Tag Archives: The Artist’s Way

Not everyone loves ‘morning pages’

I usually mention the idea of ‘morning pages’ in writing workshops because I think a regular writing practice is a really good thing for authors and I know a lot of writers who love doing them, either on the long term or for a few weeks to help them get unstuck when they feel blocked.

I’ve personally never used ‘morning pages’ because my daily practice is my dream journal so I was interested to read ‘Morning pages may not be the artist’s way’ by Maria C McCarthy. She and several commenters suggest that ‘morning pages’ can easily turn into an outpouring of ‘negative and angry stuff’ going over and over the same concerns day after day.

Two great writing books that recommend morning pages
Two great writing books that recommend morning pages

Her criticism of the book that made the idea popular ‘The Artist’s Way’ is that the author, Julia Cameron, offers it as the solution for every writer. My problem with that book is that I don’t think it acknowledges the earlier bestseller, ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande, which describes exactly the same practice, but that’s a separate issue.

Maria McCarthy suggests adapting the ‘morning pages’ idea by not making it totally free, but rather focusing it around a topic. Specifically, she talks about John Siddique’s idea of free writing around the ideas in Stephen R Covey’s  ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.’

I sometimes suggest using writing prompts which are self-generated for daily writing and I think this also circumvents the grinding wheels of our discontents, shifting the focus to images and themes that interest us.

Having read that for some people completely free writing may turn into a sump of misery, I may be including a health warning next time I discuss the idea of ‘morning pages’ with a group.

Related posts – ‘Daily pages vs dreams’ , ‘Do you have a daily practice’ and ‘What are the best writing prompts for daily practice?’

Have you ever tried writing ‘morning pages’? Or do you have a different daily practice you could recommend? 

When a writer needs to ‘go down to the well’

Just after Christmas, when I had finished my story set on a remote island, I had a brief hiatus, so I asked for a dream.

I’m in Cunningsburgh, in Shetland, but the coast is completely different. Instead of the wide flat apron of land around the voe, it’s high and mountainous.

Cunninsburgh, looking out towards the voe

We go to the top of the cliffs and start our familiar walk, down the narrow path which clings to the side of the steep slope down to the sea. We normally make this a circular walk, but when we reach the water and look up at the path ahead, it looks too long and hazardous. So we double back the way we came, and return to the top once again.

When I wrote the dream down, I knew I’d dreamt about this place before, and done the walk in other dreams; I also remembered that it almost always coincided with this stage in my writing, when I had finished one MS and not yet started another.

After I finish a book, I need a fallow time to rest and recover, refocus and regroup. I play with lots of ideas and then, just when I’m starting to feel impatient, one of them grabs me.

My dream of going down to the water reminds me of an idea I’ve read in books on writing, that writers need to take time out and ‘go down to the well’ to keep refreshing their ideas. Julia Cameron talks about it in her ‘writer’s date’ suggestion in ‘The Artist’s Way.’

Julia Cameron recommends taking time out every week, but I find my writing pattern is such that when I’m in the flow I just want to write 24:7 till I reach the end, and then take a chunk of time out to recover (and get some sleep!)

After this dream, and a period of rest, what eventually grabbed me was a return to the world of Peony Pinker, the protagonist of my latest published series. I guess that’s why I doubled back in my dream.

It’s only through writing down your dreams and noting alongside them the main things that are happening in your waking life, that you start to see patterns and parallels emerging. Certain themes and situations in your dreamworld may become familiar, as they reflect recurring themes and situations in your waking life.

I’ve just delivered my follow-up story to Peony Pinker, ‘Me and my big mouth, by Maddy Monday,’ so I won’t be surprised if I find myself walking back down to the water in my dreams these next few weeks.

If you’re a dreamer, are you aware of a recurring link between a dream situation and a waking one in your own life? 

If you’re a writer, how often do you ‘go down to the well’ – for a few hours every week, or for longer periods between writing projects?