Creativity

The morning pages

 

write write write

The morning pages are what Julia Cameron describes as ‘a pivotal tool in creative recovery’ in her book The Artist’s Way. She explains the morning pages as ‘three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness’ and also as a ‘brain dump’. I prefer the definition ‘brain dump’.

She notes that they are not supposed to sound smart, or have any particular purpose or direction except to empty your mind of all the chatter and nonsense in there. Just basically write down whatever comes to mind and keep your hand moving.

I do a sort of version of the morning pages. I say a sort of version because I don’t strictly follow the rule of keeping your hand moving at all times. I often pause to think or reflect, ponder, reconsider, then keep writing. Some days I write two pages, some days six. This is what works best for me.

I write about whatever is on my mind.

Often I am repetitive, complaining about something for days on end, or I’m listing the things I’m grateful for, or why I’m happy. It can be as simple as moaning about the things I have to do that day that I would rather avoid, or as profound as stumbling upon some sudden insight about myself. Sometimes I reflect on dreams I’ve had, or on what the day may have in store. Sometimes I start talking about one thing and end up somewhere else altogether.

Regardless, I show up each morning, first thing (after making a cup of coffee, of course) and write whatever is on my mind, for an allotted amount of time (30-45 minutes) rather than three pages.

You should write for whatever amount of time works for you – you might find that 10 minutes is enough, or that you need an hour. It may be different from day to day. Be flexible as you need. I think it’s important to respect how we are feeling at the time, rather than striving for some arbitrary time/page goal.

Some days I struggle to say much. Other days I feel like I could keep writing for hours. It doesn’t matter – the important thing is to just sit down and write whatever is on my mind.

There are a few tricks you can use if you are struggling to get started, if you feel the words just aren’t flowing:

  • Describe your physical surroundings – e.g. the room, the chair you’re sitting on, what you can smell, how your body feels, and so on
  • Write a list of what you are most grateful for at that moment
  • Describe the day before
  • Describe what you hope for in the day to come
  • Sit still and pay attention to your mind. You might find that you are worrying about something, distracted by preparing breakfast for the kids, or the fact that the car needs repairing, or that you didn’t pay a bill that’s overdue – once you notice what is going on in your mind, write it down
  • Sometimes we are overwhelmed by all the things we want to say at once, so just writing a list of key words and sentences rather than big lengthy paragraphs can be helpful
  • Start with sentences such as: I feel… I’m worried about… I’m thinking about…My body feels… I wish… and so on

Hopefully that gives you a little something to get started! I would love to hear from anyone who has tried morning pages before. Now, get writing!

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11 thoughts on “The morning pages”

  1. Thanks so much for posting this! I did the morning pages for a very very short period in my life but I often think about them and wonder if I should start again. I found your blog by way of your Instagram and I have been enjoying it. I don’t normally post comments on blogs but just felt inclined since I have been enjoying your posts so much! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Rachel, thanks so much! I do find the journaling each morning to be really helpful, especially before work. But I definitely need a little flexibility to be able to write more/less as I feel like it. Perhaps give them another try for a while. Glad to hear you are enjoying the posts, hope you’ll come back soon 🙂

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    1. Hi Karen – journaling has helped me immensely with depression. I have a post with more about morning pages here and another one here, and I’d also recommend reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for more info on the morning pages specifically.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this! I do have a question. I’ve started the book, but amy only in chapter 3. I’m wondering if we HAVE to do them in the morning? I get up pretty early already to get ready for work and getting up that extra 30-45 minutes just drains me for the rest of the day. (Also go to bed around 10 already). Would it be acceptable to do them just before bed do you think?

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    1. Hi Elle! There are a couple of ways to look at this (these are my opinions, not Julia Cameron’s). I think if you want to get the most benefit from morning pages then doing them in the morning is ideal. The reason is that we are fresh when we first wake up and so things might flow more easily. Also, it’s a way of sort of clearing the mind and getting into the right mindset for the day ahead – so I think a lot of the benefit might be in how we go on to feel throughout the day after doing the pages. If we do them at night, then a lot of the insights and clearing might be gone after we sleep – or at least it might be diluted. In terms of doing them at night, I usually find one of two things happens: I’m too tired to really dig deep so I just skim over things so I can get into bed (if I do them at all), or I get so inspired and excited by what comes up that I can’t sleep afterwards! However, if it’s too hard to squeeze them into your mornings, then I think doing them at night is much better than not doing them at all. I can’t do proper morning pages right now because I have a toddler and there’s no way I’m getting up early after a night of broken sleep, so I just journal when I can. I still find immense benefit from doing it at different times of day. So my advice is to fit it in when you can and if at all possible, try to make it a bit of a routine around the same time each day. I hope this helps! Jen x

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      1. Thanks so much for replying. those are good points. I’m currently pregnant with my first and that’s probably playing into the “do not want” for getting up extra early. I’ll try to just get at least 10 minutes in the morning. Although I find that everything I write ends up being a rehash of everything on my mind from the day before. Really almost of a journal entry. hmm.

        Thank you again for your help!!

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