Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Brain Drain

Ever feel like your thoughts are whirling and twirling like the tornado in The Wizard of Oz? As writers, we are by nature "thinkers". This comes in handy when puzzling out a plot or trying to find just the write words to describe what's in our minds. It isn't good when we're worrying about what might happen, obsessing over all we need to get done today, or trying desperately to juggle bits of dialogue , ideas, and worry over whether we're good enough to ever be published.

All this thinking tends to clutter my mind and stress me out. How about you?

Two years ago I discovered a wonderful tool that helps me focus and calm my mind. It's called morning pages. Those of you who've read "The Artist's Way" are probably familiar with this term. I'm not talking about your daily written word count. Morning pages are three hand-written (you remember how to do that, don't you?) pages of simple stream-of-consciousness writing. Their main purpose is something I lovingly refer to as "brain drain". In other words, I spew the millions of things racing through my mind onto the pages. It may be a to-do list (okay, it often is), project ideas, a rant about a particular problem or issue, or self-pitying meanderings that I'd be embarrassed for anyone else to see. Something profound might ocassionally appear on the page, but that's a rare occurence. But that's okay, because these aren't intended for anyone else to read.

Though I haven't been as consistent in the practice as I'd like, when I do use the pages I'm less stressed and my thinking calms from a hurricane to a gentle breeze. The drop in noise levels makes it easier to hear my characters and those lovely ideas for my current work-in-progress. But most important, it makes it easier to hear ME.

If you'd like to know more about morning pages, you can read about the practice in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Whether you use morning pages, meditation, breathing or some other practice, I hope you go into the New Year focused and bursting with creativity.

Happy Holidays,


Playground Monitor said...

I've heard folks mention their "morning pages" but never saw an explanation of what they actually were. Thanks for clearing that up.

I hear ya on that hurricane whirling in your head. My brains seem to be in constant cyclonic activity these days. Too much to do and too little time.

Smarty Pants said...

I woke up at 2AM the other night plotting a book in my sleep. Wouldn't you know my whirling subconscious was off planning a spin off book to my current one and was trying to develop conflict between my characters. Sigh.

I've never heard of morning pages. Just might be the thing...