The Value of Morning Pages

Some writers become discouraged by the Morning Pages practice: It can feel like running on a treadmill to nowhere, never sure if you’re making progress.So how do you know if you’re ‘doing Morning Pages correctly’?

This morning when I had a realization that might convince you to try (or enjoy) Morning pages, yourself.

Do you write Morning Pages?

Julia Cameron popularized this free-writing practice in her book The Artist’s Way and many writers swear by it.

The idea is that you write 3 pages of no-obligation, possibly-stream-of-consciousness ‘stuff’ every morning, to warm up.

But some writers become discouraged after doing Morning Pages for a while. It can feel like you’re running on a treadmill to nowhere, never sure if you’re making progress. So how do you know if you’re ‘doing Morning Pages correctly?

I’m sporadic with the ‘morning’ part of Morning Pages, but I do tend to journal most days and/or free-write before I try to write anything ‘proper’.

That’s what I was doing this morning when I came to a realization that I thought you might enjoy sharing. it might even convince you to try Morning pages, yourself.

Julie’s Morning Pages 21 Jan 2022

I am at my desk and facing the classic writers’ dilemma: there is so much I could work on. I can feel the clock ticking away the minutes I have carved out for writing and the first stirrings of panic bubble low in my chest.

I want to write. I don’t want to waste this precious moment but the task seems so huge—and it is! I either find my way back into a dormant story or begin building a whole new world full of decisions about the world (is there gravity? Are we even on earth? Which Earth? When? Where?) and people with full, complex histories before we meet them on the page. And then, how do I make something interesting happen, and keep happening?

The whole thing weighs on me like heavy cloth and I begin to feel the gravitational pull of busywork, the need for the affirmation of a thumbs up or little red heart on social media (It’ll just take a moment to check and I might get an idea for a story!) or perhaps it’s time I learned to use Scrivener properly—whatever that means. (I’m sure I bought a whole course on that.Surely when I have mastered a new tool, THEN it’ll be easier to write…)

Luckily for me, I have been pursuing my writing goals with a will for over a decade now and I know, beyond a doubt, that my only hope of doing anything like ‘good writing’ rests in one practice:

Continue reading “The Value of Morning Pages”

Pay Attention to Your Process

Here at StoryADay I talk a lot about the importance of not just starting, but also finishing your work.

Finishing (and sharing) your stories allows you to improve your craft with words, but just as importantly it helps you get to grips wiht your process as a writer.

You might wish you were the kind of writer who could get up at 5 o’clock every morning and write 2,000 words and then get on with your day. And maybe you can white-knuckle it for a week or two.

But maybe your process is different.

And would it be so terrible if you allowed yourself to start with what comes naturally and build on that?

My Customary Freak-Out

I’m preparing a new workshop and was getting discouraged about my apparent lack of progress.

I had a little freak-out as I sat down at the blank page to make myself start work on the outline.

Then I laughed.

Because the words ‘customary freak-out’ popped into my head and I remembered that this isn’t new. This is my process when i’m creating anything new, whether it’s a workshop, a story, or a whole course.

It goes like this:

  1. Come up with an awesome idea
  2. Mention it to people, who say ‘yes, please do that’.
  3. Do loads of research and get excited.
  4. Back away and look at my project only out of the corner of my eye.
  5. Berate myself for procrastinating
  6. Have a small freak-out
  7. Realize that what looked like procrastination is actually percolation and what looks like me backing away from the work is actually me backing up, so I can see the whole thing clearly.
  8. Sit down to create The Thing, and have it pour out of me in one messy-but-promising first draft.
  9. Revise and polish and get excited all over again.
  10. Deliver the thing. Have a blast. Help people.

The Upside of Knowing Your Process

Since we’ve been through this before, my brain has started to move the ‘freak out’ date further from the delivery date (thanks, brain!) so there’s more time between the messy first draft and the production copy.

But it has only done this because I’ve finished and delivered things (workshops, essays, books, articles, speeches, launches) so many times before.

You Can’t Be Someone Else

I envy people who can work on a project for an hour a day for a month, making steady progress. That doesn’t seem to produce my best work, or make me happy.

I’m reluctant to say that I can’t change that, because clearly things can change. I’m not pulling all-nighters. I’ve discovered I can work at any time of the day, not just my beloved vampire-hours. Mindset controls a lot.

But I suspect that working with, rather than against, our natural inclinations, makes for an easier route to productivity. My process isn’t all rainbows and sprinkles, but it works for me.

Finding Your Process

Your process may be different from mine (I hope it is!) It very likely is.

If you think you don’t have a process, it may be that you’re not paying attention OR that you’re not finishing and ‘shipping’ products.

There is an inherent stress in making all the decision needed to call a piece ‘finished’. There is anxiety in showing it to people. You’re raising the stakes. But raised stakes cause us to pull out all the stops. Extra effort builds muscle. The adreneline rush of promising to show your work makes you strive to do your best work.

The more often you go through the whole process of producing and sharing work, the better you will your own process.

And the sooner you can recognize your process for what it is, stop fighting and start tweaking it so that you can produce more, get more creative, and be more fulfilled.

Happy creating!

Have you noticed what your creative process is? What do you do that other people might not recognize as forward progress? Leave a comment!

[Writing Prompt] Fear

Tomorrow it all begins. StoryADay May 2014. Are you nervous? I always am. (This is the fifth May since I launched the challenge!!)

The Prompt

Write A Story In Which Fear Is A Driving Factor For One Or More Character

Tips

  • Focus today on writing a quick, dirty first draft. You’re going to need that skill in the 31 days ahead.
  • Ask yourself who you’d be interested in writing about today. Pick a person, age, gender and defining characteristic (i.e. A beautiful actress; a harassed mother; an ambitious starship captain).
  • Ask yourself what that person wants from life and what they would be afraid of.
  • Consider what/who might get in this character’s way. What might frighten this secondary character? How does that affect his relationship/interactions with the protagonist?
  • Ask yourself what your protagonist needs to do to overcome his/his opponent’s fear. Will you let your protagonist succeed?
  • What happens if they give in to fear?
  • What do they feel as they try to overcome it?

GO!

Did you write today? Did you finish this story? Did any of your own fears creep into this story? Tell us in the comments, or join the discussion in the community.