Over the last month or so, I've gone back to doing Morning Pages. I started mid-December and have been picking up steam ever since. I've been writing so much in my journal that I began a system of indexing it so I could keep track of everything. Ideas pour from my pen. I figure things out. I write about what happened the day before. I list to-dos, start scenes, unknot pesky writing issues. And once again, I've become an enthusiastic proponent of morning pages.
What are Morning Pages?
Morning Pages were popularized by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way. As she describes them, "Morning pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning." Don't think about them too much. Just write. There's no wrong way to do them. For real. (Though Julia does recommend keeping them to three pages. Shorter than that, and you won't get the benefit. Longer, and you spend too much time with them.)
My History with Morning Pages
I first read the Artist's Way many years ago at a very difficult time in my life. Our house had burned down and that had thrown me off kilter creatively for awhile. (Ya think?) I'd seen the book at the book store (told you it was a long time ago) but was put off by the word "artist" in the title, thinking it was more for visual artist types. But I bought it eventually and went through the whole program.
I resisted Morning Pages at first. One thing, like this guy, I'm not much of a follower. I squirm about when people tell me what I should be doing. And then I tend to do the opposite of what they say. But I'd committed to doing the program and so I started Morning Pages. And did them religiously for the next ten years. At least. I did them because they worked for me in every way--creatively, spiritually, and emotionally.
And then I quit. I think it was when I started writing fiction first thing in the morning and didn't feel I had time for Morning Pages. That was about ten years ago and since then I've dipped into doing MPs off and on but haven't made them a regular practice. But I'm recommitting to them once again because my results this time around have been spectacular.
Why You Should Do Them
For about fifty million reasons, really, but mostly because they will boost your creativity, help you find and maintain your spiritual center, and maybe most important of all--because they will freaking make you feel good.
As I've been gathering my thoughts about this post, I've run across a couple of related quotes that I share with you here because, though they are not specifically about Morning Pages, I think they shine light on why they work so well.
Here is what Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass, says about journaling:
Meditate and/or journal and/or spend lots of time in nature, dance - do whatever you have to do to strengthen your relationship with The Motherlode. Because when you get into the flow and out of your head, your doubts, fears and worries fall away because they do not exist in the flow. Awesomeness, strength and joy exist in the flow. Connection to your mightiest self exists in the flow. Get. In. The. Flow. Yo.
Yeah, and sometimes it is not so much about connecting to your mightiest self but just setting yourself up for the day. I'm re-earning that doing MPs is replenishing. One morning recently I woke feeling foggy, vague and overwhelmed. I had so much to do--and my brain didn't seem to want to do any of it. But then I pulled my journal out and started writing. And suddenly I saw that things weren't so bad. Moreover, everything that I needed to do came into focus.
This is because morning pages create space. They do this in a couple of ways. First of all, they are a physical space in which to download all the things--bad and good--that clutter your brain. Dump 'em all on the page. Second, they create space in your brain by getting all that stuff out of it. Suddenly, the world opens up when your mind is not so cluttered.
Here's what Tara Stiles, author of the Make Your Own Rules Diet and some other books on yoga that look really cool says about the necessity of finding space in our lives:
We all feel great when we have space for ourselves. Room to breathe, feel, think, and exist. When we lack that space, we often (unknowingly) form destructive habits to provide the temporary illusion of it. We can’t escape our need for space, but we can change how we create and sustain room for ourselves so we can live happy, healthy lives.
Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?
If You Want to Try Them
If you haven't tried Morning Pages, you are likely grousing that you don't have time for such thing. I hear you. But I say you'll create time by doing them. Because you'll have more clarity, less anxiety and more of an ability to focus on what you really want to do throughout the day. So try it:
Set your alarm for 20 minutes earlier than you usually rise and make the coffee the night before so its all ready to turn on. (Sometimes I start my pages sitting at the kitchen table while the coffee is brewing.) Grab yourself a notebook and pen and have at it. Or try doing them on the computer here. (Yeah, Cameron says to do them longhand and I agree. But I'm also a big proponent of whatever works. So if writing on the computer works better for you, go for it.) That's it! That's all you have to do. Okay?
If you need more information on the process, there's now an Ebook that Julia Cameron wrote specifically about Morning Pages, which you can find here. Though I'm here to tell you that you really don't need it. Trust me. All you have to do is write.
Update: In the department of synchroncity, just as I was scheduling this post, an email from Tim Ferriss, author of the Four-Hour Workweek, popped into my inbox. And it was about--you guessed it--the value of Morning Pages. Read it here.
Have you ever tried Morning Pages? Did you find them helpful?
Photo by alitaylor.