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This week I decided to try the "morning pages" technique. Morning pages are a free writing technique in which you write whatever comes to mind for ten minutes without stopping, but you do it first thing, before breakfast, even before coffee. And you have to use the full ten minutes, even when you have absolutely nothing to say. If you can't think of anything to write, you write about the fact that you can't think of anything to write. The idea is to just keep writing, no editing, no judgments, before the waking part of your mind has kicked into gear and the whole left-brain analytic process starts to block the more free-floating part of your mind.

The results were interesting. Without putting any strictures on my writing, most of it ended up being "meta" about my story, that is to say, not fictional prose itself but musing about different elements in my story and where they could go. Sometimes just to get myself started, I'd spend a moment or two before I got out of bed deciding what topic I'd like to tackle, then I'd feed the cats, sit down and start writing.

In terms of generating ideas, I don't think morning pages can replace the clustering technique, but it did help me develop and expand on ideas I'd come to through clustering, and sort of play through the implications of them, seeing the possibilities and the problems. I often saw the implications of certain story elements that I wouldn't have seen while outlining or perhaps even writing fictional prose that followed an outline. I also found myself on those especially exhausted mornings doing "word-play" where I was being more poetic than logical in the way I mused over things. Which is good. I guess the thing I liked best was not being tied to a single thing I wrote. I could write things and if I found that I really didn't like them, they were there, tucked away on the hard drive, but I could ignore them. In morning pages, you can change your mind in mid-stream, contradict yourself, write stupid stuff, and that's the idea--not to edit or judge or decide it's not productive and stop.

I didn't worry about the word count, since I had a time limit constraint instead, but I wrote six morning pages total (took this morning off), for a total of 2,978 words (that's a little less than 500 words a day).

I'm not sure which book it is, but one of the writing/creativity books I've been consulting asks you to try to commit yourself to the morning pages exercise every day for ninety days. Doing that is going to be an issue for me. Mostly because first thing in the morning is when I prefer to exercise, and you're just not in that same first-thing state of mind when you get back from a thirty-minute work out in the fresh air. I did the morning pages this week because I gave myself the week off from exercise after that exhausting hike last Sunday, but trying to fit in both morning pages and exercise and breakfast before work? Not sure how I would do that.

One thought that occurred to me as I wrote the above: I'm a morning person, which means my analytical brain wakes up sooner than other people's. But I turn into a zombie after 9 pm. So one possibility is to do "evening pages" instead, in the ten minutes before I hit the hay.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 4th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
it's from the Julia Cameron series. Right now i'm reading the finding water...and am underwhelmed so far
Apr. 5th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC)
Right. I've got so many of them, and they're all so similar, I get confused.
Apr. 5th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
the only reason i know is that i AM reading one of hers right now. Sadly it sounds more like a 'how great am i?' than anything truly helpful
Apr. 5th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
Apr. 5th, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)
Writing at the last minute in the evening is a good way to aggravate you're insomnia. It's okay to put the finishing touches on something. But starting or being in the middle of something that strikes your fancy is not good for the sleep. Earlier in the evening sure. But this pages thing seems not so good for later in the evening.
Apr. 5th, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
But I'm in that exhausted state of mind where my mind wanders in the less logical way I'm after. It's only ten minutes and unfocused writing, after all.
Apr. 5th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure if I did that morning exercise, this is what would come out:


Apr. 5th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
Morning zombie-hood. Need coffee.
Apr. 5th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
I think coffee is the only thing that keeps me from eating my coworkers' brains. Which is a good thing, as "turned into a zombie" would not look good on the resume.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )