Journals. If you’re a writer, you’re supposed to keep one, right? Virginia Woolf did it, and so did other greats like Franz Kafka, Susan Sontag and C.S. Lewis.
So yeah, okay, for a long time I felt like a total failure because I couldn’t maintain one, despite my many attempts over the years. And believe me, I tried. I’d be totally committed for a few days, maybe even a whole week. But sooner or later (usually sooner), I’d find the process cumbersome. I would run out of things to write about each day. I would get bored with the process of explaining the people and events of my life to my journal as if my journal were an outside person. I would spend too much time on verbiage and, worst of all, I would try to tie the endings of each entry to the beginnings to make the whole piece a coherent mini essay.
Gah! What a crapload of work for nothing. No wonder I gave up more times than I can count.
However, within the past few months I discovered a concept called Morning Pages. Have you heard of it? Maybe you’re light-years ahead of me, but I hadn’t ever come across the term before. It is, I learned, a writing practice developed by author Julia Cameron. She says:
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
Why first thing in the morning, you might wonder (as I did)? According to Cameron, you’re “trying to catch yourself before your ego’s defences are in place.”
So, in Veronica-speak, Morning Pages are three pages of longhand literary diarrhea. You are to pack your pages with whatever babbling and rambling thoughts cross your mind, in whatever order they spill out of your head through your cramped hand, and without any apology for the fact that they won’t make sense to anyone else. They are your first thoughts of the day. Yours. Unfiltered.
You’re not even supposed to go back and read what you wrote at the end of your Morning Pages session. At least not right away.
Having failed so often at keeping a journal for any admirable length of time, I was of course skeptical of this practice. But I have to say, now that I’ve tried it, I’m an honest-to-goodness convert. I tell ya, the stuff that comes out of my head when I don’t have that self-inflicted sensorship muffling my true thoughts? It’s crazy amazing.Some of those thoughts are strange, and scary and embarrassing, I won’t lie. And I’d be mortified if my Morning Pages ended up being seen by anyone else – which is another reason why traditional journal writing never worked for me: I was always afraid to write what I really thought for fear that someone else might see it. But Cameron is no new-age flake (as some have accused … and I’m paraphrasing there) when she insists it brings clarity to your day. There really is something in it.
By following this practice, I have found that I get a lot of insight into my own mind. Things that I’m too embarrassed or too proud to admit to myself on a conscious level, I’m forced to confront when they’re scratched onto the page without a mental leash. In confronting them, I’m released of a burden I didn’t even know I was carrying.
I’ve also discovered a secondary benefit of practising the art of Morning Pages. When I do go back and read what I wrote days, weeks, even months later … I’m discovering some really great blog material. Little snippets of thoughts here and there that came out as I scribbled away catch my attention when I go back to them days later. They rekindle my interest, feed my imagination, and make me want to flesh them out and turn them into something coherent. Now how’s that for boosting your creativity?
(Warning: my next blog post will be one of those fleshed-out idea snippets, so don’t laugh!).
If you haven’t tried Morning Pages yet, I would recommend it. I can tell you personally that it’s brought a new dimension to my day. If you’re going to decide to give it a try, then keep your journal and a pen by your bedside each night. When you wake up in the morning, make sure the first thing you do (or the second thing, if you’re like me and drink herbal tea before bedtime) is write. Fill no less than three pages. Don’t write for someone else, don’t worry about where your words or ideas or thoughts are going to end up. Just write.
See what kind of off-the-wall stuff comes out of your head. And then come back and tell me how it went for you.