One of my mentors is Julia Cameron, the author of an amazing book on creativity called The Artist’s Way. One of the tools she shares in the 12 week course outlined in her book is called The Morning Pages — three pages of uncensored stream-of-consciousness writing written in longhand (pen to paper) immediately upon awakening. She also calls it Brain Drain and, as the name implies, it is a very good tool for removing all the monkeymind gunk that can gum up our creativity.
I’ve taken breaks from writing morning pages now and then over the years. Once I stopped for awhile when it felt that the negativity pouring from my pen was reinforcing the yucky stuff in my life rather than moving it out. But I always find myself coming back to this tool. And since I’ve begun my self-publishing adventure, I’ve found them to be more invaluable than ever.
In my life as it looks right now, I can’t roll directly from bed to the page, but it’s the first thing I do after my boys walk out the door to school. Well, not quite. First, I get completely ready for the day (because once those pages are done I’m usually gung ho to get moving and don’t want to have to make a momentum- busting pitstop to shower or fix my hair). Then I make my cup of Chai. Then I go to the page.
And I write whatever is running through my head at the moment my pen hits the paper and follow that line of thought until it either runs aground or is interrupted by another thought. Sometimes the writing is fairly chaotic. Other times it’s cathartic with lots of heavy underlines and exclamation points. Sometimes it’s whiny and petty. Or just a boring list of things to be done that day.
Lately, when an idea bubbles up related to my self-publishing adventure, I take a quick moment to jot a key word in the margin that I can easily find when I skim through the pages later. I keep my journal nearby all day so that I can check off things as I do them and the rest I . . . well I didn’t do anything with them until this past Sunday when I spent a couple hours going through my morning pages and transferring ideas to their appropriate places.
I was amazed by the number of brilliant ideas that come through those pages – ideas for new stories, plot thickeners for stories I’m currently writing, marketing ideas. From now on, I will take a few minutes every weekend to jot down my week’s worth of lightbulb moments so I don’t lose any of them down the brain drain.
Some morning pages are pretty ho hum. The margins are empty wastelands. But others are positively bursting with ideas.
Like this one.
[I had a really nice picture of my journal open to a particularly margin-scribbled page, but I just couldn’t bring myself to post it. After all, these are my morning pages! Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, has ever laid eyes on my morning pages. Plus there was some kvetching and moaning going on that day, too. Kvetching and moaning is always better left behind a closed cover.]
Sorry. That was kind of mean (after building the anticipation to such a fever pitch and all).
Sometimes the ideas are too big to “jot” in the margin so I just draw a huge parenthesis in the margin beside the passage and put a sticky note in place for future reference.
No picture here, either. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Ah, here’s a picture!
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