Why Morning Pages Aren’t for Everyone

February 20, 2010

Posted by Deborah Atherton

Many books for writers, the best known of which may be Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, advocate that you wake up every morning and write. Attack your resistance before it takes hold.  Retrieve the residue of your dreams, and manage a feeling of virtue all day. Write anything, they say – it doesn’t have to be immediately meaningful. Just write.

All well and good, if you are a morning person. But some of us get out of bed with reluctance every day, and do not really become even mildly functional until as late as 4 PM. Some of us are averse by nature to “just writing,” and do not like to set pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, without a larger purpose.  And some of us lead such intensely busy lives that that half hour or hour just isn’t available every morning – be it a demanding boss, hungry children, or a troop of chimpanzees we are studying, we just cannot commit that time.

As Leslie mentioned last week in her post, this advice has generated a lot of guilt in a lot of writers and artists. Leslie and I are both strong believers in rituals for artists, but we also believe that you have to create your own.  There are lots of books that tell you to do other things first thing on rising, with advice ranging from getting on your exercycle to drinking a glass of hot water with lemon – and while I am sure these are all fine things to do, you don’t HAVE to.  Really. Lots of people go to the gym after work, not when they wake up, and they seem to be as healthy as anyone else, if not healthier than most. And you can do this with writing, too.  Write after work. Write before you go to bed.  Write while eating your tuna sandwich at lunch. Write while on hold with the cable company.  (I have done all these things, and can speak to their efficacy.) Or better, do make an appointment with yourself to write regularly. Maybe it will be every Sunday morning, while the rest of the household sleeps. Maybe it will be Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5 to 6 after everyone else has left the office.

But don’t let anyone tell you that waking up at 6 AM and writing is essential to YOUR life as an artist, whatever kind of artist you may be.  Some do – most don’t.  Quite possibly all you want to do in the morning is drink your coffee and read the newspaper or a blog.

Enjoy your coffee.

Just Say No to the Naysayers

February 7, 2010

The naysayer in your life

by Leslie Zeigler

Have you ever told a friend that you are thinking about an idea for a story you are writing only to hear:  “You are not a writer because you are just thinking and you are not setting aside time each day to write.”   Well this is what Gail, the writer whom Deborah and I are coaching, is hearing from some of her friends. ( Gail has given us permission to share the themes of our work together in the blog.)  Gail  said this kind of comment can make her feel discouraged.   We have been working in our coaching sessions on helping her not just to allow herself to feel what she feels, but to move forward in spite of  how much or how badly that negative comment makes her feel.

Naysayers can be friends, neighbors, or even relatives or spouses.  Sometimes the comments can  be expressed in a way that might take you by surprise and perhaps even leave you feeling speechless.   It  is unlikely that anyone  can insulate and protect themselves from  being on the receiving end of such comments.  But it is probably fair to say that whenever people move forward, working towards a creative dream,  other people will feel jealous or threatened and these kinds of comments will just pop out of their mouth.  Be prepared to internally  say no to the content and tone of these comments as well as finding a diplomatic way of letting the person know that you do not agree.

As Gail explained to me, she knows that many books on writing, as well as many writers, will say that you should sit down and write each day.  And although that is an excellent and worthwhile ritual to acquire, it doesn’t work for Gail.  We talked about the importance of  Gail following her own inutition about what works for her.  Although the naysayers in her life may tell her that not having a daily writing ritual means that she is not  a real writer,  it is just not so.

Since our last session two months ago, she  spent some time mulling over how she wanted to rewrite a children’s story she is  working on.  Through her thinking, she has now clarified for herself the direction of the story.

Her next assignment is, of course, to now put it to paper, which she is committed to doing, within her own time frame.