Whenever young writers ask me for advice, especially with writer’s block, I tell them about a writing practice called “Morning Pages”. I tell them to spend thirty minutes every morning writing literally every rambling word that goes through their head without censorship or premeditation. It’s like clearing your throat, and overcoming the crippling fear or writing something terrible by committing to writing terrible things every day.
Doing this, invariably you will begin to hear a profane little voice rooting for your failure. I call this voice “The Critic”. When you’re writing your Morning Pages the Critic’s words go down on the page with everything else, and in my experience the voice eventually gives up, and you can move on.
I say I’ve been a hypocrite because even thought I recommend this ritual to others, I haven’t committed to it personally in years. I’m not sure when I stopped, or why. It could be that once I started writing for publication the private rituals of the craft took a back seat. But it could also be a product of depression and malaise, knowing on some level that journaling of any kind is the bane of self-deception. We all guard our delusions jealously, especially when we depend on them to stay afloat.
I’ve been frantically drafting in my head all year. It’s been like an obsession distracting me from productive work. But I’ve been hesitant to actually pound the keys. A big part of that has been because a hostile party, who I thought was a friend, has been monitoring my public utterances to use against me. The crazy thing is I don’t even know why … but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The truth is that I wanted to tell this story even before it became hostile. I’ve always strived to live my life as a story I can be proud to tell, perhaps even a story that can be instructive, or inspiring, or at least interesting to others. The potential retaliations of the hostile party are not the only, or even the primary thing holding me back. The fact is that even though I have at times lived a very public life, I have also led a deeply closeted life. I’d like to remedy that, even though the potential criticisms can be daunting.
Sure, I’ve published some books, and I’ve won some writing awards, but there’s no question that when I was younger I was less self-censoring, less concerned with success and failure, and more focused on the raw craft of writing. Now, I haven’t published anything serious since Survivor Max 3. I haven’t even really written anything, despite theoretically working on the fourth installment. I’m suffering from the same writer’s block I tell others I’ve somehow solved. So, if I’m going to overcome this malaise and tell this story I’m going to have to return to first practices. To get back to the raw pleasure of writing for writings sake. To take my own advice and write something terrible.
by Corinne Barrios and Davi Barker