Last month, I decided to try some morning pages (MPs), because I was stuck on my novel. I also promised to report the results the following
week, but I went to Paris for a week and didn’t get time to update. The positive side of this, is I’ve been doing my MPs for three weeks now.
Just to recap, MPs are supposed to help writers unload their mental baggage, leaving their mind clear for actual writing. You simply write three pages of stream of conscious thought, longhand, as soon as you wake up. That’s it.
Week 1: I started in earnest and left a notebook by my bed. On the first morning, I groped blindly for the pen, in the front pocket of my handbag (also left by my bed), scrabbled for my pad and started writing. When I’d finished, I felt positive. I felt lighter too. With a few things off my chest, I was raring to go at work and I also found myself thinking about my book more.
Week 2: I have to confess, the morning pages fell away this week. Work was hectic, because I was going on holiday the following week, so I was at my desk earlier and leaving it late. I also didn’t pack my notebook because it was hardback and too heavy.
Week 3: I bought a cheap exercise book and began my morning pages again, in Paris. Every morning, without fail, except for the day we left. So I did my pages on the Eurostar, instead.
Accept a thought if it comes mid-sentence and write it down
What do I put in my morning pages?
The idea of morning pages may seem daunting. What does one write? I normally start with how I feel. Am I bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, do I have a hangover or have I just woken from a dream? Waking up in Paris meant I had different noises to discover (there is very little birdsong in central Paris). Then I think about the things I have to do that day. What are the stresses of the day? Just let your mind wander. Accept a thought if it comes mid-sentence and write it down.
Quite often I discuss my book, but not always. Sometimes I think about work or money or family stuff. Don’t think, just write. Don’t plan it or look for order, just let the thoughts come, by keeping your pen moving. The important thing is to keep writing. I used the term ‘don’t stop’ to keep my pen on the paper, if my mind went blank. ‘Don’t stop. Just write.’ Those phrases came in very handy.
I always end my pages with ‘Don’t stop. Start writing.’ or something like that. A positive call to action – that’s the copywriter in me, kicking in. Must have a call to action. But there is no ‘must have’ in morning pages. Do what feels right for you. I have that ending because it’s like a positive kick up the bum to get going and stop worrying. You may like to leave mid-sentence or just sign off in some other way. Remember nobody reads your morning pages, so this is a critic and editor free zone. Even you might not read them. Once it’s out, you can move on or you can go back, it’s up to you. You might burn a book, once it’s full or keep them all. I’ll cross that bridge once I’ve filled a notebook.
Morning Pages: the results
So what is the shizz on morning pages?
- No pressure writing: It feels good to be writing, even if it’s just morning pages. It’s great if you’re blocked, because this is no pressure writing, but it is writing. If you’re stuck in a writing drought, give MPs a try.
- Less stress: I’ve always been a fan of lists. I’m one of those people that actually uses the desk-top post-it notes on windows 7. And MPs allow me to list all the things I have to do, which could be overwhelming if I left them swirling around in my head. I think through my work schedule, which allows me to get up and approach my desk with a certain clarity.
- Unlock new ideas: While I’m scribbling my MPs, my thoughts often turn to my novel. These unexpected brainstorming sessions have born some good ideas. Because they’re unplanned, my inner editor is too slow to veto an idea before it’s on the page. I managed a good page or two of plotting for the second half of my novel, on the way back from Paris.
- Unload negativity: At the risk of sounding a bit new age, it’s easy to carry negativity around with you. I’ve always found it better to write something down. Putting those negative thoughts and feelings on the page, means you can let go of them and think about something else. Often a writing block is a result of fear, but MPs allow you to explore that and let go of those fears – at least for a while.
- Find focus: MPs allow me get all my mind junk down on paper. This gives me space to think about where I am in a project and plan deadlines or set new goals. Maybe you want to drop down to a four-day week to focus on writing or you need to tidy your writing space. MPs allow you to find focus and keep going.
- Mornings: I’m a morning person, so MPs are really not an issue for me. I’ve never even needed an alarm clock because I just wake up. But some people might struggle. “Why can’t they be evening pages?” you wail. Well the theory is that in the morning your subconscious is still active and that’s what we writers want to access. Plus MPs unload thoughts, leaving the day ahead clear, whereas, evening pages would reflect on the day you’ve just had, so they’d be more of a standard diary. Even if you just wake up 15 minutes earlier – give it a try and take advantage of the light summer mornings.
I would recommend MPs for writers or any creatives. They don’t take long and they get me writing, even if I’m stuck. I’ll let you know whether I carry on, so look out for future updates.
Have you tried morning pages? What was your experience? Any tips for people who struggle with mornings?