Morning Pages

“Creativity is like crabgrass—it springs back with the simplest bit of care.” Julia Cameron

cropped-perseverance1.jpgSharing with a fellow writer one evening, I found myself talking about a simple writing technique that boosts creative flow, and brings clarity to one’s life—Morning Pages. Anyone familiar with Julia Cameron or The Artist’s Way will understand the term, but Morning Pages are just that: three pages of longhand writing done first thing in the morning. However, unlike journaling or creative writing that involve thought and recollection, these pages are simply stream of consciousness brain dump. Period. Julia refers to them as “brain drain”. We are not talking about art or technically even writing, but simple meanderings of thought that flow from the mind through the pen and onto the page.

The point is to place the pen on the paper and don’t stop writing until three pages are full. Write whatever comes to mind, even if it’s “This is stupid, I have nothing to write about, my curtains need washing, the dogs need to go outside…I hope today isn’t as bad as yesterday…” You just keep writing regardless of what’s being put down on the paper.

Once you allow yourself the freedom to simply express your thoughts without criticizing or analyzing them, interesting things happen. The Morning Pages become a friend you can confide in, a place to vent anger and frustration without guilt, to philosophize freely about life without censorship. All the whiny, petty stuff you write down in the morning is exactly what stands between you and your ability to be creative throughout the day. So get it down on paper and leave it there.

Morning Pages are meant to be a tool of creative recovery. They silence the internal critic that often drives and defeats us. They are not meant to be read, especially for the first couple months you use them. And you have to write them every morning, no excuses. How you feel doesn’t matter, crawl out of bed and write. The discipline pays off.

The purpose of Morning Pages is to get us to the other side of fear, negativity, and excuses: to teach our logic brain to stand aside and let the artist within play. They provide a pathway to a clear sense of self, and map out our own interior. As Julia says, “It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.”

I have played with Morning Pages off and on for over ten years. They work. But only when I am using them. Which I haven’t been lately. And I can tell that I need them again, especially now with this blog challenge.

After ten days of illness, I’m finally starting to feel better but still not good enough to re-engage fully with daily life and work. Yesterday, I spent half the day pondering boredom and what it meant—because I’m SO BORED with being sick. One can only read, watch TV and play with puppies so much.

So imagine my surprise, in writing this blog today, to find the answer to my question. On page 18 in The Artist’s Way, Julia writes:

“Boredom is just “What’s the use?” in disguise. And “What’s the use?” is fear, and fear means you are secretly in despair. So put your fears on the page. Put anything on the page. Put three pages of it on the page.”

Translation: Write Morning Pages.

So, if you are bored, if you are stuck, if you want to reach new levels of creative flow—I highly recommend giving Morning Pages a shot. And if you want more ideas about unblocking creative flow, pick up the latest edition of The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.

I’m putting my laptop down now and grabbing a pen and three pages of paper….

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8 thoughts on “Morning Pages

  1. Jenny, I came across The Artist’s Way more than 20 years ago when a dear friend introduced me to them. It was a tough time in my life, and those morning pages (plus yoga and meditation) saved me. When I read them years later, I was amazed.

    Like you, “I have played with Morning Pages off and on …. They work. But only when I am using them.”
    Yes. Like treadmills and free weights you can’t use them a little and then toss them aside and expect to remain in good shape. Thanks for the reminder I need to be consistent. xoA

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  2. Jenny, I read “the Artist’s Way” a while back and love her writing ideas, especially Morning Pages. I tend to be a night-time journal writing, so I haven’t fully embraced Morning Pages like I want to. Thanks for the reminder.

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  3. I must take issue with “one can only…play with puppies so much”. 😉

    Really though, this sounds like an interesting tool to spark creativity. You explained it very well. Trying to fit another “exercise routine” in the morning is the real challenge, especially after you tossed in the “no excuses” part. One of my favorite sayings is “If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse”. Good post Jenny

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  4. Good and useful post. My ‘morning pages’ come in the shape of two mugs of strong coffee, we each have our own pooja. interestingly, although actual writing [pencil or pen on paper] is going out of fashion very quickly, there is evidence tht the act of writing notes [but not key-boarding] stimulates the process of learning. Nobody really knows why.

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