“The writer’s job is to tell the truth.” – Ernest Hemingway
I’ve been stuck since the new year began. I had a writing rhythm and lost it. Once you lose your stride, it’s hard to regain it. If you feel like a kid who’s fallen off their bike and find it daunting to get back on it with your skinned knee and tear-stained face, you’re not alone.
In this brief conversation, I’ll give you three secrets for getting unstuck in writing and in life. Use them to rejuvenate your writing rhythms — and to reinvigorate friendship, marriage, and other relationships as well. Here’s how I do it.
Secret #1: Write Your Morning Pages
In her classic book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron teaches the value of Morning Pages — “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.”
She also calls them “Mourning Pages” because in them you can lament your losses.
I began doing this in 2020, the most painful year of my life. I sometimes write long-hand in a journal, other times I type into a password-protected app. It’s become writing therapy. And it’s writing for the soul because I’m not writing for an audience, just telling my truth.
Hemingway was a man’s man of the early 20th-century variety, yet he would become anxious about writing. So he told himself, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
That’s what you do with Morning Pages. You write true sentences about your wins and losses — the good, the bad, and the mixed. Whatever comes to mind.
Secret #2: Keep It To Yourself
Julia Cameron says your Morning Pages are “for your eyes only.”
Some suggest you write your true feelings down, then immediately toss them into a roaring fire, since that’s the only to write without fear. Whatever your approach, write how you truly feel, remembering that you don’t have to share it, now or ever. As you write for your eyes only, you’ll write freely and courageously.
Of course, you may choose to share your Morning Pages with others. When I’ve really nailed it, identifying just how I feel about something deep, I’ve occasionally read an entry to Bonnie (my wife and the person I trust most in the world). I’m surprised by three things:
- how clear my writing is when uninhibited,
- how jarring it can be to Bonnie, and
- how it gives her permission to feel her own feelings.
Recently, I read Bonnie a sentence that said, “I hate someone” (though I didn’t write “someone” but that person’s name). I heard her gasp. Then she said. “Me too.”
Your truth is yours to share with anyone you feel safe with. But as you write it, that’s not the plan. So forget about spelling, grammar, or propriety. Write like no one’s watching because no one is.
What happens in your Morning Pages stays in your Morning Pages.
Secret #3: The Truth Will Get You Unstuck
It’s been said, “When you lie to people, you’re deceptive; when you lie to yourself, you’re delusional.”
But when you stop and write just one true sentence, when you write the truest sentence you know, something awakens within you and you become less and less stuck. St. Irenaeus said that the glory of God is a human being “fully alive,” and that’s what you become when you tell the truth.
To be clear, I never tell the truth. I never know what that is. It’s not like what I feel is the truth, just my version of it. It’s like a car crash—I may have witnessed it, but not from all sides. Someone on the other street corner had a different view and the people inside the cars had a different view yet. As time passes, the facts may get hazy. That’s how it is with our stories; they’re part fact, part feeling, and many flawed memories.
But what of it? King David trafficked in imperfections, wallowed in self-pity, and fell prey to his passions. Yet he wrote the Psalms. “They’re out to get me,” he might say in one moment. “Slay the wicked, but have mercy on me,” he pleads. Then he has the gall to say, “My hands are clean.” This is a man writing the truest sentences he knows and we love him for it. He tells his truth and lets God work on him. We should do the same.
Morning Pages open up the stuck faucet of the heart. What emerges won’t be pretty — it’s the sludge and sediment that block our arteries. But as we tell our truth, we clear the pipes so the clean water can run freely.
Morning Pages are a safe place for you to tell your truth without fear of judgment. You may feel uncomfortable doing it, uneasy about your honesty… or totally vindicated. What you won’t feel is stuck. You will tell yourself the truth and the truth will set you free.
So how about it? Will you try it? You can do it now, briefly, in minutes.
- Go find your journal.
- Write one true sentence.
I’d love to hear how it goes. Leave a comment on my blog page or write me at email@example.com
I’ve wanted to do this for yours. Helpful tips! Thank you!
Do you have a journal? It could be a belated birthday gift from yours truly 🙂
Steve, thank you for reminding us that we are not alone when we are stuck. For some, “stuck” may come in different forms, but the message that you provided rings true in any aspect of life. Just simply starting with the truth from within and allowing that to be the first step in the journey of becoming “unstuck” is so simple…yet it is sacred.
Thank you, MiDian! You’re so real and honest so you reading my stuff is the ultimate compliment. Thank you for your inspirational leadership in sacred spaces 🙂
For your transparency I thank you! It isn’t always easy but certainly reminds me that I too need to be more transparent. Greet Bonnie for me 🙂
Hi Karen! So nice to hear from you. Thank you for your encouragement. I will certainly give your greetings to Bonnie 🙂
Funny how that my-eyes-only space of writing sets my pen free to soar with gossamer words that transcend the page.
Thank you for reminding me how to unlock the cage!
Anna, thank you for the new word: gossamer! I had to look it up and found this etymology: In the days of Middle English, a period of mild weather in late autumn or early winter was sometimes called a gossamer, literally “goose summer.” So a transparent, translucent quality like cobwebs or dragonfly wings, I suppose. Thanks for sending me down a fun logophile rabbit hole. peace! 😀