Tag Archives | morning pages

Revisiting Morning Pages

Planner_binder_ring_261350_lOver the last month or so, I've gone back to doing Morning Pages.  I started mid-December and have been picking up steam ever since.  I've been writing so much in my journal that I began a system of indexing it so I could keep track of everything.  Ideas pour from my pen.  I figure things out.  I write about what happened the day before.  I list to-dos, start scenes, unknot pesky writing issues.  And once again, I've become an enthusiastic proponent of morning pages. 

What are Morning Pages?

Morning Pages were popularized by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way.  As she describes them, "Morning pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning."  Don't think about them too much. Just write.  There's no wrong way to do them.  For real.  (Though Julia does recommend keeping them to three pages.  Shorter than that, and you won't get the benefit.  Longer, and you spend too much time with them.)

My History with Morning Pages

I first read the Artist's Way many years ago at a very difficult time in my life.  Our house had burned down and that had thrown me off kilter creatively for awhile.  (Ya think?)  I'd seen the book at the book store (told you it was a long time ago) but was put off by the word "artist" in the title, thinking it was more for visual artist types.  But I bought it eventually and went through the whole program.

I resisted Morning Pages at first.  One thing, like this guy, I'm not much of a follower.  I squirm about when people tell me what I should be doing.  And then I tend to do the opposite of what they say.  But I'd committed to doing the program and so I started Morning Pages.  And did them religiously for the next ten years.  At least.  I did them because they worked for me in every way–creatively, spiritually, and emotionally.  

And then I quit.  I think it was when I started writing fiction first thing in the morning and didn't feel I had time for Morning Pages.  That was about ten years ago and since then I've dipped into doing MPs off and on but haven't made them a regular practice.  But I'm recommitting to them once again because my results this time around have been spectacular.

Why You Should Do Them

For about fifty million reasons, really, but mostly because they will boost your creativity, help you find and maintain your spiritual center, and maybe most important of all–because they will freaking make you feel good.  

As I've been gathering my thoughts about this post, I've run across a couple of related quotes that I share with you here because, though they are not specifically about Morning Pages, I think they shine light on why they work so well.

Here is what Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass, says about journaling: 

Meditate and/or journal and/or spend lots of time in nature, dance - do whatever you have to do to strengthen your relationship with The Motherlode. Because when you get into the flow and out of your head, your doubts, fears and worries fall away because they do not exist in the flow. Awesomeness, strength and joy exist in the flow. Connection to your mightiest self exists in the flow. Get. In. The. Flow. Yo.

Yeah, and sometimes it is not so much about connecting to your mightiest self but just setting yourself up for the day.  I'm re-earning that doing MPs is replenishing.  One morning recently I woke feeling foggy, vague and overwhelmed.  I had so much to do–and my brain didn't seem to want to do any of it.  But then I pulled my journal out and started writing.  And suddenly I saw that things weren't so bad. Moreover, everything that I needed to do came into focus.  

This is because morning pages create space.  They do this in a couple of ways.  First of all, they are a physical space in which to download all the things–bad and good–that clutter your brain.  Dump 'em all on the page.  Second, they create space in your brain by getting all that stuff out of it. Suddenly, the world opens up when your mind is not so cluttered.

Here's what Tara Stiles, author of the Make Your Own Rules Diet and some other books on yoga that look really cool says about the necessity of finding space in our lives: 

We all feel great when we have space for ourselves. Room to breathe, feel, think, and exist. When we lack that space, we often (unknowingly) form destructive habits to provide the temporary illusion of it. We can’t escape our need for space, but we can change how we create and sustain room for ourselves so we can live happy, healthy lives. 

Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

If You Want to Try Them

If you haven't tried Morning Pages, you are likely grousing that you don't have time for such thing. I hear you.  But I say you'll create time by doing them.  Because you'll have more clarity, less anxiety and more of an ability to focus on what you really want to do throughout the day.  So try it:

Set your alarm for 20 minutes earlier than you usually rise and make the coffee the night before so its all ready to turn on.  (Sometimes I start my pages sitting at the kitchen table while the coffee is brewing.) Grab yourself a notebook and pen and have at it.  Or try doing them on the computer here.  (Yeah, Cameron says to do them longhand and I agree.  But I'm also a big proponent of whatever works.  So if writing on the computer works better for you, go for it.)  That's it!  That's all you have to do.  Okay?

If you need more information on the process, there's now an Ebook that Julia Cameron wrote specifically about Morning Pages, which you can find here.  Though I'm here to tell you that you really don't need it.  Trust me.  All you have to do is write.

