Could becoming a better writer be similar to going to the gym to get fit? Could challenging and exercising that writing muscle lead to better more inspiring writing? That’s what we’re going to look at in this four part series of the blogcentric podcast
Morning Pages – Flexing Your Writing Muscles
Around ten years ago I trained for and ran the Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon. I set myself a modest goal, I wanted to run the whole thing, no walking, no stopping. I started from nothing, I couldn’t run at all but after exercising and practicing I made it. I ran the mini-marathon.
Learning to write well is similar to preparing for a run. When you start you might struggle but over time as you stretch your writing muscle you get better. Your words flow, you find better ways of communicatingoi.
When I was training for the mini-marathon I did a lot of running. I trained on the tread mill and I went to the local rugby club and ran in circles over and over again. But I also swam, cycled, used the cross trainer, the rowing machine, lifted weights, managed to do sit ups, press ups, the plank. All these peripheral exercises built up my strength and muscles so that when I did run it was easier.
That’s what this, and the following three episodes of the blogcentric podcast are about. Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you to run a maarathon but I am going to ask you to join me in a series of exercises that although aren’t blog posts could lead to us all becoming better blog writers.
This week, in part one we’re going to start with ‘Morning Pages’
Wait what are Morning Pages?
Morning pages are a writing exercise developed by Julia Cameron in her 1992 book ‘The Artist’s Way’.
The idea is a simple one. First thing in the morning before the ego awakes (according to Julia), every morning fill three A4 pages with longhand stream of conciousness writing.
Write down whatever comes into your head and if nothing comes into your head start writing something like ‘I don’t know what to write’.
Ok, I know it does sound a bit hippyish but I’ve heard so many good things about the technique I think it could be worth a try.
What are the benefits?
Three pages of hand writing will make my wrist hurt! Before I embarked on this challenge I wanted to know what the possible benefits could be. Here are some of the claims made by advocates of the technique:
1. Creative thinking better first thing in the morning
This does make sense, some of my best ideas appear in the shower in the morning. Perhaps if I’m doing a creative act rather than just washing my hair more creativity will arise.
I’m not quite sure what ‘first thing in the morning means’ but we’ll discuss this later on.
2. Release the junk from your brain
Not many people know this but I can be a big ball of anxiety. Being an anxious person isn’t always a negative thing. Anxiety can drive you forward to finish tasks and work hard to be the best you can be… or something. Obviously anxiety is a negative thing too and maybe, just maybe releasing anxieties through Morning pages could clear your head for the rest of the day.
Because you are writing just for you, you can reveal all your secrets all those embarrasments and let them out.
If you’re worried about putting this stuff on to paper, you may not want your anxiety hanging around for others to read, don’t be. It’s perfectly acceptable to destroy your pages once they are written.
3. Banish negativity
If like me you are a tad on the grumpy side in the morning this could be a good way to get rid of the grump. Scribble you anger and negativity onto your morning pages and you’ll be cleansed and ready for the day.
4. Spark new ideas
When you force your brain to start writing, when you force it to come up with something to write you could be surprised with what it comes up with. Sure there’ll probably be pages full of nonsence but could it shake loose a really good idea.
What others think
People who try Morning Pages rave about the technique.
Author Jennifer Blanchard reports some quite stunning results from her Writing Pages experiment.
YouTuber Lavendair found that they improved her clarity, creativity and productivity.
Small Business Bloggers community member (and contributor to this blog) Sinéad Noonan (follow her on Instagram here) finds they stop her over editing:
I’m an over thinker and perfectionist so morning pages allows me to just blurt out everything in my mind without having my over active editor kick in. Because when I write normally, my constant editing gets in the way. Morning pages gives me a freedom and creative outlet that I can’t recreate anywhere else. I think it’s really improved my overall writing.
Reading and watching these testimonials sealed it for me. I decided to give it a shot.
What you need:
I did think about buying a fancy A4 notebook for the task but I realised this was just putting off the task at hand. Instead I found a bundle of scraps of old A4 jotters in the bottom of a drawer. I had planned to put them by my bed so that I could write before I got up in the morning but I doubt my snoring other half would approve of being woken up by the scraping of my pen.
And that’s the second thing you need, a pen or pencil or writing implement of some kind.
There are apps available if you want to do this online but it’s not recommended. The physical act of writing long hand is supposed to exercise a muscle that is neglected if you do most of your writing online.
I stalled on getting started. I had expected to have written and documented a number of days before this podcast went live. Instead I forgot about it, twice! Not an encouraging start but this morning I ensured I had the pad and paper sitting on my desk to jog my memory.
Choosing a time to write was tough too. I have quite a strong morning routine and this was going to get in the way. I really can’t do anything until I shower in the morning, the cogs in my brain don’t connect until I’ve had water flowing over them for a few minutes. So I chose to write them directly after showering and dressing.
How did I get on? Listen to the podcast above.
I’m glad I didn’t buy a fancy notebook because as soon as I started writing I knew I wanted to destroy them. If you listened to the podcast you’ll now I was slightly underwhelmed when I finished writing, but shortly afterwards, after destroying the paper I knew that there were tasks I’d written about that I needed to schedule. That I needed to work on as soon as possible. They weren’t new tasks but they were tasks that had been on the todo list for way too long.
From one day it’s impossible to know if I’ll see benefits and as I’m going away on holiday for a week I’m not going to be able to do a proper test until I return.
When I do I’ll give it a shot for a week. I am looking forward to seeing if there is an improvement in my writing as a result.
Over to you
This is the first of four exercises I’m going to be trying in the bid to become a better writer. Will you join me? If so come and join the ‘Small Business Bloggers’ group on Facebook and share your experiences with us.
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