As the sun crawls up from the horizon and spills light through my window blinds, I experience that twilight when I’m halfway between sleep and being awake. It is a time when the characters of my novel often speak to me through visual renderings of upcoming scenes. I walk with these people, feel their angst and share their hopes for the future as good wrestles with evil and love finds a way through it all. I shake off sleep entirely and go through my day. Sometimes I remember the scene clearly enough that I can write it down and other times it goes back into my subconscious, perhaps to be lost forever, or to undergo another evolution the next time I dream. This is the best of times when you are a writer. Your story has a grip on you and will not let you be. You can not stop writing even if you wished to.
What about those times when it is not so easy? When life has thrown you so many distractions that your mind is a muddy mess and inspiration seems to have deserted you? It is time for the writing tool known as the “Artist Way”, or more simply, the habit of morning pages to help see you through.
Morning pages are three regular pages, or 750 words, of stream of consciousness writing. It is written as soon as you get out of bed in the morning. These are not outlines, plots to stories, a daily journal, or anything that you would want to show to another soul. You probably would not even consider it true writing. These pages are for your eyes only and can be about anything and everything that crosses your mind. You don’t need to plan to re-read these pages unless you want to, that is not their purpose. You do this every morning to write without your inner editor and to practice getting words on the page. As time goes on, you’ll realize that intriguing patterns and thoughts will begin to emerge in your notebook.
How to Write Morning Pages:
1. Get a notebook. I happen to like inexpensive composition notebooks that can handle fountain pen ink, but any simple spiral notebook will work. Make sure that the pages are of standard size. Do not use a mini-journal.
2. Find a pen. I happen to indulge in fountain pens, but any pen that you are comfortable using will do.
3. As close as you can to the moment you wake up, take out your notebook and start writing. Make sure you write three full pages, not front and back, but three in total. It should take you no more than twenty to thirty minutes. Even if you have nothing to say that morning, you can write the same sentence over and over again until you reach your word goal. This will not happen often. Eventually your subconscious will break through and you will have things to say.
4. Rinse and repeat. It takes 30 days to form a new habit. Give yourself time to let this one become ingrained. You will find over time that when it comes the time to write your story or article, the words will flow from you far more easily and ideas for your writing projects will be more numerous.
NOTE: For those of you who are more electronically inclined, there is a website that has been formatted to accommodate Morning Pages. It is designed to track your 750 words of writing each day and it will chart your writing as to subjects and emotions based on the words that you use in your daily writing. The account there is free and it gives you a bit more connectivity with the net if that is your desire.
I am an intuitive thinker and find that connections come to me when I least expect them to. Insights into problems in my life or situations in my stories usually happen when my brain has been intensely activated and then is allowed a rest for a short time. Morning pages can serve as that burst of stimulation as I get rid of issues that might be bothering me, spilling them from my mind, and then experience small epiphanies later after I’ve left the problem for a time. Writing first thing in the morning is also a great way to capture those dream sequences of stories before they disappear into the aether. You will see the patterns of your stories more clearly or be able to go back and capture “lost” ideas more easily if you use Morning pages as one of the tools in your writing arsenal.
Photo from knittinandnoodlin