the writer’s way: week one — morning pages.
“In order to retrieve your creativity, you need to find it.” ~ Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
I’m training for a writing marathon in November and I’m inviting you to join me.
You don’t have to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to join in—all my expectations are reserved for my own process. But, you can come along for the run before the big race. You’re invited to participate in the warm-up.
Why not? The exercise will be good for you. Four weeks of training in October, followed by a four-week writing marathon in November. After that, a week for the denouement.
The first week is about simplicity and showing up. Because, who among us hasn’t said, “I wish things were simpler and easier.”
But, we can’t make things easier for ourselves until we clear the clutter. Apply a bit of the old Feng Shui to the operating system of the mind. There’s mental housecleaning to be done.
Dust bunnies of the id—those habit-rabbits inhabiting the corners of our psyche and peeing all over the floor—must be flushed out and sent scurrying off into the wild where they belong.
How to clean the mental mansion with a modicum of menial help.
Gail Sher, the author of One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers, tells us that “writing is infinite, ever elusive and ungraspable. We can never know what writing is. We can only know our experience minute to minute as we write.”
Contained within her Four Noble Truths is a key to open the door of the closet that contains all of our excuses to not write.
1. Writers write.
2. Writing is a process.
3. You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process.
4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is to not write.
That is showing up.
But, where are we showing up and what do we do when we get there?
We’re showing up at the river that is the source of all creative and imaginative thought. That river is called The Stream of Consciousness.
Over the years, I’ve made a few attempts to do The Artist’s Way, a sort of self-help book that lays out a program designed to unleash creative potential in all types of creative artists.
I’ve never finished the 12-week program, mostly because I’m not a rule-follower by nature, and there were many step-by-step activities I was expected to follow each week. Ever the rebel, I bucked against the system—even though it was put in place for my benefit.
However, there is one aspect of the program that was exceptionally useful to me.
The Morning Pages is a practice of getting up each morning, opening up a simple spiral notebook, and setting down in pen or pencil three pages of stream of consciousness writing.
Always handwritten and always three pages exactly.
The purpose of this exercise is to clear the mind of all the linguistic clutter, the random thoughts, the fears, and the chatter that often drowns out what we really want to say.
My dictionary defines stream of consciousness as “the continuous, unedited chronological flow of conscious experience through the mind.” On the page, I think of it as a sort of self-directed interior monologue with a mild case of intentional literary Tourette’s syndrome.
It may not be easy to do in the beginning—but it must be done. We may pause and wander off into wondering what to write next, but we cannot linger with our pen hovering over a thought. We must press on, babble incoherent phrases and nonsense words onto the page, if we must, but we must move forward to the end.
And, a three page limit is important, because it gives us time to find our rhythm and fully enter the stream. I know because I’ve cheated with one page or two and it’s always a beggar’s meal.
We cannot judge our writing because we are not creating literature on the page but uncreating litter in our minds.
This is an opportunity to discover our authentic writer’s voice because we don’t have the luxury of trying to emulate the writers we admire or to compare our own writing to the writing of other “more worthy” writers.
“There is no Shakespeare; there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words, we are the music; we are the thing itself.” ~ Virgina Woolf
So, to recap:
The first week is all about showing up and coming up with three pages of stream of consciousness writing each day, whenever you have the opportunity to do so.
It doesn’t have to be in the morning, because I know how easy it is for us to say that we can’t do something because it’s expected of us at an inconvenient time. But, that’s when I’m doing it.
With my coffee and a beginner’s mind.