There are so many tricks to overcome writer’s block that it can be hard to know where to start when you’re suddenly lost for ideas. No matter how many weird and wonderfully complicated solutions you’ve tried over the years, there’s one that’s so simple that you’ll wonder how you never thought of it before: morning pages.
What are the morning pages?
Morning pages are three handwritten sides of the paper that you produce first thing in the morning. From the moment you put the pen in your hand, you need to allow your stream of consciousness to flow unhindered onto the page. The purpose here is not to try and produce a work of art or your next bestseller, but instead to help yourself warm up the creative side of your brain.
Why do they work?
There are a whole host of complex theories designed to explain why morning pages can cure writer’s block, but really there’s only a couple of things you need to know.
Firstly, but writing by hand you’re taking a well-deserved break from staring at your MacBook screen and bashing your keyboard for hours on end. Just by holding the pen and feeling it glide across the surface of the paper you can form a much stronger connection with what you produce, regardless of how good you may feel it is.
How can you integrate them into your day?
As the name suggests, morning pages are designed to be done in the first part of the day. The part many new adopters struggle with is when in the morning to write them? Once you get to your desk? Before breakfast? After the morning run and shower?
They’re all valid questions, but the answers are all fairly arbitrary. For best results, I tend to find that writing morning pages the moment I wake up is the way to go. It’s like a morning stretch and yoga session for the creative part of my brain, and it allows it plenty of time to mull things over as I then go about the rest of my morning routine. At first, you’re going to find it rather strange to start writing the moment your alarm clock goes off, but the more you do it the easier you’ll find it. And in a couple of weeks, you’ll be doing it on autopilot.
What can you write about?
The great thing about morning pages is that there’s really no limit to what you can write about, this is one of their greatest strengths. As a writer, you’re often constrained to write about a very specific topic in great detail, which can force you down particular creative avenues you don’t know how to get back out of.
By setting you free to express yourself in a loose and contemporaneous manner, morning pages allow you to exercise your creative brain in a whole host of different ways. Ideal if you want to get your imagination and grasp of the written word up to full speed before you get to your desk.
What shouldn't you write about?
Nothing is off limits with morning pages. They can be random thoughts and opinions that pop into your head, a short story, or even an account of the dreams you’ve just had. It really doesn’t matter what it is, provided you reach your target of three pages. Once you do, wrap things up neatly with a sentence or two so you don’t lose your train thought, and then power on with your normal morning routine.
How to keep the habit going?
This is one of the most difficult tasks of all, but it can be done with a little perseverance. The easiest approach is to do your morning pages at the same time and place every day, come rain or shine. If you do it for three weeks then you’ll find you do it on autopilot ever after.
“I’ve always been a big believer that if you want to cure writer’s block, all you need to do is show up to your desk earlier and work harder. It can be an exhausting solution but it works. One day a friend recommended morning pages to me and the difference was virtually instant. I’ll never go back to forcing myself to sit and stare at a blank screen ever again” — says Marie Fincher, writer for TrustMyPaper
What should you do with the text you produce?
Keep it. If you have a spare desk drawer or box file then pop everything you write in there. You can reread certain bits if the mood takes you, but the idea isn’t to rehash everything into an anthology you can publish. It’s all about getting your creativity up to speed first thing in the morning, and if you can do that it really doesn’t matter what you choose to do with what you write.
How long should you spend on it?
This depends on how long you take to produce three pages, but as a guided half an hour would be about right. You’re not entering a speed writing competition, and you’re also not trying to pen a best seller. Take the time to let your mind produce interesting thoughts, get them down on paper, and you’ll soon find a length of time that works for you.
Why first thing in the morning?
It’s the question you’ll be asking yourself ruefully the first time you hear your alarm clock sound. The great thing about writing first thing in the morning is it gives your mind the maximum amount of time to reflect on what you’ve produced. Perfect if you want to arrive at your desk full of ideas and inspiration for the day of writing that lies ahead.
Whilst the causes of writer’s block are often disputed, the solutions can be simpler than you might think. Hopefully, this article has shown you how morning pages can make a real improvement to the way you approach the writing process. With regular practice you’ll soon become one of those people who seem to cruise through the working day without any effort whatsoever. Just what you need when you want to embrace everything that’s great about being a writer.
Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at Studicus. Kristin runs her own FlyWriting blog.
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