A core habit shared by many successful writers is the keeping of a daily writing habit, often in a writing journal.
Daily writing exercises of a certain page length are often prescribed as a method for writers to “dump their worries” or “dump their brains” before moving onto the real writing work. Today I am going to quickly discuss these tools.
Julia Cameron in ‘The Artist’s Way’, calls them “morning pages”, Natalie Goldberg in ‘Writing Down the Bones’ refers to the work as writing practice. Rochelle Melander in ‘Write-a-thon: Write your book in 26 days (and live to tell about it)’ calls these same tools “daily dump pages”.
What are Morning Pages?
Julia Cameron was the first to prescribe writing (handwriting preferably) every morning for three pages. This equates to roughly 750 words, the premise to website 750words.com which says this about morning pages –
… It’s about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day……It’s a daily brain dump. Over time, I’ve found that it’s also very helpful as a tool to get thoughts going that have become stuck, or to help get to the bottom of a rotten mood.
If you want a safe online environment and are motivated by things like collector badges and line graphs of your daily accomplishments, then you may like to consider 750words.com for daily writing.
Why Do We Need Dump Pages?
To start off, many writers don’t actually need these, not on a daily basis anyway. I’m one of them. For years I tried to do Julia Cameron’s much prescribed “morning pages” but just couldn’t retain the exercise for any length of time (my hands ached, and I found the contents depressing or “mourning pages”). On looking around the web lately, and writing of my own issues, I was surprised to find that many writers have a strangulated relationship with writing journals.
So, the secret’s out. But why do we need to look at keeping a writing journal, then?
Answer: Everyday worries and situations in life can often show-stop our writing, cause procrastination and get our inner critic flying around our heads. This clutter can be numbing.
Journaling to de-clutter our minds and release those worries can access and control them in a consistent way, making this a core habit of many successful writer’s lives. The psychology behind journaling and therapeutic writing is well studied.
My own personal usage of journaling is based on my analysis of how my writing process works for me. As a novelist, I can often be found in a flow of days where I am deep into a draft. Stopping to write 1-3 pages of clutter “out-of-my-brain” takes me out of the flow, not back into it. On those days, I don’t journal.
But, some days I do need to de-clutter my mind, resolve a niggly problem, maybe even talk about my writing day. I keep a writing journal for this purpose, and I call these my Dump Pages.
‘Dump pages’ or ‘Writing in our Journal’ (or morning pages, if you like that name) can be at any time, of any length and of any subject. There can be days where we don’t need them, and days where we may return to our journal several times. They’re our tools, so we get to use and abuse them as we want, without guilt.
The Writer’s Core Habit Pack for Dump Pages (Keeping a Writing Journal)
- Set up a journal for your Writing Dump Pages. You can call these whatever you please – morning pages, daily dumps, writing practice pages, Gilbert…whatever. Your writing journal can be –
- When you feel the need (whatever time of day), go and write in it for when-
- trying out a new writing prompt or exercise to get your creative juices flowing
- working on a thought, dream or new idea
- getting a worry or concern off your chest and resolved
- planing, plotting out or delving into something for your WIP
- free-writing when your mind is full of clutter and won’t let you work
- free-writing when your mind is completely blank and won’t let you work
- your inner critic or muse is working overtime and you can’t shut it up
- you want to write a list of shopping, tips, or express gratitude for a successful writing session
- Give yourself permission to write in this journal whenever you want, and not worry about it when you don’t write. Over time with experience you will learn to notice when you need to seek the confines of the journal, and when to leave it alone.
- Do with the information and writing in the journal whatever you please.
- Feel free to set yourself some practice targets or exercises (ie. I will write in my journal every day first thing for a month) and see how you go.
- Have fun. Relax. Practice. Dump.
|The Artist’s Way|
|Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambhala Library)|
|Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It)|
This blog post participated in April 2013’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, along with many other blogs on subjects as diverse as writing, foodie blogs or mummy blogs.
This blog post is part of a themed series or pack on Writer’s Core Habits. I acronym this as WCH or WCHP © . Do a search for these tags, and you will find more in the series.
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