Do you want to be a better writer? Well, according to Julia Cameron you need to do what she calls Morning Pages. This is three pages of stream of consciousness writing done first thing in the morning and written longhand. Morning Pages can be about anything and everything – whatever comes to mind as you write. Don’t think, don’t second guess, don’t try to write anything in particular.
The idea is to clear all the junk out of your head so you are free to write ‘for real’ later. There’s no need to worry about how well you are writing or whether it even makes sense. Purge, rant, whine, complain, rage, go round in circles, bore yourself silly. It doesn’t matter. Just write.
Natalie Goldberg recommends something similar in Writing Down the Bones only she calls it First Thoughts. In this case you are aiming to write for a set time: 10 minutes, half an hour or an hour; you decide. There’s no need to worry about filling a set number of pages, you just write for the allotted time. But here’s the important bit: you keep your hand moving. Don’t stop to read what you’ve just written, don’t edit or cross out, forget about spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Just write. And keep your hand moving.
First Thoughts and Morning Pages can be challenging. Personally I can’t write first thing in the morning. My brain takes a long time to warm up once I’ve hauled myself out of bed and grimaced at myself in the mirror. I can barely hold a pen, let alone write anything. My first attempts at Morning Pages simply wasted ink and paper and time. I was too concerned with all the other things I had to do: getting dressed, eating something and dragging myself to work. Writing waffle about nothing wasn’t high on my list of priorities.
Writing as Therapy
My main problem with Morning Pages and First Thoughts was that it seemed self-indulgent. Julia Cameron would say that is precisely the point – to get all the bullshit out of the way so you can get down to some proper creativity. Perhaps. In my case the same issues would come up over and over, ad nauseam. Maybe I have a spectacularly dull life, but I couldn’t see the point in complaining endlessly about things I probably shouldn’t have been obsessing about in the first place. Wouldn’t it be better to just drop it? Would the time be better spent meditating?
So I quit.
Now I only indulge in this exercise when I need it. That is, when I have a problem I need to excavate and explore. Morning Pages are excellent therapy. I have written myself through many crises and confusions, issues I couldn’t put into my ‘real’ writing because they were still too raw and undigested. It turns out stream of consciousness writing is perfect for digging up the bones of your past and helping you confront your unconscious. Your shadow is where your greatest treasures hide, heaped under mounds of denial. Shame you have to wade through so much shit to get to the good stuff, but such is life.
Inside Looking Out
Just for fun, and I’ll probably regret this, here’s an extract from one of my attempts at First Thoughts. It was 6:30 am, June 2010…
“Head is an echo chamber this morning. Getting ready for work and trying to think of what I need to do. Sunny again. It’s good to be greeted by the sun when you get up but it wakes me too fast and I’m disoriented. I’m getting distracted by the sun drying the ink on this page. I write a word and it glimmers in the sun then fades as it dries. Nothing. Nothing. Mind blank. Nothing to say. What’s the point in sitting here? Dreams disturbed me this morning. A psycho following me about – a smiling psycho. A man pretending he loves me. He keeps trying to touch, to grab, but he’s a creep and he can’t love, doesn’t love, wants to possess and destroy. So I scream and call him a cunt. He smiles broader. No-one helps, they stand and stare. Then it shifts to a different dream – erotic and sexy, and I am kissed and loved by my soul mate. Then the alarm goes off…”
So like life. Sigh!
Do you write Morning Pages? Share your experience below…