“Morning Pages” with a Twist for Fiction Writers

journalJulia Cameron’s popular idea (featured in her book The Artist’s Way) of writing three pages each morning–just dumping on the page–can teach a lot of things about writing.
1) The habit can teach you that the world will not end, your vacation companions will not abandon you, your children will not starve, if you write three pages before you get out of bed.
2) You will learn that you have an endless stream of words running through your head and that any “block” is about the arrangement and worth of those words (not to be belittled, those things, but good to shelve at certain times).
3) True for me at least: whatever you do first thing in the morning is the one thing that always gets done each day.
So, what if you want to write more than a fragment of last night’s dream, a harried “to do” list in narrative form, and grousing about your date last Friday? You need “Morning Pages with a Twist.” Give yourself a little loosening up room–a page, say, to moan, rant, angst, mumble . . . and then switch gears: Focus the rest of your morning pages on the project you are actually supposed to be writing. Start by writing about it. If you wrote two or three pages about your book every morning, you’d get farther than you can imagine. Then move on, as you feel moved, to sketching particular scenes, capturing images that arise, and so forth.
What to consider writing about your project:
1) Ideas you have for plot, character, setting, etc.
2) Concerns or stumbling blocks: what about . . .? what if . . . ? (Write: Maybe . . . and then list various ideas. Have a conversation/ brainstorm with yourself.
3) A specific breakdown of your goals–page counts, planning, daily chunks that will rise to weekly sections that will lead to monthly achievements that will contribute to successful completion.
In sum: start by writing about whatever’s on your mind. Then write about writing. Then write about the fictional world you are developing: about the people and what they do. Voila–you’re writing scenes!

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  1. I’ve been doing morning pages for over ten years now. They saved my sanity many times – through divorce, publishing, a move to a new country. But mostly they just saved my sanity daily. I love them. Interestingly, about three or four months ago, I finally got kind of tired of them. For over ten years, I did 3 pages EVERY day, now I often write two pages. Or even one. Or sometimes none. It’s good though. I’m glad I did them the way she says for so long too because when I did get tired of them it was kind of like I have enough experience to know which days I need to push through to 3 pages now and which days I’m just boring myself and should get on with my day!

    • @ Joelle — I did them on and off and am about to go back. Thanks for sharing your experience. Maybe you can write your book during that time now?


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