Creativity is a process suffused with magic and mystery for me. Who can explain where imagination comes from? How did humanity learn to put marks on a page that would become stories in the minds of readers? One of the reasons writing and writers are so fascinating to me is respect for something so potent yet so little understood.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a resource that shares this sense of wonder and delight. At the same time, it’s a practical and effective guide to becoming a better and more productive writer. I recommend it for people who, like me, believe inspiration is something that can be cultivated.
I was introduced to the technique of “morning pages” by The Artist’s Way. The idea, and these are my words not Julia’s, is to start the day by clearing away the accumulated load of mental trivia and idle thoughts and anxieties, before starting on the day’s real creative work. Morning pages are completely free-form and personal, to be written as quickly and as mindlessly as possible. They have no apparent purpose. They are not intended ever to be read again.
Morning pages have made me a better writer. I’m not able to give a rational explanation why, but I don’t argue with what works.
I don’t strictly adhere to Julia Cameron’s method. For one thing, I don’t always write them in the morning. I might need to knock some distracting stuff out of my head in the middle of the day. I sometimes have the feeling that there’s too much on my mind and it’s blocking me from focusing on my story. Writing morning pages can help me push that detritus aside. For me, it’s something of a cousin to keeping a to-do list. If you write it down, you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Julia wants morning pages to always be written by hand, and for the morning session to always end up with three filled pages. Again, with my thanks but apologies to Julia, that doesn’t work for me. I don’t write anything by hand any more except notes and lists. Truthfully, I think that I never learned to hold a pen correctly, and writing more than a few sentences by hand starts to cause knotty muscle pain in my forearm. I think faster than I can write (we all do), and for me the speed of using a keyboard is essential.
“It is harder to be blocked than to do the work.” — Julia Cameron