I opened my partially read Kindle copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron a couple of weeks back. I read the first chapter, and whilst I haven’t managed to organise myself an ‘artist’s date’ yet, I have started writing Morning Pages again. I’ve kept to it every day for a couple of weeks now, and I’m feeling pretty good about it.
The idea of Morning Pages is to write three pages of ‘whatever’ every morning. Cameron states:
“There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing.”
Cameron suggests longhand, but I just don’t write anything of any length with a pen anymore — there’s no need, and really the ease and benefits of typing outweigh it tenfold. I use my netbook instead. I figured that a page is around 300 words, so that makes 900 words for three pages, and why not round it up to 1000 for fun? 1000 words before breakfast. That’s doable.
I have done stints of writing 1000 words daily in the past. In the spring of 2014, during my ‘I’m a writer’ honeymoon, I managed it for a couple of months. Then again later that year. But both times I came unstuck before long. I now know that this was due to two things:
1) I was too hard on myself because I thought my writing should have been better, more profound, more useful. This resulted in me seeing it as a pointless task.
2) I felt I needed to grow my word count. I increased my word count in increments of 500 words each week until I crashed and burned at 3000 words a day — a target that was ridiculously unreachable without the focus of a clear novel outline, stories plan or list of articles I wanted to write.
Coupled with my lack of skills and writing experience at the time, it was just a recipe for failure. Both times I retreated from the idea of daily writing, trying to justify it as not being an important part of the writing process, whilst licking the wounds to my ego.
This time round, I get it. My expectations are much more realistic. It doesn’t matter what I write in my Morning Pages, as long as I write them each day. It doesn’t matter if I write the same sentence over and over again — and believe me, I’ve done it! I’ve typed “I don’t know what to write” over and over for several paragraphs. You know what? It works. By forcing myself to write, eventually, even on the mornings when it seems like my mind is empty, my inner writer starts to feel stupid before long, and I start writing something that at least makes sense — sometimes it’s even good.
The important thing is that it’s the process of waking up, getting a coffee, then planting bum-on-seat, hands-on-keyboard and writing. At its core, being a writer is about getting words on a page — yes there’s the dreaming, the planning, the research, the reading — but it still all comes down to putting words into sentence. If anything it keeps my hands supple, and I’m not only engaging in the physical process daily, but the mental ‘weight training’ — flexing that writing muscle until slowly the process becomes that bit easier day by day.
I can see the progress I’m making already. Only last night I was thinking to myself “I really don’t want to wake up and have nothing to write about in my morning pages tomorrow”. So I decided to do something about it. This morning while brewing my coffee — by brewing I mean putting a spoon and a half of cheap instant in a mug and waiting to add boiling water — I read the first story in The Power of Positivity. It was actually quite good, and I started my morning pages off with that, and it flowed from there.
I went on to write and publish this post, along with several other first drafts of future blog posts, and some revised drafts of stuff that’s sitting in Scrivener gathering dust — and that’s after my initial 1000 words. Doing Morning Pages each day seems to be working!