If you do much writing, or are at all serious about it, at some point someone will tell you about Morning Pages.
It’s a writer’s exercise that has been around a long time, but is most often associated with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. The basic idea is that first thing in the morning, you write three pages of longhand free association. Just write. Don’t think.
I have tried several times to make Morning Pages a habit. I’ve even been successful at it for a few months at a stretch. I have done it enough to know that it really is a great exercise. I really do write better when I do it. I also just generally feel better when I do it. It keeps the words flowing. It produces a lot of good fodder for better writing later. It gets a lot of the emotional …stuff… out of your head that distracts you from writing freely. Julia insists that you do it in the morning, because it sets the tone for the day. Which is all true.
But it is a really difficult habit for me to maintain, despite the benefits. Particularly right now.
So lately, I’ve found that a nice alternative to Morning Pages is what I call Daily Download. I crawl into bed, grab my notebook and pen, and write till I feel like stopping. It’s the same sort of “word puke” (pardon the expression) that you do with Morning Pages, in that it’s totally unedited and it often consists of the emotional stuff that’s bugging you and keeping you from writing freely. You still get some decent fodder for later writing.
It doesn’t help you set the tone for the day in the same way that Morning Pages does. Part of the benefit of Morning Pages is the whole ritual weight of the thing. It’s declaring to yourself the world “I am a writer. I make time for writing. Even if my life is insanely busy and there is a five year old demanding Cocoa Puffs at the foot of my bed right now, I. Will. Still. Write. First.”
But it does have one distinct benefit. It gives you the opportunity to literally sleep on some of your writing.
When I was doing Morning Pages, I would sometimes get so caught up in the passion of writing I’d get enamored of a piece of rough work, and copy it almost wholesale into a blog post or story. And then a day or two later, I’d regret it. I don’t do that with Daily Downloads.
It also gives you the opportunity to sleep off the emotional effects of a good literary purge.
If you spend twenty minutes pouring out out all your anger, fear and/or frustration in written form, I think that what you need at that point is possibly not to pour the aforementioned five year old a bowl of cereal and get on with your day. You need a good cry, and to sleep like the Rock of Gibraltar.
I’m away from my bed, my bedside table, my red leather notebook and my favorite pens. Of course, I’m also away from the aforementioned cereal-lovin’ kindergartener.
I do have a notebook, and pens, and I’m probably going to do a download.
For me, right now, writing has to be portable and flexible–but it’s still a valuable tool in keeping me sane when things get crazy.
What about you? Do you write regularly? At night? In the morning?
Can you tell a difference in how you feel and act when you’re writing regularly?