Revisiting Morning Pages

Planner_binder_ring_261350_lOver 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.

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16 Comments on "Revisiting Morning Pages"

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Dyoung
Guest
01/19/2015 07:45
This is a wonderfully useful post for me. Thank you for getting me back on track. I looked in my journal. I haven’t written in it since mid November. Terrible! And I wonder why I don’t feel I can keep up with myself! Although my journaling was sporadic and not defined in any way, it helped. But choosing to do this first thing. And limit to three pages while using it as a means to dump my brain….I love it. I am going to make myself do this for a week straight and then reevaluate all areas. We will see… Read more »
Dyoung
Guest
01/19/2015 07:45
This is a wonderfully useful post for me. Thank you for getting me back on track. I looked in my journal. I haven’t written in it since mid November. Terrible! And I wonder why I don’t feel I can keep up with myself! Although my journaling was sporadic and not defined in any way, it helped. But choosing to do this first thing. And limit to three pages while using it as a means to dump my brain….I love it. I am going to make myself do this for a week straight and then reevaluate all areas. We will see… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/19/2015 09:17

I'm so glad this resonated with you.  And I love your phrase–speed bumps!  But do commit to the pages for a week.  I'm continuing to find an extraordinary difference in my life with them.  Once again this morning I poured ideas out onto the page, and also solved quite a few world problems.  🙂  Please let me know how it works for you!

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
01/19/2015 11:21
I have Julia’s book. I’ve never written morning pages. None of my excuses hold up. I come here in the mornings, then I do nothing until work. That’s not out of choice, it’s simply the way things have worked out. Maybe I need journaling tips. What should I write? To whom should I address it? There was a time when there wasn’t a spare second in my morning. Things change and now I have time for a nap but it still seems packed. lol. I normally work on WIP at night. I know I don’t have time for WIP and… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/19/2015 11:41

If you want to write Morning Pages, don't worry about reading Julia's book–though I do highly recommend it.  Morning pages are really just stream of consciousness about anything, but if that's too vague start by writing what you did the day before.  Or what you need to get done that day.  And then just let it rip.  And let me know if you try them.  I won't be too mad at you if you don't.

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
01/19/2015 14:28

Good, I’m glad to know my personal safety is not at risk.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/19/2015 14:52

Well, I do have some burly friends in high places. But as long as you are writing….

Dyoung
Guest
01/19/2015 19:11

I’m integrating a few “new” things into my daily routine and sticking to them strictly for a week just to see how they impact the flow of my days. Of course my hope is a week turns into a month which turns into two…etc. 21 days to form a habit, right? Seeing results should make the 21 days easier.

Dyoung
Guest
01/19/2015 19:12

Not sure why this posted twice.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/20/2015 05:19

I think that's always the hard part about new good habits–you have to hang in there until the results show, and that can take awhile.  I hope that you'll see them very quickly with Morning Pages.  

Kay Singer
Guest
Kay Singer
01/22/2015 08:07
Great post! I love Morning Pages and I too had fallen off for a bit. January 1, I reset my priorities and that reset included Morning Pages. So many little things can build up and block our view of what is important. When I do the daily dump, my days go so much better. I am able to move forward and plan my day without the little negatives hanging over my head. When I first found Julia Cameron’s book I took a personal journey. My sisters noticed the change and asked me what was different. I shared with them and… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/22/2015 10:08

Oh Kay, I love this story about you and your sisters doing the Artist’s Way together. How wonderful. I found it quite life-changing also. And I think Morning Pages have remained the crucial element for me through the years. Yes, writing the “daily dump” definitely makes things go better. Thank you for sharing your story.

John Rahimi
Guest
01/22/2015 13:44

This is a really useful idea and I need to start implementing myself!

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/22/2015 15:19

Hope its helpful for you.

Lidiya K
Guest
05/24/2015 11:42

I also think that everyone needs to give morning pages a try in order to feel the benefits this simple, but powerful exercise has.

It changes my whole day – I’m in a better mood, more peaceful and inspired, energized and motivated to start the day.

Thanks for sharing.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
05/24/2015 15:49

I am so glad they work for you, too!

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