Update: In the department of synchroncity, just as I was scheduling this post, an email from Tim Ferriss, author of the Four-Hour Workweek, popped into my inbox.  And it was about–you guessed it–the value of Morning Pages.  Read it here.

Have you ever tried Morning Pages?  Did you find them helpful?

Photo by alitaylor.

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Process Writing

I mentioned process writing recently in another post but I want to look at it more in depth today.  Why?  I'll tell you why.  Because I've realized that nearly all of my product writing has its origins in process writing.  As in, blog posts, articles, and notes for scenes flowing from my pen.  As in, I start out in process writing and suddenly I'm in product writing.
Fountain_pencil_writing_238392_l

But first, a refresher.  I'm borrowing these terms from Roseanne Bane, who discusses them in detail in her book, Around the Writer's Block.  Reading her book has solidified the efficacy of these same habits in my own life and so I share them with you.  Bane says that the path to subverting writer's block on a regular basis takes three forks: process writing, product writing, and self care.  Process writing is the kind of writing you do that supports product writing, which is your writing writing.  That novel or memoir or article you want to finish.  Process writing is journaling, morning pages, free writing, not sitting down with intention to work on your current project.  Self care is just that–getting enough sleep and exercise and eating right as well.

It's easy to discount process writing.  Easy to think you have limited time to spend on your writing anyway, so why waste it on navel-gazing or rant-filled journaling? Easy to believe that free writing just results in a bunch of meaningless words on the page.  But I've learned that none of that is true.  Process writing, if done in a deep, attentive manner can be the springboard not only for your product writing but for creative ideas and visions as well.

My process writing occurs first thing in the morning because that's when I like to do it.  I feel better all day long if I've written right after I get up. I used to call this habit writing morning pages, but I don't any longer because I like to think I'm going deeper than that.  There's nothing wrong with morning pages, mind you, it's just that mine too often devolved into a to-do list or on-the-page worrying about what I needed to get done that day.  Yeah, left to my own devices I can get numbingly boring to myself.

These days, I've been practicing a different kind of technique called soul writing, popularized by Janet Conner.  I'm not an expert in this kind of writing by any stretch of the imagination and I'm sure that the way I practice it is probably different in some ways than that which Janet propounds.  She recommends getting yourself into a theta state by activating the five senses.  You've got touch and sight going already with the writing, but you might also want to put on some soothing music and light a scented candle.  As for the taste, well, I always have a cup of coffee and a glass of water nearby anyway.

But here's what really makes it work for me: instead of just talking to yourself on the page, you find a higher power to chat with.  This can be anything that works for you and may likely come to you as you write.  Janet calls hers The Voice.  I call mine God, and when I say God I mean the God within each of us and everything on the planet, not the mythical guy up in the sky that wreaks havoc when he feels like it.  The other key aspect of soul writing is to ask a lot of questions.  What you're doing is opening yourself up the channels for your creativity to come through, and asking questions facilitates this.

What happens to me is I'll ask a question or remember that I wanted to write a blog post that day and suddenly I'm doing it.  I'll think of an idea for my WIP and whoosh I'm writing a scene.  There's something about this kind of writing, this willingness to be open, that makes the creative juices flow.  This post, for instance, was written by hand in my journal a few mornings ago. 

So that's my rant on process writing.  If you're stuck or feeling blah about your writing, I recommend you try it.  And please check back and let us know how it's going.  Do you do any kind of process writing on a regular basis?  Leave a comment and let's discuss.

***My favorite kind of product writing is novel writing and my debut happens next week.  Join me for the Emma Jean Virtual Release Party!  There will be prizes.  More information here.

Image by brokenarts.

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On Not Knowing What to Write

Seed_weeds_weed_242627_lI wanted to write a blog post this morning, but my mind was empty of ideas.

This is an unusual situation for me.  Usually my brain is brimming with thoughts to share on writing.  Not today.

Was it because I just returned home from Nashville last week?  Because I'd finished the greater part of a big editing job? Maybe my brain was dead because I'd turned in the Emma Jean edits before my trip?

Who can say?  And does it really matter when the end result is the same? (To ask why, I've learned, is often useless speculation.  What matters is what.  As in, what can I do about this situation?)

I assigned myself thought exercises.  Told my brain to cook up a topic.  That didn't work.  So I pulled out the little paisley notebook I use for blog ideas.  Actually found one I hadn't used and started working on it. 

