“Morning Pages” are a practice suggested by artist and writer Julia Cameron in her wonderful book The Artist’s Way . Basically, the idea is to write three pages, longhand, first thing on waking up. She describes them as a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self. They are a trail that we follow into our own interior, where we meet both our own creativity and our creator.
The idea is that by connecting with our first thoughts, the thoughts closest to our unconcious mind as we have just woken from sleep, we can make a connection with the things that are most important to us, and with our creativity. Those secret (even from ourselves) hopes, dreams or ideas that can be hidden by our preoccupations, our busyness, our beliefs ablout what we “should” be doing, or by our self-censorship. The idea isn’t to write anything usable on the story, they aren’t meant to be seen by anyone else. The idea is simply to write whatever in in our minds, pure stream-of-consciousness, with no blocking, no censoring, just writing, bypassing the Inner Editor. Some days this may be just a stream of whinges about family, work, or money worries, no brilliant insights. That’s okay, as getting those moans and complaints out the way can clear space for other thoughts. Other days I really connect with something, getting past blocks on a story, or bringing up new ideas.
I have to admit, I haven’t been doing my morning pages consistently, or even “properly”. I have been writing them on my PDA on the train on the way to work in the morning. Some mornings I skip, and purists would say I was putting blocks in the way by typing then not handwriting them, and by only doing them when I had already been up and doing for over an hour. My excuses- it just seemed too hard, given how tired I always am, to get up even earlier and write; and I am naturally a evening person, anyway, so surely evening writing is just as good for me.
But this week, I have been blocked on my story. Part of me was telling myself to just jump in and write with the information I already had from my pre-writing last weekend: another part kept saying No, you need to work out a way around that massive plot hole first, or you’ll only get stuck further in. Even my usual “aha-moment” generator, a long soak in the bath, wasn’t working this week. Maybe because it’s been a particularly busy week at work and I’m working on a challenging project that has been using a lot of my brain (how I wish I could find another job that was a no-brainer but paid the same!) Last night, before I went to sleep, I asked my unconcious mind to show me the best way to deal with this, either make it clear that I should just start writing the story, or show me how to work around the problem, or tell me what else I should be doing instead. Reading lots of yummy published romances, or working through a couple of the writing books on my shelf were other options.
I woke up this morning with one idea in my head, to find my big notebook that is always by my bed but hasn’t been touched for months, and do proper handwritten morning pages, before I spoke to my husband, before I even got out of bed to go to the bathroom. Being Sunday with nothing urgent I had to jump up and do, that was possible. On a weekday I set the alarm for the last possible minute I can leave it until and know I can still make it to my train on time. It means if one little thing goes wrong, from the cat throwing up to my husband being in the bathroom at the wrong time, I’m stressed before the day has barely started.
Well, the morning pages worked- thank you subconscious mind! Half an hour and six almost illegible scrawled pages later, I had what is hopefully the answer to my plot hole problem, which works even better than my original idea as it also strengthens another aspect of the story, makes the villian even more Machievellian, and makes the hero and heroine less antagonistic and brings them closer together as they work to solve the problem.
As I said in my last post, I am trying to source and read first published stories by now established writers. This week I only had time for one, but it was a good one- Annie West’s first published romance A Mistress for the Taking (Modern Romance) . Something that struck me about this story (as well as the strong Australian voice, and the sizzling attraction between hero and heroine from the moment they met!) was that the hero and heroine were not enemies, as is so often the case in Modern Romance / Presents stories, but were working together to defeat a common enemy. All that overcoming initial antagonism stuff can get a bit wearing after too many stories using it, and this was refreshingly different, an element I wanted to see if I could include in some of my stories too. Maybe that was in my mind, because what came out in the morning pages today was both a possible soloution to the plot problem with the current story, plus another twist to a similar situation which can make a completely new story in its own right.
A lot of benefit from just thirty minutes I could have chosen to spend sleeping in instead. I don’t expect I will get such great results every day, or even any other day, but I have set my alarm half an hour earlier for tomorrow. I hope I can make myself sit up and do morning pages and not keep hitting the snooze button. Maybe if I do this my wriitng time on the train can be used actually writing story, rather than complaints about being tired and about my job or my husband!