Writing Under Fire The Artist’s Way

Shameful Stories

Writing Under Fire

Writing under fire saves lives
when desperation overflows pretty journals
and sends pen in hand drawer-diving for a comp book
or some lone sheet of loose-leaf paper.

Even toilet paper writes well at midnight with its multi-tasking talent for
anger venting, tear catching, nose blowing, remorse flushing purges.

Dear God letters. Fill-in-the-blank-you-asshole letters.
Therapy work. Gasping for breath and rhythm work.
Dream logs. Synchronicity logs. Gratitude logs.
Spirit dialogs. Ego dialogs.
Alternate routes through heart and mind traffic jams.

When angst hits the wall grab a pen.
Hit the page. Save a life.
Make it yours.

Bernadette Rose Smith


Wish to amp up your life with creativity and delight in Divine Coincidence? Here’s 3 things to try. (Hey, they work for me!)


Thing 1: Morning Pages.

In the fall of ’93, my then-husband-now-friend gave me a copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Struggling with a loss of career direction, artist’s block and mild depression I couldn’t shake, I committed to reading the book and writing the morning pages that Julia prescribed.

Some might call it irony. I call it synchronicity – amplified by a Divine Purpose. Then-husband-now-friend gifted me with a book that introduced me to a process of writing my way through pretty much anything. Then he left and gifted me with an opportunity to practice that process in a way that I never could have imagined!

What are morning pages? In Julia’s words, “… three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness: ‘Oh, god, another morning. I have NOTHING to say. I need to wash the curtains. Did I get my laundry yesterday? Blah, blah, blah …’ They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.”

She also says, “There is no wrong way to do morning pages … (they) are not meant to be art. Or even writing … not supposed to sound smart … nobody is allowed to read (them) except you … Just write three pages … ”

Why write them? Julia jokes, “To get to the other side” but is quick to point to their power when she says they get us to “the other side of our fear, of our negativity…” She identifies a voice she calls the censor. (What I frequently refer to as ego in Bernadette’s Pages.)

Writing three pages of chaotic, mundane babble miraculously clears the static that interferes with my ability to quiet my mind and consciously connect. Like a child allowed to run off a sugar high after a birthday party, my ego often settles down by the time I get to page three – after which I find I can be still and receptive to insights that often change my life.


Thing 2. (Maybe 3.) Writing With Your Other Hand.

Years ago, a friend introduced me to the power of using my non-dominant hand to tap into the wisdom of the right brain. She guided me through a series of dialogs during which the right hand (my dominant) wrote out the question with a pen and the left hand (my non-dominant) answered with a crayon. The left hand blurts were surprisingly direct and wise. The process captured my attention but did not go beyond a few sessions. This powerful tool reemerged as a lifeline after then-husband-now-friend’s departure and is still something I do in my morning page time.

You don’t have to understand how the right brain works to experience its effect. Creative or not, we all intuitively dip into it on an unconscious level. But, if you want to harness its power more consciously, I suggest you read Lucia Capacchione’s, The Power of Your Other Hand as well as the classic, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. These books direct you to a whole new way of seeing and experiencing the world.


Thing 3: (Maybe 2.) Scribing Spirit.

Scribing – referred to as “Spirit Dialog” in B’s Pages – was not entirely new to me when I started doing morning pages. I’d had a few ‘scribing outbreaks’ in previous years––outbreaks that I attributed to twelve-step recovery work. (Specifically Step Eleven.)

Often, in my practice of Step Eleven (that states, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him …”) I would feel a Divine Presence and an urge to write. Sometimes words flowed onto the page that were not my own. No burning bushes – or winning lottery numbers – but always appropriate to where I was and what I was concerned with.

Without the established habit (morning ritual) of showing up to the page, I would not have a clear channel nor a comfort zone when Divine Guidance bumps journaling to the next level with whispers of redirects or offers of lifelines. And I would miss the crossroads – the opportunities to change direction – that lead to what I know and love about life today.

I Write to Think poster

A Shortcut?  These days, my writing evolves to fit life circumstances and time constraints but remains a foundational cornerstone; a primary tool I use to process and move through life’s stuff. Issues that show up on paper often do not have to remain as long, drawn out classroom experiences. And, at crucial times, they act as springboards for some pretty amazing communication with others. (I do not advise that you share your writing casually, however. It is important to have an ear that constructively hears beyond the guilt and fear that often gets dumped onto the pages.)

Here’s a Thought.  Why wait for pain to motivate you when guidance is “at hand?” Let morning pages prime the pump and other-hand writing set the stage for your own insightful “blurts.” I would LOVE to hear your experiences and thoughts on what your “writing under fire” looks like and how it works in your life. Or your challenges with writing in this way. “Dump” them here ‘cause together we grow!

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10 thoughts on “Writing Under Fire The Artist’s Way

  • May 29, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Your article rang some bells for me Bernadette Rose. Scribing the divine. My nature walks are my best meditations. I find nature is like an 8 ball. Form a question and wait for an answer to rise to the surface — usually the answer is in a pattern or revelation through nature itself. Forming the question is essential — or for me it is. The question is essentially a prayer to the divine, or what I think of as the cosmic spirit. So it’s, look deeper, develop some awareness of what you are looking at or wondering about, then form the question. I almost always receive an insight when I do this. If I passively walk around enjoying the beauty of it all I enjoy the beauty, but don’t receive much in the way of answers. Without the question there is no answer.