Until I realized I really didn't care much about the topic at the moment and my heart wasn't in it.

And then my friend Sandra tweeted a link to this post.  (Because, of course, when the muse is absent you go look for it on Twitter.  Right? You do, don't you?) And I thought, why not dive right in and see what happens?

And here I am, I've made it this far.  And at this very moment, my thoughts are turning to control.  And how much of it I unwittingly exert over my creativity.  How rarely I allow myself to plunge onto the page, unfettered, as I have with this post. 

For instance, I always start a post knowing what I'm going to write about (except for today).

I always have at least a starting point when I start work on my novel.

Hmmm.  It occurs to me that this is why morning pages are so good for me–I just open up my Moleskine and begin to write.  And whatever comes out, comes out.  Of course, nobody sees that except for me.  So the control gets exerted when my writing is for public consumption.

Which makes sense–and yet.  And yet, I think I could benefit from more unfettered writing in my life.  More journal entries.  More crazy fun flash fiction.  More sitting down and having at the novel without worrying about exactly where its going.

And so I vow to try to loosen up a bit.  I'll keep you posted.

What about you?  Do you tightly control your writing or let it rip?

Photo by hberends.

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Guest Post: It’s Between the Page and I, 6 Things I Learned Over 10 Days of Morning Pages

While I'm on retreat, I've got a variety of guest posts for you.  Today, please welcome Resham Khiani, as she writes about morning pages.

It's Between the Page and I, 6 Things I Learned Over 10 Days of Morning Pages

by Resham Khiani

It's 8:00am on Saturday morning.

Another long, hard week in London has come to an end and I'm looking forward to a cosy lie in…. until the challenge I've set myself bursts my bubble.

For 10 days straight, I will be doing my Morning Pages Exercises. For those of you who are new to hearing it for the first time, they are an exercise devised by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. The concept is basic: write three long hand pages, non-stop once you wake up in the morning. It doesn't matter what you write, just write…. even if it's line after line of "I don't know what to write,"  your subconscious mind will kick in and messages will appear.

Bleary eyed, I made my way to the kitchen, prepared a green tea and grudgingly sat at my desk. "I'm too tired to write" – the voice of sabotage has arrived. I gently say to shut up or I will smack it (I know, I know, it's weird, how on earth can anyone smack their conscious mind?!). A sip of green tea and my hand begins to glide, almost insanely, within seconds. Scribbling messily, sloppily, uncontrollably I see I'm just whinging and moaning about all the things in my life. I'm fed up, tired, can't be bothered and don't want to take responsibility of my life.

But then, I feel an urgent message coming along, something profound, almost spiritual. I'm alert. I'm ready: "Do you remember what it was like to fall in love?" Before I answer this message, my subconscious begins misbehaving and complaining how annyoing my flatmate has become. It begins hatching a plan all by itself, with me, merely being an onlooker with no say. All I know is, the retalation is quite harsh. And then I hear: "muhahahahaha." Note to reader: writing down the evil laugh diminishes it's effect.

Each day, of course, was a battlefield with the mind. Getting up on time to actually do the exercise was a challenge; however, I remained disciplined throughout. Looking back at my pages, I could see myself swinging from exhilarating happiness, to downright depression, to simmering, passionate feelings and finally spiritual, optimistic statements. The Morning Pages revealed so many messages in a short space of time. And they were:

1) I write a lot about sex, so much so, I make myself blush after I finish reading it! (I blame the Mills & Boon romance books I read on a regular basis, whereas Sigmund Freud will blame me for suppressing my natural instincts).

2) I goad myself to set up my own business, based on NLP and helping woman change their beauty beliefs.

3) I have a depressive and philosophical streak in me enough to put Milan Kundera (author of The Incredible Lightness of Being) to shame.

4) Apart from being depressive, at the base of it, I'm optimistic, and realise I have the power to direct my thoughts.

5) I question myself too much: I live too much in the future or past,without fully being present.

6) I am a diva.

Putting ink on paper, coupled with honesty is a revelation to oneself. Morning Pages have switched on my intuition, my creativity, my belief of trusting myself. I realised I had fallen out of love with my life and my creativity – hence the reason why I got such a message. As a result of being persistent with the exercises, I no longer walk around with a feeling of frustration or anger because I've dealt with it on paper. I'm free from negative emotions and drama. Funnily enough, my life has become simpler, more fun, opportunities are flowing, inspiration is soaring. I'm writing a lot more, I've got a few romantic dates lined up and certainly feel life is on my side. Perhaps getting up on the first morning really was the beginning of a new life……

Resham

 

Resham Khiani (on the left in the photo) is the founder of InnerBellissima blog, devoted to helping
woman change their beauty beliefs. She writes regularly on her blog.

