deal-with-morning-pages

The Deal with Morning Pages

artist, creativity, music, songwriting

I remember the first week of my Songwriting Degree and my tutor saying: “Develop these two habits now: morning pages and artist dates.” At the time, I had never heard of Julia Cameron and ‘The Artist’s Way’ and didn’t have the slightest idea of what my teacher was talking about.

Artist dates seemed pretty straightforward. They were dates you went on with yourself, the artist. Like a trip to the cinema, or a stroll through the park. But morning pages had a much vaguer explanation. They were pages you wrote in the morning, but were they a diary? Were they lyrics? Prose? And what exactly were they supposed to help with? What was the best way of doing them?

I’ve been writing morning pages on and off for over two years, and have explored different ways of doing them. I want to share some of my experience to help you understand what they are and why they work.


What are morning pages?

Morning pages can be whatever you want them to be. It’s three pages that can be a diary, a poem, anything. But they must be written while your mind is still wandering through that morning fog that keeps your inner critic from judging your writing. It’s stream-of-consciousness writing that no one will ever see. It’s a place where your secrets will be safe, and so will your terrible writing. You can use it to reflect on your goals or to try something daring that you won’t have the courage for anywhere else.

Get a morning pages journal that’s dedicated entirely to morning pages. Don’t use your computer to type them out – write them out by hand because it’s only then that you feel that connection with the words you’re writing. It’s so easy to type away mindlessly. I know very few people who write by hand mindlessly. Oh, and don’t show your morning pages to anyone. Ever.


“Pages clarify our yearnings. They keep an eye on our goals. They may provoke us, coax us, comfort us, even cajole us, as well as prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. If we are drifting, the pages will point that out. They will point the way True North. Each morning, as we face the page, we meet ourselves. The pages give us a place to vent and a place to dream. They are intended for no eyes but our own.”

Julia Cameron, ‘The Miracle of Morning Pages: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Most Important Artist’s Way Tool: A Special from Tarcher/Penguin’

Julia Cameron is not the only one who advocates this practice. Natalie Goldberg talks about a ‘writing practice’ in ‘Writing Down the Bones’, and although she talks about writing in general, at any time of day, there are clear similarities with Cameron’s morning pages. She also advocates writing them out by hand and says that you shouldn’t think too much about what you’re writing while you’re writing because you might censor your most energetic, most alive writing.


Don’t try to control it. Stay present with whatever comes up, and keep your hand moving.

Natalie Goldberg, ‘Writing Down the Bones’

Why write morning pages?

I have asked myself that question many, many, many, many, many times. Especially when my alarm would go off at half six in the morning so that I’d have time for my morning pages before dashing off to work or uni. Unfortunately, there are many good reasons why, so I always ended up dragging myself out of bed anyway.


1. They get you thinking creatively at the start of the day.

You start your morning by filling a blank page. That sets the tone for the rest of the day – your mind enters the creative mode early on, making it easier to create throughout the day. It’s hard to even contemplate writer’s block when you’re writing three pages of something every day. Pat Pattison, the writer of ‘Writing Better Lyrics’ supports the idea of writing in the morning. He writes:


Always wake up your writer early, so you can spend the day together. It’s amazing the fun the two of you can have watching the world go by. Your writer will be active beside you, sniffing and tasting, snooping for metaphors. It’s like writing all day without moving your fingers.

Pat Pattison, ‘Writing Better Lyrics’

2. They hold you accountable.

When I first started doing morning pages, they frightened me. I genuinely dreaded writing them. Not because I couldn’t come up with anything to write about, but because of what I was writing. The longer you keep up the practice, the more honest with yourself you become on the page. And when I started being honest with myself, I started realising things about my life I would have preferred to stay in the dark about. My relationship, my career, my studies, my friendships – morning pages scrutinised everything. But two years later, I can say that I should’ve trusted the words I was writing down. Without a filter, our mind tells us what we want more clearly. Morning pages help us figure out what we want to do and who we want to be.


