The Fine Line Between “Writing” and “Being a Writer”

by Kristen King on November 3, 2009

On Monday, I posted about my experience thus far with My First NaNoWriMo. Today, I did my first “morning pages” before settling down for my NaNo session (I fell asleep on the floor of my office on some comfy pillows before I got to the NaNo part, so that’s to come as soon as I finish this post).

For those not familiar with morning pages, it’s a technique devised by Julia Cameron that grabbed the writing public through her book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. In simple terms, first thing every morning (after peeing and brushing your teeth, before working or doing chores), you sit down and write three (3) pages of longhand. You can write whatever you want so long as it’s something and you fill up three pages. Says Cameron in The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch,

Work with the Morning Pages awakens our intuition. Synchronicity becomes a daily fact. We are more and more often in the right place at the right time. We know how ot handle situations that once baffled us. In a very real sense, we become our own friend and witness. Morning Pages are the gateway to the inner and higher self. They bring us guidance and resilience. They make us farseeing.

Most if not all of the extremely prolific writers I know, the ones who immediately spring to mind when I think of when I think of the label “writer,” do morning pages. And now I do. I’ve decided. Today was the first day of a new habit. Who cares if it supposedly takes 21 days (depending on whom you ask) to form a habit? I’m declaring it a new habit. Just like NaNo aside, I’m going to devote time each day to write 2,000 words for myself before I write anything for anyone else. These are my new writing habits.

In the three days of NaNo, I’ve realized that I lost something of my identity as a writer when I began writing for a living. Bizarre, isn’t it? But as I have shared with some of you previously, I am often so busy writing for others that I hardly ever write for myself anymore. I have become a person who writes, rather than writer. This is not what I want for my life. This is not what I fantasized about when I dreamed of my life as a full-time writer.

Don’t get me wrong: It doesn’t totally suck or anything like that. I do work I enjoy and I do it from a home I love and it allows me the lifestyle I want. But writing only for others is not what makes me happy.

I feel like I’ve been on a road trip on a major highway and I just realized that I missed my exit about 50 miles back. It’s been a pleasant ride and I’m going approximately in the right direction, enjoying myself, but if I keep going this way I won’t make it to my destination. So, it’s time to backtrack.

Are you astonished at this great revelation, which has come a mere three days into a month of writing with reckless abandon and a mere day into these miraculous morning pages? I know I am.

Whether you’re NaNo-ing or not, what have you learned about yourself as a writer in the last day, week, month, year? Leave a comment. Let’s talk about what it means to be a writer.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole November 3, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I know what you mean about feeling like you lost your identity in writing for a living. That’s why I’ve cut back my freelance writing a bit.

I’m going to work on my novel and get it done…I’m determined!
.-= Nicole´s last blog ..Silencing your Inner Editor =-.

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Devon Ellington November 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Morning pages do not work for me. Tried them, and they hurt my writing, rather than helped it.

I need to do my first 1K of fiction for the day right after yoga, before anything else, before I’m “tainted by the day”.

If I write the morning pages, I lose the momentum.

I think if it works for you, it’s great, but it’s not for everyone, and I learned the hard way it’s not for me.

I miss Nano this year — I’m travelling for writing proejcts 1-2 days per week at least, and I’ve got so many deadlines it doesn’t make sense.

I’ve done it the last four years and gotten a lot out of it.
.-= Devon Ellington´s last blog ..Tuesday, November 3, 2009 =-.

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Avery Fellow November 4, 2009 at 6:02 pm

I am totally inspired by this idea. Thank you!
.-= Avery Fellow´s last blog ..Court Orders Review of Desert Paving Process (CN) =-.

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IrreverentFreelancer November 5, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I could have written this myself. However, morning pages aren’t for me. I’m at my best at night. I’m thinking midnight pages are more my style (or at least 10:00 pm).
.-= IrreverentFreelancer´s last blog ..The Ultimate Get-a-Clue Freelance Request for the Week of November 2, 2009 =-.

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Nancy November 5, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Good luck w/ NaNo, my pal!

And I like the longhand suggestion (always been a fan of Cameron’s books), but my tendonitis makes if tough to write longhand these days.

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Lauren November 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Just found you, and read this note and the one about it not having to be 50K of GOOD words.

I’m doing NaNo for the 2nd year. Last year I “won” but never finished the story. I still think it has promise, and maybe one day I’ll rewrite the thing so it works. This year I thought I had a better plot idea, but it’s going horribly. I hate it. But at 43K and counting, I’m too damned stubborn to give up now.

I love to write, usually. And this is supposed to be fun.

I’ve even given notice at my job so that, in theory, I can start trying to earn money doing what I love and what I was trained to do – writing. But I’m having a self-esteem crisis based on how crappy this novel is turning out. (I know, I know – it’s a first draft. It’s supposed to suck.) I may know how to write some things, but perhaps novels are not my forte. And maybe I know how to write but don’t know how to earn any money at it. So – am I a writer? Um… yes? Just not a paid one.

Interesting to learn that your experience of being paid to write – for others – has made that label feel less appropriate to you.

Sounds like this is going to be a long, strange trip. *cue Grateful Dead*

I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on the writing life.

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