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Whatever Works

So, we teaching and coaching types love to give advice (except that the true essence of coaching is not so much giving advice as pulling what you yourself already know to be so out of yourself).

I, for instance, love to tell people to do Morning Pages.  (If you don't know what Morning Pages are, they are three pages of glumping on the page all your crap and good stuff as well, first thing in the morning.)

And I love to tell people to use prompts.

I also tell people to do what is most important to you first thing in the morning.  I presume that writing is most important to you.  So I further presume that it is what you will aim to do first thing.

I could go on with my list of helpful things I tell people.  Like, working with your inner critic, not checking email first thing in the morning, knowing your market, the power of prayer and meditation, and on and on.  And, some might say, on.

But here's the deal:

If what I say works, then use it.

If it doesn't, then don't.

But find something that does.  The point is, not everything works for everyone.  But my offerings are based on working with dozens of clients and students over the years.  And how will you know if they work for you until you try them?

Truly, I don't care if your favorite technique to get the words flowing is to stand on your head and rub your belly button.  If it works, do it.  I'm all about getting the words onto the page and I know full well that even though we like to haughtily say that writer's block doesn't exist, it really does.  Because I've experienced it, and so have you. 

But just because it exists doesn't mean it can't be dealt with.  It can.  Keep trying things until you get over it.

Okay, that's my rant for the summer.  I promise.  Now tell me what kinds of techniques work for you to get the writing flowing?  Alcohol?  A nap?  A brisk run?  Chaining yourself to the computer?  I'm all ears.

***Guess what?  I'm offering the book proposal teleclass again this September.  And right now, there are crazy fast action bonuses: an early-bird price AND a free coaching call.  But hurry, because the fast action bonus is time sensitive.  Check it out here.

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When Is A Food Journal Not For Your Diet?

Journal_80101_l  Well, after a brief break for Christmas and sloth, it is time, finally, to resume my series on journal writing with a final flourish. It is a flourish because what I'm going to discuss is my current favorite type of journal writing, though I reserve the right to have a different favorite next month, because, well, that is what happens with journal writing.  And maybe even regular writing, too, if there is such a thing as regular writing.

So here goes.  My current favorite type of journal writing is the Chronology.  This is my name for actually writing about the things that happen in your life, the people you run into, the day to day events that make up your existence. 

The desire to write a chronology of our days is why may of us are drawn to journal writing.  It is the urge to make meaning of our lives, or perhaps the desire to leave something for posterity.  The chronology records history in the making if we're lucky–witness the diaries of pioneer women that have been such wonderful records of that era. 

The chronology is also fertile ground for practicing the writer's craft.  In noting the details of your best friend's outfit and how she never seems to wear things that match yet she always looks great, that you start to understand how to create characters that come alive on the page.  In writing a description of the coffee shop you visited the day before, the seeds of description and setting are created.  And so on, through all the aspects of observing a day to day life.

The chronology is what fills our journals with rich detail and interesting tidbits.  And yet, this kind of writing is what is often sorely lacking in my own diary.  Why?  Because when writing a journal on a regular basis, I tend to get lazy.  (Um, this seems to be a theme for me this week.) It is far easier to indulge in a whiny emotional outburst or write quick morning pages that are really more about the day's to-do list than to really write about the what happened the day before: how the sun looked on the river as you crossed the bridge, or the way your son's face lit up when he took a bite of chocolate.  

I realized how the quality of my journaling had deteriorated when I read My Life in France, by Julia Child this summer, after seeing the movie, Julie and Julia.  If you saw the movie, there were several scenes where Paul, Julia's husband, is seen sitting at a desk writing letters to his twin brother back home.  Those letters were apparently so filled with detail and wonderful tidbits that they were used heavily by Julia and her nephew in writing her memoir (which is, by the way, delightful, and well worth reading).  Upon reading this I was struck by what a rich vein of gold letter writing results in, and then I realized that journal writing could be the same thing.  My journal writing could be a rich vein of gold, if only I weren't so indulgent about all those whiny outbursts.  Or obsessed with to-do lists.