3. They help you take control of your day.

Morning pages are not just about reflection, which is why you can’t write them at the end of the day. They’re also about setting goals and understanding how you want to live your life. By writing them in the morning, you start your day knowing what matters to you. And even if you don’t use morning pages as a diary but as a writing practice, you are setting out your priorities by making writing the first thing you do. You are claiming your day.


4. They offer you a safe space for your ideas.

No one else will read your morning pages. You can do whatever you want on the page. Write about your wildest dreams, your deepest secrets, or try writing a weird, experimental poem that will suck. Let your writing guide you. Natalie Goldberg thinks of it as a place where we let our wildest selves be free.


It’s our wild forest where we gather energy before going to prune our garden, write our fine books and novels.

Natalie Goldberg, ‘Writing Down the Bones’

What’s the best way to write morning pages?

If you’ve read all this, you probably realise that there is no best way to do it. Your way is the best. The only rules are: write three pages longhand and don’t think too much about what you’re writing. Everything else is up to you. I recommend you try out different things – a diary, a writing practice, a mix of the two – for at least a couple weeks to see what works best. As Julia Cameron wrote: “Do not overthink Morning Pages: just put
three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

best-books-for-songwriters

My Favourite Books for Songwriters

artist, creativity, music, productivity, songwriting

For those of you who don’t know me – I LOVE reading. Not just love. LOVE. For someone who hasn’t lived in the same place for longer than four months in the last three years, I have a lot of books. And since I’m a songwriter, a lot of them are inevitably about writing and music. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts on my favourite ones with you.


On inspiration and creativity

‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

big-magic-elizabeth-gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is the woman that brought us ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, inspiring people all over the world. ‘Big Magic’ has a different purpose. It doesn’t talk about how to become a bestselling author or how to embrace your wild, creative dreams. Instead, it focuses on small victories, on how to live a creative life without harbouring unrealistic expectations. Gilbert writes about her own life, her process, and how creating in itself should be the goal. It’s the book to read when you’re feeling stuck, or when you don’t know why you’re doing it anymore.

‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg

This is the best book on writing and inspiration I have ever read. Natalie Goldberg gets down to the joy of writing, incorporating Zen practice and meditation into her teaching. The love she has for writing and creativity is so contagious it will make you want to throw aside the book and start writing. Which is exactly what books like these are supposed to do anyway.




On lyrics

‘Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting’ by Jimmy Webb

tunesmith-jimmy-webb

This is probably the most thorough book on songwriting I’ve ever read. It’s written by one of the greatest songwriters of our time (think ‘Wichita Lineman‘ and ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix‘) and gives amazing insights into how professional songwriters work. Webb dedicates a whole chapter to his writing process, describing in detail how he starts and finishes a song. It’s a book for more advanced songwriters, as it deals with some theoretical concepts and frameworks beginners might not be familiar with, although Webb briefly explains all the terms he uses. He also delves deep into melody and harmony, which a lot of books on songwriting fail to do.

‘The Songwriter’s Idea Book’ by Sheila Davis

songwriters-idea-book-sheila-davis

Sheila Davis has several books to her name that have become required reading in music courses. In this book, she talks about how personality types influence the way we write and think about our work, and offers 40 strategies for writing a song. She talks about everything from rhetoric devices and figurative language to plot strategies and the importance of a good title, but the main emphasis of the book is on ‘whole-brain writing’ and how our personality influences our productivity.


On music business

‘How to Make It in the New Music Business’ by Ari Herstand

This book is the Bible of the music business for independent musicians. Ari Herstand – a DIY artist himself – talks about everything you might want to know. Although parts of the book focus specifically on the US, most of it is geared towards musicians everywhere. He gives practical tips and provides strategies, timelines for releases, and templates for emails. It’s the most hands-on book on music business I’ve read so far.

‘The Art of Asking’ by Amanda Palmer

Although technically it’s not about the music business, it taught me more about how to handle my career than most other books that are. Amanda Palmer – a DIY legend – writes about how she started out, the innovative (read: crazy) strategies she used to build a fanbase, the work that went into her Kickstarter campaign, and the mental toll of it. It’s not a step-by-step guide by any means, but the creativity with which Amanda Palmer built her music career from the ground up is so inspiring, it will spark interesting marketing ideas in any songwriter who reads it.


