I know lots of writers and creative types advocate the idea of ‘Morning Pages’, (first introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artists’ Way). The idea is to write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, first thing in the morning.
I have tried the writing practise of morning pages several times over the years, without success. My initial objection was to the ‘first thing in the morning’ part…waking up and drinking coffee is about my limit, and I just couldn’t imagine writing anything first thing.
But I have returned to it over the years, trying again and again. I suppose it’s like any ideas put forward by writers and teachers of writing: some will work for you and some will be disregarded.
Cameron’s idea, I think, is that you can write anything on your mind, to clear out the detritus from sleep, dreams, worries and concerns. To clean out your head before settling down to the proper writing or creating later in the day.
Modern proponents of this have said they use these pages to write anything that comes to mind, including to-do lists, shopping lists, whatever. But this doesn’t seem to me to spark any sort of creativity. Considering whether I need to buy bread and milk that day seems inconsequential to my writing aims.
I suppose it’s a similar idea to that of Natalie Goldberg’s, author of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, among other books on creativity. She talks about ‘keeping the hand moving’, setting a timer for ten minutes and just writing. Even if, she says, simply writing ‘I don’t know what to write’, or starting with the same statements over and over again, for example, ‘I remember…’
Goldberg’s ideas have been the ones I turn to most often, sitting and free writing in a notebook, dribbling on the page, perhaps focusing on one of her suggested starters, or just describing the colour of the sky, for example. This, I have found, has often led to a memory or idea for a story, blog post, or something I want to research further. Just as often, it has resulted in nothing. Just the scrawls on the formerly blank page of my notebook.
I know there is a strong school of thought that insists that to be a successful writer, you must sit and write every day. Again, I can see the positives in this, but equally, sometimes I just don’t want to write. If I sat down at those times and forced myself, I think I would feel more frustrated than anything else.
I think that all this shows is that there is more than one way to write, or create, anything. It can be useful to read books about writing, but also, it can sometimes cloud our own ideas and make us feel that we ‘aren’t doing it right’.
Whether it works for you to write every day, or binge write; write when you feel inspired, or force yourself to sit at your desk for ten minutes a day; free writing, structured practise, word clouds, mind-maps…just doing it your own way is the way to practise.
Just writing at all is moving forward.