A few years later, I read another book that transformed my life. It was The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. One of Cameron’s most effective tools is “morning pages” in which you start off each morning with a “brain dump” that consists of transferring whatever stuff is moving around your head onto 3 pages of paper, in longhand.
I married Goldberg’s and Cameron’s advice, and for about twenty years I have been doing morning pages by keeping my hand moving. I use cheap notebooks and an expensive fountain pen. (Tools are important. Writing is a physical process.)
By this time, I have a lot of notebooks stacked up in the spare room closet! Many, if not most, of my best ideas and most lyrical, moving pieces of writing are contained in these stacks of notebooks. (In fact, nearly the entire first rough draft of my novel Eating Mythos Soup is in there!) However, also contained in these notebooks is a whole lot of garbage and crap – whining, rehashing, angry outbursts, worrying, self-pity, listing of chores, rush-to-judgments – you know, the usual boring stuff that floats through your mind.
Great writing and crap go together. This is because writing is an organic process. Beautiful writing arises out of your mind’s debris. The French have a saying: “You can’t grow roses without shit.” The crap and garbage present in my morning pages is really fertilizer and compost that enable me to produce flowers of enormous beauty.
That’s why I named my blog Thoughts from the Compost. In it I share some of my harvest. Of course, not all of it will be scented scarlet roses or exotics dazzlers like birds-of-paradise. Some of it may be humble daisies, or even dandelions.