On recording

‘The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook’ by Bobby Owsinski

If you’re like me and don’t have the money to record in a studio and pay a mixing engineer, this book is a great guide to start your research with. There are a lot of good Youtube videos out there to help you with whatever DAW you’re using, recording techniques, etc., but it can be hard to find good videos on mixing. This book, however, has everything. Owsinski talks about dynamics, effects, dimension, frequency. The book also includes interviews with producers/mixing engineers like Bob Brockman, Dave Pensado (who also has a great podcast on music production called ‘Pensado’s Place‘), and Ed Stasium.


If you have any other recommendations I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the comments!

starting-over-new-start

The Beauty of Starting Over (and the Horror of It)

artist, creativity, self-love

I could never commit to one thing for a long time. I get bored easily – with hobbies, people, places. Music has always been the one constant in my life – even though I might go a month without looking at my guitar, I know I will always come back to it. Everything else has always been in motion – I have never had the same friends for longer than a few years, I grow restless if I stay in one place for too long.

I started growing restless again a year ago. Having lived in London for two years, I wasn’t sure if I could deal with the constant grind and the busyness culture for much longer. I wanted to go out and not worry about spending all my savings on three pints of beer. I wanted to live in a city where people don’t jog to work but have enough time to go for an afternoon run. I wasn’t getting bored. I was growing tired.

A month ago, I went to Berlin. I drank beer by the river in Kreuzberg, walked around flea markets, laughed and cried a lot. Life almost felt normal again, after six months of strange nothingness. Berlin was pulling me in the way it always does – with cheap food and good people. I wanted to stay.

Moving is always a big decision, and no matter what you do, it almost always means starting from scratch. For me, it meant that no one in Berlin would know that I have already done years of open mics, or that I started gigging when I was thirteen. I wouldn’t be able to draw a crowd to a concert. It meant I didn’t know anyone who could play the guitar or the cello with me. I didn’t know any promoters. There were so many things I would have to do again, even though I’ve gone through this twice already.

As I packed my suitcase, I changed my mind about leaving for Berlin twice. I made pro and con lists (absolutely useless). I talked to my friends and family about it. Usually, leaving comes easily to me, but this time, I felt like I had built something in London and I didn’t want to leave it behind. I asked myself at what stage I had to put my music first.

But music has always been an inseparable part of me. No matter where I go, I’m taking all the songs I’ve learnt and written with me. I’m bringing my guitar. And I might not know any musicians in Berlin, and my music career might hit a temporary standstill, but think of all the adventures and all the new songs that I’ll write. Sometimes, the choices we make as musicians are not the best for our careers. But they don’t always have to be.

Other things make musicians tick apart from promoters and rehearsals. Stories are just as important. Living life is just as important. And there’s beauty in starting over again. I can sing at an open mic with a bad hangover for the first time, and no one will know it’s out of character.

On my first night in Berlin, I arrived with a guitar and a suitcase full of recording equipment and books on songwriting. A friend had to pick me up from the station because I could barely lift the thing, and one of the wheels broke on the way to the U-Bahn. My backpack got stolen from under my seat in a bar that same night, with my passport and laptop in it (partly my fault for bringing it with me in the first place). And then I realised that I had just moved to a city where I only know one person, and I cursed myself for coming.

But now, I’ve written a song about how my backpack got stolen, and it sounds like regret but also like hope, and a little bit like Berlin.

Guest Post: On the Impermanence of Artistic Personas and Authentic Imperfection

artist, creativity, music, self-love

I changed my persona from Kantisunflower to K_anti because I didn’t want to go by someone I was not anymore. Producers would approach me with a very particular style of music but I’m a versatile person, I want to explore everything. Before music, I wanted to be a director, before that an astronaut, before that a cheerleader. But we’re taught we can only pursue one dream. Fuck that! I want to pursue and do anything; the space in-between is the space for me to do and be anything I want. Music should be as fluid as any other type of artistic expression, and this is what I intend to explore as K_anti.

