For the last couple of years I’ve been setting myself a goal to write every day. All my life I’ve dreamed of being a writer, and one thing I know about a lot of professional writers is that they write every single day. They don’t just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. They pick up their pen, or sit at their keyboard, and write billions of words of utter rubbish. And somewhere among all the rubbish, they come up with beautiful gems.
Each time I set this goal to “write every day”, I reason with myself that it only has to be a small chunk of writing. It’s not like I have to write an essay or a novel every day. It can just be a brain dump of all the cray-cray stuff that whirls around my head day in and day out.
For example: “I wonder if my pepper feels smug that it gets used more than the salt. Or does it feel overworked and resent the salt? Does the salt feel unloved? Maybe I’ll put some salt on my veggies tonight.”
But despite the very low bar I’ve been setting for my daily writing, I found that I just wasn’t doing it. Until a few weeks ago when one morning I decided to just write. I had nothing interesting to write about, so I decided to go with a stream of consciousness style. This is the type of embarrassing drivel that you hope no one ever comes across in your notebook. It’s completely uncensored, often nonsensical, and entirely boring to go back and read through.
In the process of this first day of my “every day” writing, I was crapping on about how I just haven’t been able to achieve this goal in the past and I didn’t know why. And then I asked myself, “what if you did know why… what would the answer be?” And I came up with a gem.
The gem wasn’t in the beauty of what I had written, but the process of writing it. I was able to dig up the answer to my problem. The reason I haven’t been successful in this goal is because I didn’t feel like it was a valuable use of my time if I wasn’t writing something that could be published. It felt self-indulgent and pointless to just be writing a mundane journal entry. I didn’t see the value in just writing for the sake of writing if I didn’t have something specific and interesting to say.
But in that very entry I had proven to myself that there could be value in just writing for the sake of writing! I had answered a problem that I’ve had for years.
Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way recommends writing “morning pages”. Morning pages are just three pages of hand-written stream-of-consciousness (AKA drivel) every single morning. It clears all the rubbish out of your head and makes way for creative and clear thinking. Cameron explains that morning pages help us get “to the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods.”
So for the past few weeks I’ve been writing morning pages every day and I think I’m now on track with achieving this goal from my 20for2020 list. I allow a bit of extra time in the mornings so that I can write these pages in my car before I head into work. I’m sure I look like a total creep sitting in my car in the dark underground car park with my notebook, but hey, it works for me!
Most days the three pages are utter crap and I would be mortified if anyone ever read them. But there have been a few entries already that have produced gems – solutions to problems, brilliant ideas, and seeds of thought that may grow into something amazing in the future.
Whether writing is your jam or not, I encourage you to give this a go – even if it’s just for one week. See what kind of magic comes out of your mind when you give it access to ink and paper. Maybe you’ll solve some problems that have been bothering you, or maybe you’ll set free an amazing idea that has been brewing in your unconscious mind. If nothing else, you might just unload some of the rubbish that’s been rattling around in there so that you can think more clearly. It gets easier (and kind of addictive) once it becomes part of your daily routine.
Let me know if you try this and if you uncover any gems.