Monday, September 10, 2012

Morning Pages

For the past few weeks I've been using a technique that's been quite revealing. It's called Morning Pages and is a technique suggested by artist and creative writer, Julie Cameron.

In it, she suggests that when you wake up, you pick up your pen and notepad and write three pages. What you write is down to you. It can be writing-related, it can have nothing to do with your writing ... but you just have to write three pages in your notebook.

The idea is that, if nothing else, it clears your mind of all the clutter that has accumulated overnight. You might, for instance, wake up thinking about all of the things you've got to get done today. Well, if you've written them down in your morning pages then you've cleared them out of your mind, thus emptying it of any worry. Your creative writing time is now more likely to be creative.

Hopefully, though, some useful thoughts will come to you whilst you're writing. And this is what I've found has happened to me. Yes, I've written some pretty awful drivel, but dotted throughout these words are the occasional useful thoughts that have helped me develop several ideas, or seen a new idea show itself. Over the period of a week, I found names for two characters I want to put in a short story, and I know what the opening scene is - without really 'thinking' about it. I've also identified a couple of article ideas from this stream of consciousness too.

Like any technique, this is something that I've adapted to suit me. There's one suggestion that you should only write on one side of the page in your notebook. Then, when you come to read back what you've written, you have the opposite blank page to jot down any thoughts. I tried this, but I found there were some pages where I was making lots of notes, and others where I hardly made any notes at all (because what was on the other side was complete drivel!). So, instead, I write my three pages consecutively and then summarise the points on the fourth page, which works better for me.

Writing your stream of consciousness, first thing in the morning, feels strange at first. But give it a try. You can write anything ... but write something. Here's an example of the first few lines of one of my morning pages:

Okay ... so what am I going to write about this morning then? This pen's naff. Is it runni ... ah! That's better. New pen, and one with ink, that'll make things easier when I actually think of something to write! It's a good job I have pens lying all around the place everywhere. That's probably because I'm a stationery fan - aren't all writers? Why are writers such stationery addicts? Why do we go all of a quiver over some Post-It Notes and a couple of biros? What is it about an empty notebook that fills us with excitement ....

And so it went on. As you can see, I wasn't exactly writing Booker Prize-winning prose, but that's not the point of the exercise. The aim is to clear your brain of thoughts, some of which might prove useful. Looking back over the past few weeks whilst I've been doing this exercise, I've got something out of every set of morning pages. It might only be a character's name, although sometimes there's been a couple of article ideas. But, there's always been a useful nugget in there, somewhere.

So, why not give it a go for a week? Do it for a month and you might create a new habit! And of nothing else, at least when you get up, you can do so knowing you've actually done some writing already today!

Good luck!

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