My newest EP “Go outside and meet your love” has cyber-space vibes. During quarantine, I was inside all day on my phone, iPad, laptop, wired in. It was a sudden change from exploring the world, touring Asia, to this brutal reality. But it helped me self-reflect and evolve more than I’d ever done before. “Logging off”, the last track, is my favourite because it sounds like freedom to me. Like I was breaking free from this digital world. I think social media is unhealthy. I hate the instant gratification it gives us, that everyone is so wired. We don’t talk and look into each other’s eyes. I missed human connection and intimacy. 

The funny thing is, I was always a bit of a shut-in. I loved my space and could spend days doing nothing. But as soon as we were forced to stay inside, it became a prison. There’s so much life out there, so much beauty to be seen and felt. Now I make an effort to go do something every day, even if I’m alone. I was always hurt by people, so I closed myself off to everyone, only to learn that there is so much beauty out there that the pain is worth it. 

I’ve always been open to sharing my vulnerabilities online, but I struggled more with being open in real life to my friends. When you share something online, you don’t see a reaction, so it can feel quite freeing. I think people have gone through so much, if we were more open about it, we’d be able to connect with everyone. The reason we’re afraid of vulnerability is because of judgement. To release the fear, you should withhold from judgement yourself. If more people acted on empathy, vulnerability wouldn’t seem so frightening. 

I’ve always fought with perfectionism. People think I don’t care, but I put a lot of effort into the things I make. I just do everything by feeling. I don’t know technicalities, so my work won’t be perfect to professionals, but I think that’s beauty in itself. That’s when you start creating things no one else could remake. I’ve seen perfectionism impair people. We need to let go of this box and rules we’re taught. We need less perfect and more authentic. I think this is why I battle with education so much because it’s an establishment that teaches you to follow all these rules. I never resonated with that.

I’ve been diving into Hinduism lately and reading books about Hare Krishna. In one book, Guru Prabhupada wrote about how we once had a child’s body, and though that body isn’t around anymore, our inner child still exists. Every day we’re changing, we should let go of the expectations people hold of us. Our physical body is a man, woman, mother, daughter, teacher, friend, lover, artist, musician, but these are labels created by others. In reality, we’re nothing. If we accept that, we’re free to be and do anything we want to. When you realise this, you can start living the way you want.

We can’t change anyone’s perception of us, only how we view ourselves. This was my biggest lesson in self-love. I try to give myself as much love as I give others, and living this way has made me very happy. To idolise a person is unhealthy, and I think that’s why praise has always made me uncomfortable. I don’t connect to that aspect of “fame”. We’re all the same, a pure spirit. Remember that. I’m no better than anyone, no less than anyone, I’m just me.

Written by k_anti

time-off-from-making-music

It’s Okay to Take Time Off From Making Music

artist, creativity, music, productivity, self-love, songwriting

Last year, I didn’t write a single song all summer. I didn’t touch my guitar until September and only read non-fiction for three months. I didn’t want poetry and I didn’t listen to music, except for Lana del Rey’s “Lust for Life” that I already knew by heart. Sometimes, I watched Netflix, mostly “Gilmore Girls” that I had already seen twice, and lay around on the couch eating ice cream and thinking about quitting music.


I have friends who worry about writer’s block. I don’t have writer’s block, I have stretches of time when I believe music has ruined my life and I should become a lawyer and make my parents proud. Sometimes, it’s when I have one too many gigs where somebody shouts a sexist comment from the bar or walks out in the middle of a song. Sometimes, it’s after I get another rejection email about how my voice is not folky enough (even though it’s not, that’s true). Most of the time, it has nothing to do with my music and everything to do with what other people think about my music.


And it’s not that I’m one of those musicians that put in hours every day playing their instrument or warming up my voice, so, at times, I don’t even notice when I haven’t played or written any songs for over a week. But, after a time away, I always feel the urge to come back. Artists split themselves open to show others the pain and the rot inside, to share their joy and the love they feel, and sometimes, all that splitting open, all the honesty can feel like too much. And it’s okay to take time to heal from that once in a while.