So I resolved to actually write something of worth in my diary and began to sit every morning and write an account of the day before.  Yet this chronology meandered and lacked cohesion.  (I know, I know, its a journal, it is not supposed to be perfect.  But, as with all writing, I need to feel comfortable inside the form before it takes off for me.)  And then I read a charming article in O magazine.  I'm sorry I can't point you to the exact month because I tore it out and gave it to my daughter, but it was sometime this past fall.  The article was written by a woman who had recently had a baby.  During her pregnancy, she wrote down every single item she had eaten and with whom, the idea being that her baby was the sum total of all of this food and company.

And from this I got my brilliant idea–keeping a Food Journal.  No, not the kind that nutritionists and diet experts tell you to keep, though that can easily be incorporated.  This kind of food journal notes not only what you ate, but where you ate it, who you ate it with and what they were wearing, what song was on the radio as you drove down the freeway with a McDonald's breakfast sandwich in hand, whatever.  And then that leads to a paragraph about how, you guessed it, the sun shone on the river as you crossed the bridge over it and so forth and so on and before you know it you've written a chronology of your entire morning, full of lush detail and interesting anecdotes and now you're onto lunch, which is a whole other story in itself, because your numbskull co-worker told that stupid joke and then your boss yelled at all of you while she had a piece of toilet paper stuck to her shoe.

So what the Food Journal really does is give you an excuse.  It gives you an excuse to write about everything that happened in your day, and in giving you a structure, it makes it so much easier than to meander about in your brain and try to remember what you did.  Food is life, as we know, and it turns out that writing about food makes remembering life easier.

This kind of journaling takes a long time.  Writing about your entire day could easily take your entire morning.  So you might want to limit yourself to one aspect of it.  Or not.  What I find is that this kind of writing, the loving attention to the detail of reality, leads me back into the writing that I truly love doing–writing novels.  And then the hell part is that I get so engrossed in writing novels that I don't have time to keep a food journal or really any kind of diary.

But that is okay, because my journal will be there waiting for me, as it always is, when I feel the need to write morning pages to get myself back on track again.  Or to do some writing exercises because I've lost my way and feel blocked.  Or because something happened to me of such import that I feel the urge to write about it.  That's the great thing about journals–they are always there for you.

Here are the links to the other posts in this series:

Journaling: One Path to Writing Abundance

Practical Considerations for Journal Writing

All the Wonderful Forms of Journal Writing

Journaling, Part Four: Morning Pages

Journaling, Part Five: Whiny Emotional Outbursts

Photo used under Creative Commons 2.5 license.

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Journaling, Part Four: Morning Pages

 
Yesterday, in Part Three* of my series on journaling, I wrote about four types of journal writing that I findGlasses_sheet_paper_260712_l useful.  There are an infinite number of techniques you can use for effective journaling, and I may well write about others in the future.  But for now, I've chosen to discuss the ones I use most often and find most beneficial.

Morning Pages.  First off, we have Morning Pages, developed and popularized by Julia Cameron in her seminal book, The Artist's Way.  You've probably read about or heard of Morning Pages, or MPs, as I like to call them, one way or another.  Morning Pages are simple–you get up, head to your journal, and write three pages, no more, no less.

Your first reaction to this idea may be similar to mine–horror at the idea that you're supposed to get up and write first thing.  I think this springs from the notion that writing is hard, and it takes thought, and if your brain is not yet awake you won't be able to think and thus write. 

But that is also the point–that you bypass the conscious, critical brain and just let the words flow onto the page. This is good for a number of reasons:

1.  Because it gets you used to just letting the words rip.  Getting into the flow of putting words on the page is excellent training for writers.  And, like any other profession, writers need to train.  The way the writing process works is this: first you glump all the words out onto the page in one glorious brain dump.  Then you rewrite.  And rewrite again.  And rewrite again.  And…well, you get the idea.  But if you are hesitant and shy with your words, you'll never get the wonder of rough draft onto the page and thus never have anything to work with.  So, you can consider Morning Pages to be part of your training.

2.  Because it familiarizes you with your subconscious.  And what a trip that is.  By writing Morning Pages, you will learn all kinds of things about yourself, perhaps that what you really want to do is study classical music or kayak around the world.  Or whatever.  Why is this important?  Because, here's the deal: the number one, most important thing for a writer is to be yourself on the page.  That's what voice is about, people.  But being yourself on the page is nearly impossible is you don't know yourself.  So write MPs.  You may astound yourself with your brilliance.  And even if you don't, you are engaging in a valuable activity, in and of itself.

3.  Because fascinating trends emerge when you aren't looking.  You know how John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans?" So too with MPs.  It may never have occurred to you that kayaking was something you wanted to do, until you find yourself writing about being on water–again.  You may never have thought you wanted to write poetry–until it begins to emerge in your MPs.  And so on and so forth. 

