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Call 1800-Super-Hero…

It’s been a crazy crazy week here. Not least of all because I managed to get a grand total of 15 hours sleep over the whole week. Insomnia doesn’t work for me. It turns me loopy. Exhausted Mike, is definitely a creative figure of legend.

As mentioned, I’ve begun The Artists Way this week. I’ve managed to do my morning pages which I’m pleased with. It’s the morning pages and the suggested outcomes I’m wanting to discuss here today.

As I writer – or a would-be one – I find a blank page almost as intimidating as the idea of delivering a speech to a thousand people while wearing only a smile. I don’t like the idea of all that empty space. I like words. I want words, to paraphrase an Australian tourism commercial, “Where the bloody hell are the words.”

I seem to have developed over the years a belief that the words should be there. Straight away. No waiting around. I’ve developed that into the best procrastination tool in my arsenal, except for reality TV shows like Come Dine With Me or *insert countries* Next Top Model. I knew I had a problem when I found myself wondering why we don’t get Germany’s Next Top Model.

Morning Pages is a tool designed to shed your brain of all the flotsam and jetsam that whirls around your brain. All the happy-clappy self thought like “why are you doing this, you loser” and “you can’t write, you’re too fat” (seriously that’s one of them. If you’re looking for major levels of illogical self bashing come see me, I can help you out.)

All those glorious hours spent telling yourself that your writing is garbage and if you can’t tell affect from effect you should give it up now and do something worthwhile like catching up on last week’s episode of Dance Moms.

I thought Morning Pages was going to be buckets of fun. I was looking forward to them. I now understand what Julia Cameron meant when she said “writers have the most difficulty with Morning Pages because they have the unfortunate habit of wanting to “write” them.”

I thought that would be a bonus. It isn’t. Pages. Empty, white lined torture devices. I sat down the first morning and thought “What will I talk about today.” From that you can see I was off on the wrong foot. The point of morning pages is to dump the rubbish. Not try to figure out what you want to say. You’re supposed to just let it all flow uninterrupted from brain to page.

The theory is, if you let all the nonsense drift onto the page, your mind is clearer to do something/anything else. When I found myself editing my word choices as though the morning pages would one day be read in class as the beginnings of  a writers journey I knew I was sinking into the bad habits of the past. Rapidly.

What writing the morning pages has shown me clearly however is the knee-knocking terror of fronting up at a blank page with no plan, no characters and no idea what’s coming next. It’s like sky diving with no parachute, just a pair of undies to hold above your head to break your fall.

That fear – even with a plan, characters, elaborately plotted storylines – is problem enough, but morning pages has really brought to the forefront of my mind just how much effort I put into a avoiding the fear altogether.

Like most people I don’t like being uncomfortable. I don’t like things around me changing and I don’t like a blank piece of paper. I was thinking about this yesterday. I was thinking about the amount of time I spend looking for the perfect pen, the perfect note book for my writing journals.

I spent an inordinate amount of time and money on stationary. I like stationary. It allows me the perception of being productive. I don’t write in it. Heaven forbid. But I collect it. I have it sitting on my desk. Big books, small books, in-between sized books. Pens, red, blue, black, lead pencils. I even have a hole-punch and a stapler, though I never staple anything and my folders – did I mention folders, I have those to – all have plastic sleeves.

When it comes to using them however, the minute I write 1 word about a storyline in the notebook it becomes dedicated to that particular story line. I have many note books with the name of a script or story idea on the front cover, a paragraph blurb and a list of character names. That’s it. Maybe a couple of dot points for my plan, things like;

  1. Story starts with Bob looking for gold
  2. Then something happens (don’t know yet, will figure it out but it’s going to be good)
  3. Bob meets Mary who is maybe a barmaid, or a servant, how about a wet nurse
  4. Then something happens with the gold (it might be magical or from an alien land)
  5. Where was I, yes Bob and Mary…..

Whole note books just like the above sample (oh and that isn’t a story idea, I just made that up, mind you Bob, Mary and the Alien Gold could be a story one day, I’ll let you know.

Morning pages have really shown me that I like to make excuses, that ultimately I’m waiting to open a notebook and find it already filled in. A nice juicy story idea, with great characters and possibly a disco scene with dancing Zombies. The idea of trusting myself to write it all out doesn’t really get much of a look in.

I guess the point to this post is, if I gain nothing else from The Artists Way, I have learned something invaluable about myself. I have allowed my fear of not being good enough to write to take precedence over the joy I used to feel in writing. I used to love the mission to find the right word. The wrestling match to bully a sentence into the perfect shape and form. I used to enjoy the feeling of fingers flying over a keyboard. Letters appearing one at a time to form words and to take the scenes in my head into a physical form.

I lost that love somewhere along the way. I buried it somewhere in the deeper levels of my brain and I believe morning pages may well help me to excavate it.

If nothing else, it will go along way towards my long-held goal of writing three pages a day of nothing in particular and actually finishing a note pad (yes I bought a new one for morning pages, it’s the brightest lime green I could find. It’s actually pretty awesome for an $11 note book with a cover at the front and back and lots of clean evil lined white pages inside, ready to capture my inner most thoughts about laundry).

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43 year old Australian writer currently working on the first of a planned three book Epic Fantasy series. When he's not writing policy discussions, or tales of swords, Gods, and magic, he can be found making a mess in the kitchen, and turning perfectly good ingredients into crimes against humanity.

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