Morning writing; setting yourself up for a great day
Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with morning writing. While it’s not my first attempt at writing early in the morning, I have noticed that my morning writing has taken a different course.
In the past I have used free flow or unconscious writing as a technique to
1) rant and get rid of stress and negative emotions without upsetting anyone else
2) to clarify my thoughts when I have needed to make an important decision
Some years ago, I also bought a copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and worked through the chapters, writing what Cameron terms ‘morning pages’. The 12-week course was cathartic and helped me feel more creative during a particularly stressful time at work.
A different style of writing; morning writing to develop our writing ‘muscle’
However, in 2020, I started exploring other ways of writing in the morning with different results.
In December 2019, I came across a copy of Dorothea Brande’s ‘Becoming a Writer’ in a lovely second hand bookshop in Crediton, Devon. In the book, which was first published in the US in 1934, Brande discusses writing first thing in the morning to develop our writing “muscle”.
Instead of writing for cathartic purposes, Brande’s intention is to get us into the habit of writing itself; training ourselves, and our unconscious self, to write regularly.
So, from March 2020, I wrote first thing every morning. Admittedly, I got up and made a cup of tea first, but I always followed Brande’s strict instructions not to read anything before writing for fear of contaminating our thoughts with other people’s words.
On warmer days I would take myself outdoors to write in the early morning sunshine. This style of writing was different to expressing negative emotions as I was writing for writing’s sake; describing a dream, the sounds of the birds in the morning, reflecting on the day before or setting my intentions for the rest of the day, rather than using the writing time to dump unwanted feelings.
Enjoying the morning writing process
Before long, I was looking forward to writing almost as soon as I woke up and sometimes, when I was going to bed, I was already looking forward to the next day’s writing.
I soon began to notice that my writing was often upbeat and gave me a boost which set me up positively for the day. There were times when I couldn’t think of anything to write, so I would incorporate some of the journaling exercises I knew and use the time to explore different topics.
The results of morning writing
What evolved was a rekindled interest in writing for pure enjoyment, blogging (in fact, this post was written during the next stage of Brande’s book: Writing on Schedule) and a deeper understanding of myself as a writer and a creative person. It’s also enhanced my general wellbeing.
During lockdown I delivered a Creative Writing for Wellbeing course and suggested the morning writing for enjoyment to the participants. Those who did it reported back with similar discoveries to my own; learning more about themselves and a feel good, positive start to the day.
So, for the moment, I’ll be starting my days off with a writing exercise, embarking on new projects and aiming to keep working on the novel I started this year.
How about you? I’d love to hear in the comments how you motivate yourself to keep writing.
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Brande, D (1985) Becoming a Writer, London, Papermac
Cameron, J, (1995) The Artist’s Way, London, Pan Books
2 thoughts on “Morning writing; setting yourself up for a great day”
Thanks for this blog post Rebecca, it really got me thinking and brought up alot of ‘I wonder?’s and ‘what if?’s for me.
I too am familiar with Julia Cameron’s ‘morning pages’; her directions to do ‘three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness’ put me off at first but once I had let go of memories of enforced creative writing lessons at school I was ok! That said, despite a few attempts over the years, I have never maintained the practice for any length of time.
During the first lockdown this year I took to journaling (as did many, many others!)and like you, my writing was noticeably positive and upbeat with lots of references to nature and ‘in the moment’ observations which even now, when I read it back, I find soothing. However, as with the morning papers, I couldn’t sustain a regular writing habit and my journal ends after a few weeks.
I know we discussed the use of the word ‘discipline’ and its negative connotations, on the original mindfulness and creative writing workshop with you and Susannah (Frenchay, Nov 2018) and we have subsequently revisited it in our writing support group and I keep wondering how regular writing habits are sustained, especially without a specific goal e.g. being published, at the end of it.
You say you followed ‘Brande’s strict instructions not to read anything before writing for fear of contaminating our thoughts with other people’s words’ and I love that idea and think it is wise advice although again, I can see myself doing it for a while and then the ‘discipline’ of it tailing off after a few days or weeks, as text, wattsapp and email messages pique my interest more on waking. I wonder how long you are able to continue doing it and what will make the difference?
I also wonder why, without an audience to read it, writing for its own sake (or just for myself) never feels fulfilling enough, over time.
I will stop now but it has been a pleasure to express my thoughts on this and I am grateful to you that you signposted me to this post. Thank you Rebecca.
PS My questions are rhetorical ones so I do not expect them to be answered!
Hi Hilary, Thanks for your comment which also got me thinking! I was drawn to your question at the end about writing for its own sake. I wonder if this could be a key to the way we think about it? Are we writing for its own sake, for our own sake, to solve a problem or look for inspiration and clarification? Do we need a purpose and if so, what is it? If we think about it with a purpose, whether that purpose is to create a habit, tap into an Aha! moment or simply explore our writing in different ways, would that make a difference?