Travelogues
  • Trip planning
  • Story idea collecting
  • 5-year journal for brief snippets of my day
  • Morning pages
  • Poetry
  • Personal growth (some journals come with daily exercises)
  • Wines I’ve tried
  • Books I want, are recommended, have read, have reviewed…

I also have a collection of various types of notebooks and note pads and use those for writing workshops, writing group exercises, conferences, and so on. It’s difficult to pass up back-to-school specials on some spiral bound notebooks or pads of paper – so I have a lot!

Do you find different uses for different types of journal books, notebooks, and note pads? Do you have a favorite type of journal or notebook that you use most often?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

What Do You Do with Old Journals?

I’m in serious cleaning mode, as I need to pack up and move to an as yet undetermined location. (Place I’m renting is being sold, and I’m not interested in buying it.)

ANYway, as I decide, yet again, how to downsize, I’m coming across boxes I haven’t opened in more than 5 years.

I bet you aren’t surprised, since you know I’m a writer, that I have, um, a few journals. And these, um, few journals fill, well, a few boxes. I have books all the way back to my teen years (which really is only a few years ago), when I called them diaries.

Anyway, along with my TBR (to-be-read) pile of books that I am giving away because I don’t want to move crates and crates of books, yet again, I’m trying to decide how to treat all these journals.

Used JournalsAm I ever going to read through them? Doubtful.

With no children, nieces, or nephews, I don’t have anyone to pass them down to (if anyone would have been interested anyway).

I doubt I’d keep them if I move into a retirement community or assisted living facility – if either of those milestones comes upon me.

So, I’m seriously asking – if you were me, what would you do with all these journals?

  • (A) Keep ’em a little while longer? (suck it up and move the several boxes)
  • (B) Recycle them? (it’s not like anyone could identify me if they were read)
  • (C) Have a big bonfire and make s’mores over them? (will need referrals to fire pits!)
  • (D) _______________

Thank you in advance for your suggestions!

I wish you a happy Monday and an exceptionally productive week.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Writing & Yoga Workshop

Deb Luskin & Jen Frey are offering a Writing & Yoga Workshop, Writing to the Light, on Friday, November 13, 2014, at Newfane Village Yoga, Newfane, VT

Deb Luskin & Jen Frey are offering a Writing & Yoga Workshop, Writing to the Light, on Friday, November 13, 2014, at Newfane Village Yoga, Newfane, VT

Over the past few years I’ve found a remedy for the writing hazards of poor posture, stiff joints and loneliness through the practice of yoga.

My yoga practice began as a strictly physical endeavor: a way to exercise with others and regain the flexibility that’s hard to maintain after spending most of a day in a chair. But I quickly learned that elements of yoga, like breathing and staying present, were good for opening my writer’s mind. Now, I combine yoga and writing all the time.

My yoga practice includes difficult stretches, challenging balances, and killer core strengtheners. These help me build the flexibility, grace and strength to write from my heart with a still mind.

I know a lot of people turn to journals to plumb their emotional and spiritual depths; journal writing is good for that. I also know people who say they’d like to write more, but don’t have the time; and others who say they’d like to exercise more, but don’t have the will-power. That used to be me – and it’s what lead me to practice yoga, which helps me find my breath, balance and words.

We'll be writing about finding ways to maintain our light through the dark of the year.

We’ll be writing about finding ways to maintain our light through the dark of the year. (Deborah Lee Luskin, photo)

So, I’m delighted to be teaming up with my yoga instructor, Jenny Frey, to lead Writing to the Light, a workshop designed to nurture our internal light as the earth tilts toward the dark.

We’ll use yoga and breath to ground ourselves, and writing to illuminate a path through the coming dark. Jen’s gentle yoga practice will prepare us for timed writing to inspiring prompts. Using our deepest breath, we will then make our words audible and find strength in our collective ideas.

No prior experience necessary, just comfortable clothes, pen, paper, and a willingness to be still and discover.

The workshop will take place at Newfane Village Yoga on Friday, November 13, from 6-9 PM. The cost is $30. Register here.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is an author, blogger, and writing consultant with over thirty years experience teaching writing and literature to a wide variety of learners throughout Vermont. She’s been practicing yoga for a several years.


Jen’s core philosophy is that yoga should be available and accessible to all. She creates a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere in which a challenging flow is punctuated with warmth and giggles. Her goal is always to get you to try something new with a sense of humor. She embraces a versatile Vinyasa flow and modifies to suit all levels. Mindfulness and breath work are fundamental ingredients in her approach.
Jen began practicing yoga in 1998. What started out as a purely physical endeavor evolved into a pathway for life. Jen is a 500 RYT, she studied Fluid Yoga with Kevan Gale at Stil Studio, Boston.

Weekend Edition – Spouse or Lover Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

Are You Better Off Treating Your Writing Like a Marriage or a Love Affair?

face love noteAs 2015 broke open with the dauntingly pristine blankness of a new notebook, writers swore fervent new promises of commitment to their writing. Whispered in secret or emblazoned nakedly across the digital landscape, writers everywhere renewed their vows with craft and muse.

Not being one for resolutions, I sat on the sidelines of this annual frenzy of fealty, but it got me thinking about the kinds of relationships writers have with their writing. For most of us, writing is not our primary profession. It is more avocation than vocation – more a calling than a career. In my case, though I do make my living as a writer, the words that keep a roof over my head and books on my shelf are not the words that stir my dreams as I drift off to sleep each night. Though, technically, the work I do each day is writing, it is not Writing. (You understand.)

