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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Writing Diet

The other day in the library, a title caught my eye The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron. Those of you who read my pamphlet on parenting may remember that I have a conflicted relationship with Cameron’s work. I appreciated much of her bestseller The Artist's Way, but felt that her put-your-creativity-above-everything-else message did not jive well with the early stages of motherhood. Still, her idea that creativity and spirituality are linked rings true to me, so I grabbed the book and put it in our check-out pile, especially after I read the blurb that says that writing may help you lose weight.

I was instantly taken with this idea, not only because I’d like to lose the weight I’ve gained during the past three years, but because it used to be true for me that writing kept me healthy. During the years when my children were young, it was definitely true that I tended to lose weight when I had time to write and tended to gain it when I didn’t. Perhaps this was just because I drink a lot of water when I’m at my computer. Or maybe it was because I’m not easily deterred from my writing time, so it was usually something stressful that was keeping me away, and we know that stress can cause our bodies to store fat. In other words, maybe there was a correlation between writing and losing weight, but it was not causal. On the other hand, maybe Cameron is right. Maybe expressing our creativity does free us from negative emotions that we tend to suppress with potato chips and chocolate. I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and go back to writing “Morning Pages,” stream of consciousness journal entries first thing in the morning (or as near as a mother can manage). It’s kind of like meditating with a pen.

I continue to be interested in the connection between body and spirit. I know my own weight gain correlated with two different things: 1) I decided to try giving up my daily thyroid medicine for a homeopathic treatment (I quit that experiment after gaining 20lbs.); and 2) My mother became ill and then died, and I was her primary care giver. Oh yeah, and there is 3) the fact that I hit my mid-forties, when women often spread into the comfort of middle age. The fact that these three happened simultaneously makes it hard to define the cause, which I suspect is multi-layered anyway. Although I didn’t get enough writing time during the year my mother was sick and the months after her death when I was dealing with her estate, I made up for lost time after that. I’ve written a book, a pamphlet and a weekly blog during the past two years (and taken a daily thyroid pill), so you’d think I’d be looking pretty svelte if Cameron’s theory was all there was to it. Still, I’m realizing that I did gain another few pounds last spring, when I was teaching a course on race, something that was both stressful and which cut into my writing time. And aside from the blog, the writing work I’ve done since June hasn’t been that creative, so it is interesting that I seem to have lost a few pounds since starting the Morning Pages.

Maybe this is more than anyone wants to know about my body issues, but I find it interesting to observe the connections between my emotional state and my physical one. The idea that the body can be an instrument of discernment has been popping up a lot lately (including in Brent Bill’s Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment), which aside from health concerns, is another reason to pay attention to our bodies. Maybe my body is just confirming my sense that I need to write to stay in balance.


Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

I finished reading the book, and so for the record I have to state that she also recommends exercise and eating healthy food in moderation.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Actually, I think the details of your body issues make this more real and useful. I am intrigued. I have had less writing time in the last couple of months and I have gained a few pounds - which I think are both correlated with the stress of my finances and my new job, rather than causal by themselves. I have lamented both. But a few morning pages might be doable. Along with more attention to exercise and healthy food in moderation.


3:08 PM  

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