Just 750 Words a Day

I’m a big fan of morning pages. I find that if I get up and write the first thing in the morning, it seems to do wonders for clearing my head and getting my mind going. I’m not talking about getting a scene done or contributing to my word count for the day. I’m talking good, old-fashioned, steam-of-consciousness core dump. I just sit down at the keyboard and type.

I discovered morning pages back in the 90’s when I first read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I embraced them with a ferocity — only to discover hand-writing three pages each morning didn’t take half an hour, but more like forty-five minutes or more and there were times I found myself constantly interrupted. (You try meditating or doing any action that requires concentration when a small and determined cat is setting in front of you demanding breakfast.) At the time, Cameron did not encourage doing the pages on a computer; too easy to edit yourself she felt.

Over the years, I’ve tried using the computer for my pages, but found various things standing in my way. Maybe I let them stand in my way; maybe they were pointers saying, “This isn’t for you.” I’ve had some success in using my Live Journal for the morning pages, but every time go through the posts I made, there are the entries and it’s easy to get distracted. I don’t necessarily want to read what I write over again; the whole idea is to get the thoughts out and move on.

Finally, after bouncing back and forth, a friend suggested a site called 750 Words. You log in and a blank page appears. You start typing. When you reach 750 words (three typed manuscript pages), the system lets you know and you can either keep typing or stop. No formatting, no fancy things to fill out, just a blank page ready for you every day and you type. Oh, there are cool stats based on word usage to figure out what you’re focused on and if you’re positive or negative in mindset at the moment or maybe uncertain about things — but if you’re having story ideas start to dump out of your head (“Donna is worried he doesn’t care about her.” “What if things then go horribly wrong?”), you can be happy and excited and what you’re writing will say something else.

The point is to help clear the decks in the morning, get yourself ready to face the new day. With radical life changes over the past year which often meant I didn’t know what was happening from one day to the next, being able to do this is a valuable tool. I spent yesterday’s words just coming up with variation on one-sentence descriptions of a story idea for the Storywonk Discovery class I’m starting in January. Ended up about four different ideas, each with several variations on the one sentence. Took about twenty minutes, and gave me a very positive start to the day. Those ideas are now safely copied into my Scrivener file and I need to decide which one I’m going to use for the class — and had another contender today.

This isn’t for everyone, but if you feel doing a core-dump would help you in the mornings, check it out. At the moment, the site is free, though I opted to kick in a small subscription because I find it useful — and I do mean small. He measures subscriptions in the cost of a cup of coffee, so you can kick in a cup or two if you feel like it. Give it a try.