Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finding Old Morning Pages, Some Writing Prompts, & How Revision Can Make Things Worse

I found an old document called "Morning Pages," I did last year when I was doing the Artist Way with some friends.

You can get some interesting lines for your work from old journals. You can also get perspective on things. For example, all the things I was freaking out about last year are forgotten memories. All the anxiety I had, concerns, worries-- to be honest, I didn't remember most of them.

That is such a lesson to me. They always say when you're upset to think, "Will this make a difference in my life 5 years from now?" "They" are so smart with their advice.

Anyway, back to my journal/morning pages. Here are some interesting lines I found in them. Feel free to use them as a writing prompt for yourself if you like...

These were a few that amused me--

You have to be smart in this world, in this economy; you have to have something to rely on. I’m wondering if I missed the part on Debra Winger.

I just read that Paul Newman died. he’s on my dressing.

It’s called the Nature of Personal Reality, I found it in the garbage.

I romanticize Irish firefighters.

I had a dream but I can’t remember it, I remember crossing out the word “simultaneously.”

I don’t want mom hair, sing it with me.


And for the writers out there, I found this little insight to my revision process:

I am working on my mss and it’s a pain and a half. I revised it making it terrible, making it worse, but in an act of non-genius, came back last night and saved it. I think I saved it.

This could be a whole other blog post on how we can over-revise our work. Maybe I'll save that for later.



  1. Hi Kelli,

    So I'm a new reader of your blog, but I've been enjoying reading about the struggles (and jubilation... congrats!!) of bookdom and writing.

    Anyway, so I'm totally stealing (borrowing?... if we remember what T.S. Eliot said about this...) one of your lines from this post to begin a poem I've had trouble with the past few weeks: "I just read that Paul Newman died. He's on my dressing." I hope you don't mind. I'll acknowledge you should the poem ever see the light of day... and I'll at least send it your way (should you want me to) if/when I finish a draft.

    Thanks for the read here. I'm enjoying your little slice of the blogosphere!



  2. Hi Gary,

    Good poets borrow, better poets steal- so go for it!

    I put them up to inspire. And I'd love to see that in a poem.

    Good luck to you and thanks for your note. I'm glad you've been enjoying the blog.


  3. It is fun to comb through old journals.

    Well, I'm going through the same second manuscript woes that you once went through. *sigh* Rassuring to know that you made to the other side.

  4. That's so crazy - I was looking through old journals and then I found this post. My journal from a few years ago is highly entertaining; I couldn't stop laughing. It's wild how we change so much over the years.

  5. Great post. I'd have to say my morning pages generally read more like a drunk with a hangover. Too bad I can't claim that as an excuse.

    The Paul Newman line is priceless.

  6. Kelli:

    I'm bleary eyed, it's one am, the perfect time to have found the lines you posted about reality in the garbage, and singing mom hair. Made me laugh. Thanks, >you< are priceless!


  7. Reading old journals is a hoot!

    I am worried I am overthinking my 2nd manuscript. Good to know I am not the only one who worries about these things :)

  8. Many years ago I saw a short documentary film about a man in Japan who did clay pottery by traditional methods, with a wood-burning kiln. One of the people I saw it with was himself a potter, and he commented at one point that one of the keys to the traditional potter's method (the man in the film) was knowing when to stop, when the clay on the wheel had been worked and turned enough.

    One of my complaints about much of the poetry I come across is that it seems to have been over-revised, to the point where all of the rough edges have been smoothed, the loose ends have been tucked in, all irregularities have been evened out. The life has been squeezed out of the poem.

    To put it another way, one of the most important disciplines I think anyone doing creative work can learn is to recognize when to leave off and decide that it's done. It almost feels to me like recognizing the substantiality of (in the case of poetry) the silence or "empty" space around the poem, which is itself part of the poem.


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