“If you’re having difficulty coming up with new ideas, then slow down. For me, slowing down has been a tremendous source of creativity. It has allowed me to open up – to know that there’s life under the earth and that I have to let it come through me in a new way. Creativity exists in the present moment. You can’t find it anywhere else.”

Natalie Goldberg, “Writing Down the Bones”

Last September, after a summer with no music, I went into a bookstore in New York and bought a notebook (okay, five) and got home and started writing. I didn’t stop writing for the next three months. Not just because I had missed it, but because I’d spent the time away from it living my life, and I had stuff to write about.


Sometimes, we just need a break. Every time I take time off from music, I believe I’m quitting forever. But I never do. And neither will you.

Guest Post: I’m a Nigerian-Irish Artist that Ignored Her Roots for Years

artist, creativity, music

There’s a saying that says that to return to your roots is to find meaning – not in the future, not in a desire, not in the end, but in the beginning. You can thank peacerevolution.net for that intro. As much as I would like to have everyone assume that I’m a fantastic wordsmith, considering I’m a whole ass songwriter, I can’t take credit for that definition.

I have no real experience in writing articles like this and I don’t know where to start, but I can always tell you who I am. I’m Jennifer. I’m 20. I’m a singer-songwriter, I produce electronic pop songs. I’m a critically acclaimed over-thinker, I’m Nigerian and Irish. Yes, I’m black. Yes, we exist.

Erika has tasked me with the job of writing an article about how my roots have influenced my artistry and how I see myself as an artist. For the longest time, I struggled to think of ways in which it has. I began to take a mental inventory. The genre of music I make is not directly influenced by my Nigerian roots. It’s very, very far away from music that people assume should come from me in the first place. I could go into a spiel about how people expect me to either make afro beats or slow R’n’B songs about men, but I digress. 

I make electronic pop music. It’s not the Nigerian gospel my parents play on Sundays, and it’s not a 2020 version of Usher’s ‘Burn’ that my dad plays in the car every Saturday on our food shop trips. It doesn’t hold any type of resemblance to Beyoncé’s ‘Dangerous in Love’ that my dad proudly put on our shelf in the living room. So, did my roots influence my music at all? And is it a bad thing that it doesn’t, and never has? Am I being disingenuous by not allowing my roots to play a part in my music? Does it mean that I’m disconnected from my roots because you can’t hear it in the music I create?

Basically, I was having an existential crisis. 

I can’t lie. As I’m writing this, I’m still figuring out the answer.

I’ve come to the conclusion, that ‘your roots’ doesn’t have to be just one thing and it does not have only one definition. People normally talk about roots as your family origins, the particular place you come from, and the experiences you’ve had living there. But roots can be a combination of things that bring you back to your essence. If you’re Nigerian like me, you’ll know that “your roots are everything”, because your parents refuse to let you forget.

I’ve realised that you can see my roots in the way I see myself and hold myself as an artist in the middle of 2020. My music may not have stereotypically ‘black’ or ‘Nigerian’ aspects to it, like afro beats or something, but if you know who I am, you know the following: I call out social injustice whenever and wherever I see it, and my whole essence as an artist is to challenge the status quo. I’m a black girl making pop music who openly and loudly speaks about social and racial injustice, and if I make a few people feel uncomfortable while doing it, I couldn’t give less of a fuck than I already do.

When I thought deeper about it, I realised that this attitude I have towards being an artist, how I stand in what I do, and my willingness to call out what is wrong doesn’t come out of nowhere, and isn’t only a result of the internet age. My first exposure to this type of music and honest, revealing, and political artistry was through Nigerian music and nothing else, and I had never realised it until a few weeks ago. 

Adviser Nowamagbe, a very well-known Edo Artist among my parents’ generation in Nigeria created an album that had imprinted itself on my brain. Not because it’s particularly catchy, but more because my parents never stopped playing it. The album was called ‘Fake E.F.C.C’ and was a body of work in which every song criticised Nigeria’s EFCC, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Every single lyric in every single song was condemning the corruption that was rampant within the highest levels of politics in Nigeria. In particular the EFCC, whose main function was to investigate financial crimes, such as money laundering but which was, in reality, stealing money and people’s futures. I’ve never fully understood everything he was saying, as this music is in our native language, Bini, but I had enough knowledge of the language to get the gist. 

