Creative people embrace the blank page.
Students of creativity in our class at Ohio State face the three blank pages every morning. Every morning before breakfast, they are required to write three pages in longhand.
When I began this practice years ago, the "Morning Pages" took too long to write. Following my father's practice, I'd long ago abandoned cursive for block printing. But the painstaking lettering delayed every day's breakfast, so I asked a beloved client, Zaner-Bloser, for one of their legendary products: a home correspondence class in handwriting.
Sure enough, they gave me a book with tear-out pages; I mailed in my assignments and they were returned with smiley faces and encouragement for clearer writing. And it worked. I no longer letter; I write.
The Morning Pages experience is enormously productive.
Each morning begins with a verbal warm-up. It doesn't matter what I write -- only that I do write.
Why does it work? Creativity happens through language, even if it is simply the silent voice with which I speak to myself. Once the Morning Pages are completed each morning, I'm fully verbal.
I see people arrive at work in the morning, ready to form their first words. The first words — like each morning's first steps — are always a little awkward.
Do you want to try your hand at Morning Pages?
The process is fully described by Julia Cameron in the opening pages of The Artist's Way. Don't worry: it's not a lifelong commitment: 12 weeks and you're finished.
There's a version of The Artist's Way for corporate life called The Artist's Way at Work: Riding The Dragon.
If three pages each day sound like a lot, consider, from this week's New York Times, "Robert Shields, Wordy Diarist, Dies at 89." This obituary by Douglas Martin describes how Mr. Shields wrote an estimated 37.5 million words in what might very well be the longest diary ever written. He wrote four hours a day, in five-minute increments, describing every aspect of his life. He lived the phrase "too much information."
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Photo credit: "Dear Diary," Christine P. Newman, 2004.