On Writer’s Block and Morning Pages

Writing

A friend of mine and I were recently chatting about writing, online writing courses, and our favorite writing books. Then she asked me a question: “How did you overcome your writer’s block?”

I tried to keep down that bitter laugh building up inside me. I could have answered her with one of my blog posts on writer’s freeze, but when I thought about it some more, I realized: I have never gotten past writer’s block, and it’s not really something you get through once and then you’re done with it.

Let me explain. Writer’s block, or the inability to get past one form of what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” in The War of Art, is something we writers are always complaining about. It’s debilitating, crippling, and a death sentence for a writer’s career. But it’s not a disease with a cure. It’s more of a condition. What I have found is that it is something you just have to grit your teeth and bear, and write through.

Easier said than done. If it’s a block, how can we write through it? One tool I’ve fallen in love with and have found to be indispensable is what Julia Cameron dubbed “morning pages” in The Artist’s Way. Every day, as soon as you get up in the morning, just sit down and write three or more pages. It will take you about 15 minutes maximum, maybe less, maybe more, but the effect on your writing and even your mind is almost magical.

But first, I have to admit something. The longest I’ve been able to stick to a morning pages routine is a couple of weeks. It’s not because they are difficult, they aren’t. It’s not because I didn’t see any effect on my writing, I did. It’s simply a case of lack of self-discipline, and a load of other mental baggage.

And when I did stick to the morning pages routine? I soared. All my mental loops, those trains of thought that go nowhere in my mind, were silenced. The cycle of being preoccupied in our minds is broken when we allow our minds free reign on paper.  The rules are: no editing, no stopping to think about what you are writing, and these pages are for your eyes only. Whether you decide to share any of them with the world later on (as I once did here) is your decision, but you should feel utterly safe writing them, no censors, no taboos.

And once those words start flowing onto your screen, or paper (Cameron encourages writing them longhand), your mind begins to adjust yourself to its new task: writing. The more you do it, the more you are able to do it. And the more excuses you give yourself, the more obstacles and “what ifs” you put in your own way, the more difficult it becomes to break through that Resistance.

So if you want to break through your writers’ block, or any other form of Resistance, start with morning pages. Advice I should take. Thank you for reminding me, Rahma, with your question.

Two excellent posts and a video about morning pages:

Have you ever written morning pages? I’d love to hear about your experience with morning pages, and if you have any tips about sticking to the routine.

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3 Comments

Filed under writers, writing, Writing related

3 responses to “On Writer’s Block and Morning Pages

  1. I’ve done Morning Pages on and off for over 15 years, and I used to admonish myself when I didn’t ‘keep up’ my routine. But I’ve come to discover that I write them when I need them, the need may be different every time, and so may the length of time that I do them. I can credit them for saving my (writing) life in several ways, but I think the gift of MP keeps on giving long after we stop doing them. The practice of daily writing is embedded in me as a result of MP, and the habit reminds me that if I just sit down and get started, I’ll get to the good stuff.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Rose. You’re right, the effect of morning pages are long lasting… all the more reason to not give up on them!

  3. Hi Marwa,
    Sorry to hijack your wonderful blog post. My name is Karen. I’m a student researcher. I have followed you on Twitter since February 2011. I traced your blog from your Twitter profile.

    I am doing research on the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. I am looking for Egyptian activists and protesters who joined the #Jan25 demonstrations in 2011. I’d like to request an online interview/email correspondence with you as I am interested to hear your stories and reflections regarding your participation in the historic uprising that took place in your country. I believe your personal insights can help me have a broader understanding of your country’s continuing struggle against repression.

    I’d like to give a better self-introduction and explain my research project more clearly. I may be reached through my email address (karcalderon78915@gmail.com), in case you are interested and willing to help me with my study. I’d be more than glad to hear from you.

    Thank you very much for your time.

    Sincerely,
    Karen Calderon

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