This guy was directly addressing one of the nation’s most important commissions, insulting them, calling them out, and exposing them for their crimes all through music, harmony, drums, and reverb. He was saying things everyone else was probably too afraid to, and using his art as a vehicle to express powerful truths and echo the thoughts of a whole country. There was a reason why at every party held at my house, this would be the backdrop of my aunties and uncles’ conversation about the corruption that never seemed to fade within Nigeria. I would sit beside my dad and listen to what everybody was saying, and look at the passion on their faces as they spoke of the need for a revolution. All this conversation brought about by one album. Most of the time, we’d only be 5 minutes in. 

The first song I wrote that I ever performed outside of my bedroom was a song called ‘The Colour Black’ about police brutality in America, inspired by the murder of Sandra Bland. I was 17 and I sang it in front of a room of white people, where I was the only black performer. It was a big deal for me because my parents had tried to convince me to sing something different. After all: “They may not like you saying all these things. It’s Ireland, you know”. But in my 17-year-old brain, there was a message to get out, and someone had to do it. I decided it was going to be me. Much love for 17-year-old Jennifer who thought she was saving the world with one 3-minute song at a small writing competition, but we love the enthusiasm.

The music I write now may not always be about social injustice, but I aim to be an artist that stands for something bigger than myself. I used to think this was a result of the internet, but it’s also in my roots. I grew up with Nigerian artists that are not afraid to speak up. 

I’ve got Nigerian parents, so spirituality holds a heavy presence in my life. I was the kid who was obsessed with the mystical parts of our world, myths, and stories of gods and demi-gods (this part my parents were unsure about because Greek mythology is not Roman Catholicism), but yes, I’d read ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’. You know how it is.

Two months ago, I changed my artist name from JENN to SPIDER, a decision I never even realized was me taking a step closer to my roots of spirituality. People ask me why I’ve decided to name myself SPIDER when I have lowkey arachnophobia. The answer is complex, and I feel like I give a different one each time, because there’s never been just one reason why the name has resonated so much. I’ll give a brief summary, though. 

I was raised to believe in signs, spirits, and a higher power that is looking out for me. A few months ago, I was in quite a dark place. I wasn’t creating anything or making any music. I had given up on everything creativity-wise and I had given up on myself. I was tired of being patient and felt like everything was against me. That’s when I started noticing an insane number of spiders cropping up in my room each day, and I kept having to get my flatmate Elena to get rid of them for me. It got so ridiculous that my spiritual side was kicked up the ass, and I googled what the meaning of this was.

In the spiritual world, when something shows up repeatedly in your life, it’s a sign from the universe that you have important lessons to learn, so you can grow in certain areas. Lo and behold, ladies and gents, spiritually talking, spiders can show up as an animal totem to tell you that you need to learn patience and get in touch with your creative energy again. Spiders have incredible patience and are masters of complexity because of how they weave their webs. The spider wants you to become more in touch with your emotions and your darker side, to slow down and take your time to create, to look at life through a different lens, to create your own story based on the experiences you’ve had, to examine your shadow self. So yes, the universe was calling me out. 

Spiders are associated with three things – creation, assertiveness, and the connection between past and future. Spiders also make their webs, and then just let things fall into place for them. They do the work but still allow themselves to be receptive. 

I make music under the name SPIDER to remind myself of my creative power, to remind myself that I weave the web of my life, that things can fall into place for me, to remind myself to be fucking patient and to create because that’s the whole reason for why I’m here. 

Ironically, spirituality and religion were parts of my heritage I desperately tried to run away from, and now I’m running back. As I get older, I’m starting to make out a breadcrumb trail that leads to my roots. Seeing how it’s made its way into how I see myself as an artist and how I use the space my creativity gives me is quite beautiful. As a black girl who once tried her hardest to distance herself from her blackness, her roots, and culture, accepting this breadcrumb trail and even shining a light on it is something I didn’t think I’d ever do. That’s growth, baby! (Get it, because roots grow. Okay, I’m gone.)

Written by SPIDER