The Bog of Lost Scholars

October 22, 2011

Morning Pages Revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — castiron @ 6:09 pm

Back around 2000, I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and decided to try the exercises she recommended for clearing creative blocks, particularly the morning pages — three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand writing, first thing in the morning.

As far as helping me write went, it was a dismal failure. When I started doing morning pages, I was still writing, just not as much or as easily as I had in the past. After several weeks of morning pages, my writing had dried up almost completely, and it stayed dried up for years; some years, the only writing I managed was 1500 words for a Yuletide Exchange fanfic.

In retrospect, there were two reasons for this.

First was the reason that should have made me veto this practice: early mornings were my only reliable writing time. Instead of getting up and working on my stories for an hour, I got up and wrote morning pages, with the result that I wasn’t doing my real writing at all. By the time I gave up on morning pages, I was out of the habit of working on stories, and after a while I no longer had a regular time for writing.

Second, when you do a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise at a time when a lot of things bother you about your life, those things will tend to show up in the writing. I have occasionally joked that morning pages killed my first marriage; that’s not actually true, but over time the morning pages made it impossible for me to ignore the problems we were having. Awareness of the problems led to more time and energy spent, first on trying to resolve them and later on ending the marriage — which also left less time and energy for writing.

In short, morning pages were a bad idea for me.

So why on earth, you might ask, have I started doing them again?

Because circumstances change. Because I have a pile of blank books I want to actually use. Because this time, I actually wanted to do them. My writing time is in the evening now, so morning pages don’t interfere with that. I’m using them differently now; I’m still writing about random things on my mind, but I’m also using the morning pages to noodle story ideas and to write really stupid stuff that won’t go in the real story. (Surprise — sometimes I look back at it and find that actually, it’s not that stupid and a revised version does belong in the real story.)

And this time, they seem to be working.

Since starting morning pages, I’ve written three stories totalling 33K words. Not a novel, granted, and unpublishable because it’s fanfic, but this is the most writing I’ve completed since 2000.

I don’t know whether this is a temporary upsurge or a long-term change. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to transfer the developing writing habits to original fiction. But I’m delighted to have these characters and scenes coming out of my head and onto the page again.

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