How many times have you wished that you could catch a break and (finally) be one of the lucky few who earns an actual, sustainable living from creative writing? How many times have you fantasized about a life in which you are free to spend all the hours of your days (and nights, if you like) writing what you want to write?

But, is that really what you want?

You have heard, I am sure, the many stories about lottery winners who end up cursing their winning tickets. I wonder if writers who win the proverbial publishing lottery sometimes end up feeling the same way. After all, it’s hard to transition from a life in which writing is something that you do because you are passionate about it, stealing minutes and hours to connect with your creativity and your keyboard, to a life in which writing is something that you must do because you have deadlines and contracts and commitments.

Like a marriage between two people, a marriage between a writer and writing is a union with a delicate alchemy. On the one hand it can provide a strong foundation for your creative work by providing structure, support, and a certain confidence. On the other hand, there is a reason we say that familiarity breeds contempt. What was once a joyful pursuit becomes a tired obligation, hitting your word count is suddenly (and sadly) more a routine slog than a passionate dance with the muse.

Perhaps if you were married to your writing, you would no longer taste the inspiring sweetness of illicit interludes with your imagination. Perhaps, you would realize that your creativity was fueled in part by the need to fight so hard for what you thought couldn’t have. Perhaps, gods forbid, you would begin to take the privilege of writing for granted.

I recently watched a wonderful movie called The Hundred-Foot Journey starring, among others, the marvelous Helen Mirren. Mirren plays the pretentious owner of a high-class French restaurant that she runs in memory of her deceased husband. In one scene, she castigates her kitchen staff over the sub-par preparation of some asparagus. Holding up a limp spear of the offending vegetable, she says, “Cuisine is not a tired old marriage, it is a passionate affair of the heart”

Indeed. And so it should be with writing as well.

But, maybe you don’t have to choose wedded “bliss” or forbidden affair. Maybe there is a middle ground. Aren’t there relationships that are true and strong even without the binds of official sanctions? Couldn’t you create an enduring relationship with your writing, one that is deep and vulnerable, without someone else’s blessing? I think you could.

The artist’s relationship with art should never be defined by rules, limited by expectations, or judged by traditional standards. You are the writer – the artist. You create things. You can create your relationship with your art in whatever way best serves your artistic endeavors. And that freedom of choice, whether you choose to pursue betrothal or an endless courtship, will keep the fires of inspiration burning in your writer’s heart.


What I’m Learning About Writing:

For those of you who are regular readers, I’m replacing the “What I’m Writing” section of the weekend edition with this new “What I’m Learning About Writing” tid-bit. I hope you like it! 

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the local concert of a musical group called Project Trio. Featuring Peter Seymour on double pass, Greg Pattillo on flute (and beat boxing!), and Eric Stephensen on some kick ass cello, this unique and delightfully entertaining collection of world-class musicians have a sound that Downbeat Magazine calls “Packed with musicianship, joy, and surprise!” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a little taste:

Isn’t that fun?

One of the most interesting things about Project Trio is the way they take all kinds of music – classical, jazz, bluegrass, Indian, salsa, rock, you name it – and make it completely their own … which made me think about how, as writers, we can do the same thing with the stories we write.

It’s said that there are no new stories. Every possible story has been told and retold thousands and thousands of times. The characters, setting, and other details change, but the underlying story is the same – boy meets girl or good vs. evil or whatever. The creative opportunity lies in taking these ubiquitous and eternal truths and using them as the basis to create our own reality. Like the musicians of Project Trio, we can take the raw material and turn it into something that is uniquely our own. We can make the old new again, help people see it in a new way.

What stories are you retelling? How are you making them your own?


What I’m Reading:

book airbornMy daughter and I just finished a swashbuckling read by author Kenneth Oppel. Airborn is a young adult novel that is part steampunk, part fantasy, and part pirate adventure.  From Oppel’s website:

Matt Cruse is the 15-year-old cabin boy aboard the Aurora, the 900-foot luxury airship he has called home for the past two years. While crossing the Pacificus, Matt fearlessly rescues the unconscious pilot of a crippled hot air balloon. Before he dies, the balloonist tells him about the fantastic, impossible creatures he has seen flying through the clouds. Matt dismisses the story as the ravings of a dying man, but when Kate de Vries arrives on the Aurora a year later, determined to prove the story is true, Matt finds himself caught up in her quest. Then one night, over the middle of the ocean, deadly air pirates board the Aurora. Far from any hope of rescue, Kate and Matt are flung into adventures beyond all imagining. . .

I read this out loud to my daughter at bedtime and I have to say that I often felt it was a poor choice for pre-sleep reading because it was so exciting. I have never had such an easy time getting dramatic with my reading. To say I was swept up in the action is an understatement.

Though this award-winning title has a male protagonist (not a bad thing – at all – but I like to find books with strong female leads for my daughter), I loved that he was paired with a smart and dauntless female character who is largely responsible for the events that drive the story forward.

If you or any young readers you know enjoy well-written adventure stories with a touch of fantasy, I highly recommend Airborn. I’m so glad that it’s the first of a trilogy. We’re starting the second book, Skybreaker, tonight. I can’t wait.


And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:



Here’s to keeping the love alive (however you can), putting your own spin on classic stories, and embracing adventure along the way. 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
Photo Credit (love note): Send me adrift. via Compfight cc