Thursday, November 09, 2017

Morning Pages

Like most writers I journal. So did Queen Victoria as it happens but I doubt historians are going to paw through mine when I die or that my children will bother to check whatever remains as hers did to make sure nothing salacious or inappropriate remained. Can't have any of dear Mama's ramblings about John Brown or Abdul Karim getting out, can we. The scandal of it.

I, on the other hand, do destroy a lot of my journals myself on a regular basis or we'd be drowning in pages of very uninteresting twaddle around here. This is because, unlike the kind of journalling recommended by my writing teachers, many of these journals are very much a reflection of what I have on my mind at any particular time. This can be a rant about the state of the world or my own life or my family, a list of things to do or a reflection on what's happening around me, some of which I'd be happy to share but others I definitely would not like to.

My journalling is based on Julia Cameron's suggestion in her book The Artist's Way that we should handwrite what she calls Morning Pages first thing every day. That is three pages - I use A4 - of whatever comes to mind with no preplanning and without any taboos or restrictions as what you write about. I'm guessing you can see why, quite apart from the build up of paper and books taking over the house, I might feel destroying these journals is sometimes a good idea. The other option, if I feel there's a possibility that I might write something that I'd rather no-one else saw, is to use loose sheets. It's also a good idea when I'm away from home.

There are several reasons for journalling this way. Mainly I use it to clarify my thoughts on whatever I'm writing about (and usually by the time I reach the end of the third page I have sorted out whatever is bothering me and can approach the day with a clear mind). I'll probably never even reread this kind of journalling nor will I when these pages are just me looking back at what happened the previous day (and that means thinking about what I did or didn't achieve) and deciding what I need to do next. Once it's written down it gets fixed in my memory so there's no need to look at it. Thirdly, at busy times - like the lead up to Christmas - I might make a list to work through. Then there are the days when I simply have some idea that I want to get down before I forget it. That's when this becomes more like a regular writer's journal where it might turn out to be a thought about whatever writing project I'm working on or a paragraph or more that I'll transfer to the computer later on - something like a description of a character, an outline of a scene or a story line.

I do this every morning - as I have for more than twenty years - as soon after I get up as I can. For me that is after I've made a cup of coffee and fed and medicated my cat (wouldn't be left alone to do the pages otherwise) and ideally before anyone else is stirring. I'm an early riser - usually up well before Pisces comes to - so this time to myself is not difficult to find - but over the years Pisces has learned that, should he happen to get up before I've finished, quiet is appreciated.

 At the moment my Morning Pages are a mix of things. On the one hand there are writing bits and pieces because we're in the middle of NaNoWriMo which is the annual attempt by many writers to try to get around 50,000 words written in November. I'm not to sure that will happen to me at the rate I'm progressing but at least I'm writing which has not been the case since I got sick twelve months ago. On the other hand I'm trying to set myself a list of tasks to get done so we can tackle the many things that need doing around here in an orderly way. Next week or month it may be something entirely different. No matter what form it takes, though, I can't see myself giving up doing these pages until I can no longer hold a pen.

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