Whether or not you are struggling with motivation at any given time, your morning pages can be a great opportunity to review and assess your writing goals. In fact, this is something you should aim to do periodically at any rate, and the freewheeling nature of morning pages gives you an opportunity to brainstorm and dream big.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you consider your goals:
- What do you hope to accomplish over the next year?
- What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
- What do you hope to accomplish in the next ten years?
- What are the concrete steps you need to take to reach the above goals?
Keep in mind that it is best if you focus on goals that are within your control. You may want to include goals like getting published and winning awards as things to aim for as well, but what you have the most control over is how much you write and how often as well as how much you submit your work.
There are a number of other ways to use morning page for motivation. You may want to alternate between days when you use the pages to work out problems in your fiction and brainstorm new ideas and days when you specifically use them for motivation. You may want to plan this schedule ahead of time, or you may want to see how you feel when you wake up each day. The advantage of planning ahead is that it cuts down on the conscious thought required to begin the pages. You might procrastinate if you convince yourself that you need to decide whether to work on fiction directly or on your motivation.
On the other hand, if you force yourself to stick to a schedule that requires you to work on fiction during a time when you are struggling with motivation, you may be setting yourself up to fail. It may take a bit of experimentation to figure out a pattern and approach that works for you.
A lack of motivation in writing can come from a few different places, and again, this is a place where the freewriting aspect of morning pages can be helpful in pinpointing the cause if you have not identified it. You might feel unmotivated because of things going on in your life, or you might feel unmotivated because of things going on in your fiction.
Writing about your lack of motivation as your morning pages exercise can therefore help you to diagnose the problem. Here are a few questions you can use as guidelines to help you identify the core of your motivational problems:
- Are you under a particular amount of stress in other areas of your life that is distracting you when you try to write fiction?
- How is your physical environment for writing? Is is quiet enough or busy enough? Some people work better in coffee shops or other public surroundings than in solitude. Do you have a comfortable place to sit? Is the temperature good?
- Are you dealing with a particular problem in your story? Can you identify it, or do you simply feel stuck?
If you find that outside stresses unrelated to your writing or writing space are the problem, this is an excellent opportunity to use the morning pages in a manner close to their original purpose. We often have difficulty focusing when under stress because our thoughts keep circling around problems even when there is nothing more we can do at that particular time to solve them. Often, writing about those problems can be an effective way of quieting them at least for a short time. Setting aside some time at the beginning of your writing session to do morning pages regardless of the time of day may clear your head enough to focus on the work at hand for an hour or two.
If you identify your problem as being your physical surroundings, that may be easy enough to solve, or it may take a bit more brainstorming. Be as specific as you can about what the issue is and how you might solve it. You probably are working with limitations in the times that you can fit in writing as well as where you can do it, so you may need to identify the most stressful aspect and focus on it first.
Finally, we often lose our writing motivation when we are doing something wrong in the work itself. If your motivational issue is not the first two, it is most likely this. Morning pages can help you figure out where exactly you have gone wrong. You may need to take a few days and focus on a specific aspect of your novel on each of those days.
For example, on day one, you could write about the plot. What are your feelings about it so far? Is it going the way you imagined it would? Do you have any misgivings? Do you feel that you have lost your way, or are there scenes ahead you are worried about writing?
The next day, try characters and point of view. Are you using the right viewpoint character? Would a different character be more appropriate? Are you writing in first person when you should be in third or vice versa? Are there characters in the story you need to flesh out more?
What about theme? Are you inconsistent in reinforcing the theme? Are you uncomfortable with the theme that seems to be emerging? How can you fix that? Is your setting wrong? Is it poorly developed?
Once you have identified the problem, think about how you can fix it. For some tips, take a look back at the post on making morning pages work. If you are trying to finish a first draft, it’s best if you don’t start over. Try making notes about the changes you need and going forward as though those changes are in place.
How have you used morning pages to increase your motivation?