    • May 29, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      Thank you for the insights you share here, Garry. “Without the question there is no answer.” Love that one. Knowing the right question … or, at least, paying attention when asking rather than passively asking allows for a better understanding of what is “at hand” and is more than half the battle. Without that understanding or mindfulness we may not know what to do with the answer when we get it. Now, what was that you were saying? 😉

  • May 31, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I have a new app on my phone. When I “punch” the button, it produces a “word of the day” complete with spelling, definition, synonyms, and usage guidelines. I am determined to increase my “Word Power”, so that I might become a better writer. After reading this Blog, I became inspired. What if I chose a word at random and transcribed my thoughts and feelings in the moment about what it means to me? I might combine my writing development with my increased vocabulary. No matter what word comes up, I’ll go with it! Create! Work my mental muscles.
    Here goes….(punch)…RE*PUG*NANT *….(extremely distasteful; unacceptable)…long pause…longer pause…boy I feel those juices flowin’…………..
    Ok…well occasionally, I think it’s quite permissible to…choose TWO words…or ANOTHER word…because I know there are no limits or bounders to my own creativity….So I’ll try again….
    (punch) SYZYSY… (punch again) DREAMT… (Oh now that’s a good one…let’s see…hmmmm)…. (punch) TMESIS….(punch) YDROXYZINE…(oh good one. It says, “The only word in the English language that contains x-y-z in that order”. Great. I can do something with this! Maybe not…(punch) QUEUE…now here’s one I can use. “This is my QUEUE to begin my morning pages! What? Wrong Queue?

    As this was my first attempt to morning muse, I think it went very well…Seriously, I loved this Blog, the tips, and the comments…Thanks for letting me “PLAY” (engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose)

    • May 31, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Well, Joseph, thank you! That was an engagingly creative morning muse that gave me some fun ideas to PLAY with as I continue to prepare for the June Creativity Challenge on Muses of Art & Soul. 🙂 Okay, so I do not have an app like that and the thought of such puts this messy mind in a TIZZY (a state of frenzied excitement) … as when I read your comment I went all a TITTER (to laugh in a half-suppressed way) … I am glad to see you did not limit your options in expressing your “Word Power” … but I do believe that YOU (the person or persons spoken to) did much for the APPLICATION (an applying) … don’t you hate when they use the word to define the word? …of the app as the app did for inspiring you … YDROXYZINE … hmmm … that’s gotta be worth some big POINTS (a unit of value) in Words with Friends … 😉

  • June 2, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Hi Bernadette, Synchronicity rules. I wrote with the non dominant hand this morning for a group I am connected with. Usually I “feel” I want to write and write in the back of the current journal and that seems to work for me. But writing/painting, whatever underwater works for me.

    • June 2, 2015 at 7:22 am

      I am so haPPy to see you here, Jan! 😉 Yes! Synchronicity rules and plays with us. I like the “writing underwater” reference you make. To me, water represents emotional realm so underwater would be like going to the depths of my feelings and emerging … suddenly I see a mermaid! Hmmmm… <3

      • June 2, 2015 at 7:03 pm

        At the moment I am playing with body parts. Such fun! First arms and fore arms painted yellow stuck to a raspberry red background. Now, what did I want those hands to hold? I decided on a bon bon, broken and spurting a party. The bon bon has a name tag called “life” I had a lot of fun doing this……..now on to feet. I have started this, but what to do now? I feel considerable gratitude for my feet and hands……they’ve done a lot of hard work for me over many years. Next? maybe legs? But will they fit on a largish page?.

        • June 4, 2015 at 6:31 am

          Something tells me those feet will fit, Jan… or that page will magically grow. Love the reference to the bob bon called life … here’s to sticky, licky fingers, hon! XO

  • June 3, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Thanks for your wonderful and fun musings Bernadette and to your fellow commenters! Yay so good to know I am not on my own with the “word” thought which comes to me every morning argghhh, I have so many journals and books of my morning scribbles and I was beginning to think myself quite odd lols
    This morning my idea was about the word wealth. As I wake up it is as if someone is imprinting an “idea” in my mind and I cannot help but follow the word flow and synchronicity …. The idea of “Wealth” came to me as “True wealth is not what you store in the bank, but is what is shared from the kindness of your heart” I have an aversion to “money” and that society seems to crave it after working in advertising and sales for the last 20 years!
    I’m not sure if I have read this somewhere before, but it has become my thought for the day and I have had to write it down … helppppp fellow word musers what can be done with all of these cravings?
    ps it didn’t help that on fb this morning the “Hermits Journey” also re-iterated the Celtic card for “Wealth” compounding my fixation noooooooo … Maybe the left hand work will cure my addiction :O

  • June 4, 2015 at 6:46 am

    “Word wealth.” What a wonderful ring that has, Victoria. It is funny that we share the advertising “thing.” I spent the first 18 years of my “real-job” life in advertising, employed by companies that coerced cravings for more … and more … YOU know the story well, hon. I have spent the last 18 (plus) years trying to help others release those coerced cravings and find their autonomy in the choices they make for what they bring into their life. That is why I refer to myself in my clutter clearing business as the destash diva … sigh … but not all can be cured or fixed. I do like money, though, for the additional freedom and autonomy it provides when our spirit is aligned with our wealthiest “Wellest-Being.” Love that you stopped by to play. 😉 I think YOUR craving are just what this world needs!

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