4.  Because MPs allow ideas to pop like crazy.  I've written outlines for whole novels while scribbling MPs and groggily reaching for my coffee cup.  I've had ideas for blog posts, characters, scenes in projects I'm working on, you name it.  Things emerge when you are half asleep and your conscious mind is not yet engaged.

So give them a try.  The rules for MPs are very similar to the rules for free writing.  Just write, don't worry about sentence structure, grammar, or whether you are making sense.  Just write, write, write.  Three pages, no more, no less.  Go for it.  And let me know how they work out for you.

Anybody have any experiences with Morning Pages they would like to share?

  1. *FYI, you can read Part One here, and Part Two here.  And please, please, please also go here and sign up for the free coaching sessions I'm offering.  I've added new times for the first week in January.
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Techniques for Writing Flow

The Big, Scary Beast and the Ancient, Frail Feline are both asleep (in separate rooms, I might add) and so I have a moment to ponder techniques to keep access to the muse alive and well.  This is on my mind because at the recent Loft orientation, my fellow mentor and old friend Betsy Woods gave me the details on a new-to-me technique.

It is called a Weather Journal, and its a bit like writing morning pages, only more so.  With Morning Pages, you write down a stream of consciousness account of anything and everything, just to get it out on the page.  A Weather Journal is more crafted, more reactive, more of the moment.  With the Weather Journal, you start from where you are at the moment you sit down, and you write about that place, every blessed bit of it, starting with the things you are experiencing through your senses.

This invariably leads to more writing, perhaps an account of something that happened to you the day before, or an inquiry into an emotional upset.  The Weather Journal is very Zen in that it starts in the present moment and assumes that the entire universe exists in that moment.  And, well, every writer knows that its all in the details.   Keeping a Weather Journal is an excellent way to begin noting the details.  I've noticed this magical effect of the Weather Journal, which is that when you start by noting the details of the present moment, it is much easier to put on the page details of the scene that happened to you the day before when you were at the coffee shop and the barista with the red hair gave you a Frappucino with whipped cream on it instead of your usual grande latte.

While I'm at it, I'm going to run down a list of my Top Techniques for Writing Flow.  So here goes:

1.  Weather Journal–see above.  And let me know if you come up with a better name for it, would you please?

2.  Morning Pages–I did these faithfully for years.  They are the brainchild of Julia Cameron, who advocates their use in her book, The Artist's Way.  To do Morning Pages, often called MPs by devotees, you get up, grab your coffee or tea, and sit down with paper and pen in hand.  And then you write three pages, no more, no less, and get your ya-yas out so you can get on with the real business of life.  MPs are also a great way to track the desires of your true self.  So, if over the course of a month you realize you've written, I want to move to Africa and be a missionary, 5 times, it might be time to start checking airfare to Rwanda.  My problem with MPs is that they tend to devolve into a laundry list of things to do, and thus they end up feeding an obsessive thinking trait I'm trying to end.

3.  Free Writing--Sit down with your journal, set a timer for 20 minutes, choose a prompt and write until the timer goes off.  No lifting the pen from the page, no stopping, even if you are writing I hate free writing over and over again.  There is no shortage of books chock-full of prompts for free writing.  Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones,is probably the most famous advocate of this type of journaling.  The problem with free writing is that it is easy to get lost in it and end up with a bunch of useless writing that goes nowhere.  One way to get around this is to take prompts from your own current writing project.  This can be a great technique for solving thorny plot or character issues.

4. Lists--The lazy writer's way to keep a journal.  Not surprisingly, I love this one.  Say you find yourself on vacation in the Yucatan in Mexico and everything is exotic and different.  But you're on vacation and you end up spending most of it on the beach, drinking Pina Coladas from the beach-side bar.  Who has time to write in their journal in such a situation?  Especially when there are silly floor shows to attend every night?  And more Pina Coladas? Should you find yourself in such a jam, remember the benefits of writing a list.  It can be words or phrases, or whatever you want it to be, related or unrelated.  The key is to just get down descriptive words that you can later go back to and write from.  (And can I just say that I'm glad I visited Chichen Itza, back in the day, not so long ago, when you could still climb to the top of the ruins, even if I did only get halfway up before my fear or heights kicked in.)

That's it.  That's all I got on techniques for writing flow, and I think you'll find all of them useful in different situations.  If anybody has any other good ones, leave a comment so we can all steal it and use it!

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