I first started writing morning pages or journaling consistently when I was in my early twenties. Since then, I have filled dozens (hundreds?) of notebooks with my thoughts, feelings, lists, flow of consciousness, and writing practice. I have seasons of great consistency and seasons that are very sporadic. I remember reading in one of Julie Cameron’s books about how she would write her morning pages, write her morning pages, and then one day, the beginning of a novel would begin to flow out while she was writing her morning pages. I have not yet had that happen, but I have had other amazing experiences as a benefit of regular writing. I have had lists of ideas flow out of me when I am brainstorming via writing, which is incredibly helpful, and more recently, a few times when I’ve been planning a talk and trying to get my thoughts together, the notes, ideas and points I need have just flowed out of me in a neat little outline in the middle of my morning pages.
Yesterday evening, I was having a little freak out about an upcoming presentation that I hadn’t yet prepared. I realized that I wasn’t going to have a day off before the presentation, and my preparation would have to happen in the nooks and crannies around each day’s larger responsibilities and commitments—not my favorite way to work. When I have a writing project or a presentation, I would really prefer a half day of uninterrupted time to prepare, but lately I am making do without such luxuries. Last night, I decided to jot down some notes for my presentation before going to bed. Within about twenty minutes I had a three page list of points and ideas. It felt mostly done, except for adding a bit of research, some visuals and some fleshing out. My time problem was no longer a problem. Then, this morning, in the midst of my morning page, I returned to the topic, and wrote another page of ideas and notes. All I need now is an hour or so to type it all up and organize it so I’ll be ready to present.
I am convince that my thoughts came together quickly and easily because for the last several months, I have been in a consistent flow of writing morning pages and journaling. As a result, my thoughts and ideas are bubbling at the surface and I don’t have to work so hard to access them. I am very excited about this new process for preparing presentations, and hope it is the new standard, rather than having to clear out a half day or so to devote to getting quiet, fighting the distractions and rabbit holes I’d like to fall down to jot out an outline. Writing regularly is paying off. Practicing having ideas regularly is paying off.
Interested in setting yourself up to experience this same kind of magic? Here are my tips!
- Establish a writing practice. Try morning pages—3 pages of flow of consciousness writing created by hand first thing in the morning. See Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way for more information. If that doesn’t work for you, try timed journaling. Write for five, ten or twenty minutes. You can use a prompt or just write your thoughts.
- Practice having ideas and/or solving problems in your morning pages or timed writings. How does this work? Let’s say you are writing about a problem you are having at work. Challenge yourself in the midst of your writing to write down 10 possible solutions to that problem. Maybe you are wistfully commenting on how great your friend looks who has been working out a lot lately. Challenge yourself to list ten different workouts you could try. Feeling stagnant in working toward a goal? There on the page, list steps you could take to bring yourself closer to your destination. Try to think of ten, fifteen, or even twenty ideas. Coming up with ideas and brainstorming solutions stretches your creativity and often results in some really good ideas. I am always operating under the assumption that quality comes from quantity.
- Let the magic happen. Once you’ve bene doing these first two steps a while, it’s not a big leap to apply the skills to getting your thoughts organized for an important project. Start writing out notes for you book outline. Make a list of ideas or stories you want to mention in the speech you are planning. If it’s silly or you don’t end up using it, who cares? It’s just your journal! Just your pages! If, on the other hand, you spill out an amazing idea, grasp it in your hand and be grateful. Regular journaling is working its magic!