Thursday, August 1, 2013

Longhand Pages: A Writing Touchstone

Our August theme for the Supernatural Underground is writing "touchstones": those artifacts, or processes, accompaniments or spaces we "just can't do without" when the muse is driving us to write, write, write...

To be honest, I don't have many. I listen to music occasionally, but as often don't; I move between locales around the house with my laptop; I don't have a favorite keyboard or chair — but one thing that is essential to my writing process is my longhand pages.

You may have encountered these before as "morning pages", a term used by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way, which I consider a great book, one every artist “should” have. Years ago, I read it through from cover to cover and did most if not all the exercises. But the longhand “morning pages” is one of the creative exercises that really stuck.

Basically, the very first thing you do every day is wake up and write three pages long hand. I do 3 x A5 pages, but I imagine A4 or foolscap would be equally okay. An important part of the exercise is that you try very hard not to consciously think or lift your pen from the page until you’re done. You just write. 

Sometimes what you write is pretty much rubbish—and that’s okay. The really important point is that you write. I’ve done the 3 pages of pretty much blah-blah-blah—but I’ve also written poems, developed characters, created worlds and ended books as part of those 3 little pages. It’s a discipline, sure, but everything about writing is a discipline (so what else is new?)

Right now, I’m writing Daughter Of Blood, The Wall Of Night Book Three, and dealing with issues of plot and character development, continuity and consistency—including threads that go back to the previous two novels, The Heir of Night and The Gathering Of The Lost, but also look forward to the next and final book in the series. 

The longhand or "morning" pages are my invaluable ally in keeping all these diverse balls in the air. Quite literally, they are where my subconscious tells me what it's come up with or resolved while I’ve been sleeping (That’s why it’s important to do the pages soon after, if not as soon as, you wake up.)
I find the process a great start to another day of writing, and seriously, if you haven’t heard about morning pages or tried them already, give them a go. (I'm sure they could work equally well for a whole range of creative endeavors.) They may not end up being for you, but you never know—they just might be, too.


Kim Falconer said...

Wow, Helen, I love the idea of moving around to write with your laptop. You can follow the sun, or the shade! It's inspiring.

And those morning pages are very cool. I've done them from time to time, but not as consistently as you. My morning pages are in my character's voice, and I can see the benefit of it being in my own.

Thank you!

Helen Lowe said...

It works for me, Kim, but I'm very mindful that we're all individual and different things work for different people!

Jo said...

The Artist's Way changed my life, and I LOVE the morning pages. I no longer do them every day, and have never thought to do them on my writing, as you do, though I may try that now.

Generally I use them when I'm too cross or anxious or distracted to focus on my writing. Doing morning pages, writing out my rage and fear and preoccupations seems to clear my head, and frees me up to write my fiction. I recommend them to anyone. Don't be afraid to put down what you're really thinking or feeling - you're not, for once, writing for readers. Destroy the pages once you've written them, if that makes you more comfortable, the magic is in the writing, not the reading.

One point, they need to be handwritten. Typing, for some reason, doesn't work as well.