When we think about writing or being creative in some way, we often suffer from negative messages echoing in our heads.
“No one will think this is good.”
“What makes you think you can paint?”
“Who will want to read this.”
“You don’t have what it takes.”
“Your brother is the talented one.”
“You can’t make a living from art.”
“It’s too late in life for you.”
When we do think about starting a project, these voices can halt progress before the first word is written or the first photograph is taken. As a result many who long to be creative stuff our impulses, appreciating the work of others from a distance.
How can we can get out of this wearisome cycle? Julia Cameron, in her classic book The Artist’s Way, offers a simple solution. Simple but not necessarily easy.
She calls it morning pages. Each morning for twelve weeks we commit to filling three pages with text. We can recount what we did the previous day or describe what’s in the room or why we like our dog (or hate our neighbor’s dog) or the fact that we have nothing to write about. Stream of consciousness is fine. Our pages don’t have to make sense. And most important, we promise ourselves to show them to no one.
What’s remarkable is that whether we want to sculpt, make movies, paint, or do interior design, writing our morning pages each day helps get us unstuck. The negative voices will carry on even as we write. But after a week or two they typically begin to fade. We drown them out with output, quieting our inner censor, and getting in the habit of actually producing.
Eventually something that finds its way into our morning pages may trigger and idea or project we want to pursue. That’s fine. We can work on it outside of our time set aside for morning pages, and that we can show to others for input if desired. But we never show others our morning pages themselves. A friend of mine, Bill, who didn’t think he was very creative undertook Cameron’s disciplines and started producing some remarkable poetry.
Writer’s block can be one of the most challenging obstacles to face. We need every tool and tactic at our disposal to overcome it. Morning pages is a powerful option.
Photo credit: Andy Le Peau