25/2/20204

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I've frequently toyed with the idea of writing Morning Pages, a tool devised by author and artist (among other things) Julia Cameron. You've probably heard of them, may even do them yourself: "three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning."

My primary excuse for not doing them has always been that I already have to get up too early for work and don't get enough sleep as it is. Yet, since starting my daily log, I've been repeatedly mulling it over, considering book-ending each day with a writing practice. Morning pages are the obvious counterpart/counterpoint to that log.

I'm on a late shift at work this week so can better afford the extra time in the morning so now is as good a time as any to finally give this a shot.

I've used stream of consciousness writing before, usually as a means of breaking writer's block, so am well aware of how it can unlock the mind, get thoughts and ideas flowing. I've just never done so before anything else in the day, as a deliberate, conscious process or as part of a routine.

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Morning Pages are apparently supposed to be written on US letter paper - A4 is the common equivalent in the UK - but I'll be writing in an A5 notebook so will have to adjust accordingly.

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Venkatesh Rao writes about text online having a renaissance with tools and methods that rekindle the early ideas about hypertext while simultaneously providing better publishing and management experiences for the average user.

As an upshot of this he likens blogging to a cat with nine lives saying that, with these other avenues available and improving all the time, blogging is on course for its eighth death. Not to say that it has died seven times before, despite being pronounced so on a regular basis, more that it will be in its last chance saloon.

He believes that the death-sayers were previously mistaken bit this time it's different. Why? Operating costs at larger scales. Hmm. I can see this being a problem for someone like him but not for the ordinary blogger like yours truly. Again, I feel the reports of its death are exaggerated.

What I do agree with, however, is the notion that what comes next may not look like it does currently:

It might be a case of New Blogging as an Elder Medium in an explosion of new textual media. Or it might be a case of Blogging is Dead, Long Live Blogging. Or something else altogether.

Things are definitely changing, they always do, but overall we have been stuck in the current reverse-chronological paradigm since almost the beginning.

Looping back to the discussion around Dave Winer's thoughts on reshaping blogging, he questioned what could have happened if he "had evolved my syndication format the way my blog wanted to go, not the way RSS pushed us."

When you consider that Winer's blog evolved from his DaveNet email list it's easy to see why he might want to return to that mode of delivery for the best experience. From a more mainstream perspective, it would likely involve, as Winer hints, redeveloping the subscription/delivery mechanism that is currently served by RSS.

What could new blogging systems and approaches look like? How could RSS, or an alternative, develop to better handle these approaches?

While newsletters are having a distinct revival as part of the text renaissance I can't see email becoming the primary/default means of distribution so where do we go from here and in what timescales?

There is always a trickle-down effect with the approach of outliers gradually influencing the rest of society but, with the way the web works, adoption can be more of an explosion. It will be interesting to watch what happens in select corners of the web, what ideas and trends emerge, and how quickly they begin to spread.

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Martin pointed out that the idea of writing Morning Pages didn't originate with Julia Cameron, she just gave it a name and popularised it.

An earlier incarnation of the idea was published by Dorothea Brande in her 1934 book "Becoming a Writer" - yes, 1934! Here she advises getting up early every day and, before doing anything else, just write.

In a blog post from 2012 Ruth Livingstone laments:

Sadly, not everybody acknowledges that Dorothea was the first advocate of this technique – which she called ‘early morning writing’. And, worse still, few people seem to know exactly what Dorothea said about early morning writing, nor demonstrate much understanding of the purpose of this writing as she saw it

Case in point.

So I did a search:

Write anything that comes into your head: last night’s dream, if you are able to remember it; the activities of the day before; a conversation, real or imaginary; an examination of conscience. Write any sort of early morning reverie, rapidly and uncritically.

We're on familiar territory.

The best way to do this is to rise half an hour, or a full hour, earlier than you customarily rise. Just as soon as you can—and without talking, without reading the morning’s paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before—begin to write.

While the traditional approach of Morning Pages is for them to be essentially disposable, Dorothea obviously takes the writer's approach:

The excellence or ultimate worth of what you write is of no importance yet. As a matter of fact, you will find more value in this material than you expect, but your primary purpose now is not to bring forth deathless words, but to write any words at all which are not pure nonsense.

The value derived from Brande's early morning writing differs from what has become the more esoteric modern purpose:

what you are actually doing is training yourself, in the twilight zone between sleep and the full waking state, simply to write

and that the process will become easier allowing you to write more (double your efforts) until:

You will have begun to feel that you can get as much (far more really) from a written reverie as from one that goes on almost wordlessly in the back of your mind.

What is written "will have uses you can hardly foresee."

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