Beginning a new habit is, perhaps, one of the most difficult things to do. It’s easy to give up on it in the first few days or weeks. Missing one or two days in a row has the power to challenge our commitment to it. We say, “I’ll try again tomorrow,” but we never do.
When I realized I wanted to be a writer, I knew I had to write every day — no matter where I was, no matter what was happening in my life. And now, for almost twenty-five years, writing every day has kept me grounded. Especially on the days when it feels like my world is being turned upside-down and inside out.
Back in 2013, shortly after I moved to Toronto, I read Rhonda Byrne’s The Magic. If you’ve read this book, you know that Byrne believes “the magic of gratitude will change your entire life.”[note]The Magic by Rhonda Byrne, Atria Books, p. 15.[/note] And the first lesson is, “Count Your Blessings.” Byrne asks us to, as early in the day as possible, write down ten blessings for which we are grateful.
I’ve been writing my Morning Pages faithfully since 1995. It’s the first thing I do in the morning. And after reading The Magic, writing a gratitude list — counting my blessings — became part of my Morning Pages ritual.
Every day I begin counting my blessings this way: I am grateful to God (the Universe, that force higher than me … whatever you want to call it) for waking me up this morning and starting me on my way. That acknowledgement of my gratitude for having another day to enjoy the beauty that is this world has transformative power. It reminds me to stay focused on the present, to let go of anything negative that came before that moment. And when I stay present — and let go of all that is beyond me and my control — I am free. Free from the negativity trying to pull me down. Free from the naysayers who believe I’ll never succeed. Free from everybody else’s version of who I should be.
It is then that I’m living in a state of grace.
Honour Who You Are
Let me be clear. When I talk about living in a state of grace, I don’t mean it in the religious sense. I don’t think about it as being free from mortal sin. Living in a state of grace is about honouring who you are, not who others think or wish you to be. You, the abstract painter. You, the master chef. You, the fifth-grade teacher. You have unearthed the thing that has long poked at your heart, called you into service … and you’ve heeded the call.
It took me a long time to embrace the writer in me. That’s because growing up my parents (my mother especially) weren’t too keen on the idea of me pursuing a life in the arts. I was a talented young pianist, and my teachers told me I could go far if I wanted to and applied myself. The only music career my parents wanted for me was that of church organist because all artists were “druggies and alcoholics” (my mother’s words).
So when I started writing, I didn’t talk about it. I hid my journals and notebooks (when I still lived at home) to not be found out. The worst of all was that I let someone else’s vision of what an artist looked like (drug addicts and drunks) skew my own perception. I started to believe that I couldn’t succeed, and that maybe it was a world I didn’t deserve to belong to.
Things began to shift when I entered university. I spent most of my time writing instead of completing course assignments or studying. That was when I realized writing was more than just a hobby. Writing was what I was passionate about, what brought me real joy. And it would take several more years of peeling away the past before really committing to it — to be willing and feeling free to live my own life.
Oprah Winfrey, writing about fulfillment, reminds us that we must “[…] find the courage to tune out the negative voices telling you all the reasons to give up. Make the choice to turn up the volume to your unique calling, the glory that is your own life.”[note]The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey, Flatiron Books, p. 175.[/note] That is, undoubtedly, the best way to honour who you are.
Turning up the volume to my own unique calling, I started living in a state of grace.
This Is It
If you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning of the year, you know I’ve been “in crisis,” so to speak. Something has been shifting underneath my feet, and it’s left me feeling restless and anxious. In an otherwise happy life, I didn’t feel at home in this world. I didn’t feel like I was in a place of belonging. And that’s what scared me the most.
This journey to connect with the deepest part of myself — as scary as it feels (it’s terrifying, actually) — reminds me that this is it. Whatever I want to do, who I want to be … now is the time to act. I’m a writer, and I dream of writing full-time and being free of my day job. So what can I do today to work towards that goal? Write. Every day. And take risks, like publishing my next book (it’s back with my editor). Finish something else (I’m currently revising another novel-length manuscript). I must write every day and be grateful for my day job, which allows me, through my writing, to be of service. That also means I must be mindful of my thoughts and actions. Constantly checking Twitter, Facebook or my sales rank on Amazon won’t help me finish my next book or get to that place of belonging. Now, right here where I am, is the time to focus on what matters so that I can make the life I want.
That’s when I’m living in a state of grace.
Paulo Coelho said, “You are here to honour something called the miracle of life. You can be here to fill your hours and days with something that is meaningless. But you know that you have a reason to be here. It is the only thing that gives you enthusiasm.”[note]The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey, Flatiron Books, p. 178.[/note] And he’s right.
Writing is the reason I’m here, and it is the thing that gives me enthusiasm. And I’m grateful every day for my talent and gift … to be of service.
Every day I write, every day I accept that I’m enough, every day I honour who I am … I’m living in a state of grace.
Do you know the reason you’re here? Are you living your own life? Are you honouring who you are? Let me know in the comments section below.
Gregory Josephs says
I’m certainly doing my best! That’s all we can do, right?
I’m impressed by your commitment to your morning pages. I keep a journal off and on, and most recently I kept it going for about two and a half years without missing an entry. Truthfully, about the time I was doing the final edits on my novel I let it lapse, and it was kind a relief. It had become tedious and repetitive. I miss it sometimes, but I’m not quite ready to come back to it.
Maybe it’s not true, but I think writers tend to consider their place in the world more than other people. Just remember that your words touch people… HAVE touched people… and will continue to do so.
Crisis is good for writing. It keeps us on point. It reestablishes focus.
Thanks for the encouragement. I know writing my Morning Pages over the years has kept me grounded. And it also helped me to build a daily writing routine, and for that I’m grateful.
I think keeping a journal or Morning Pages, you have to be in the right space. You’ll get back to journal if and when the time is right for you. (I can back to blogging after a break because I wasn’t ready for that type of commitment.)
You’re right: crisis is good for writing and helps establish focus. I’m ready, though, for the crisis to pass. But like you say … I’ll carry on.
Gregory Josephs says
I’d expect nothing less. 😉👏