Writing Morning Pages
“When people ask, ‘Why do we write morning pages?’ I joke, ‘To get to the other side.’ They think I am kidding, but I’m not. Morning pages do get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods.” - Julia Cameron
Are you blocked, stuck, filled with negative thoughts, frustrated, mad at your partner, worried about your son or daughter or the state of the world, or…?
I don’t know about you, but I am often one of those things I just listed.
Just this morning, I sat in my living room (before my first cup of coffee) writing about my frustration with someone I know. I wrote about a chance encounter I had with, let’s call her Lola, and it wasn’t a good one. I just let all my feelings about Lola and our interaction out on the page. There was lots of grumbling and complaining. She’s always giving me advice, always butting in, I scribbled. Lola is the biggest know-it-all. I sat there writing, writing — my dog, blissfully unaware of my inner turmoil, so sound asleep at my feet. (Three pages!) I felt good when I was done. It was out of me and on the page. I could let Lola go and go about my day.
What was I up to? I was writing Morning Pages, and I’m hoping to inspire you to do them too. What are they? The “pages” are a tool for uncovering your creativity; a tool that opens you to a spiritual path where you are very likely to encounter a mystical “something” that provides guidance - call it your intuition, your wise inner voice, God, Spirit, the Universe, the Great Creator, spiritual electricity. Call it whatever makes sense to you. And as evidenced by my example with Lola, doing the “pages” is a tool that gives you an outlet for your gripes. Gripes block us. Doing the “pages” vacuums the “clutter” out of our brain, giving us a clearer start to our day.
You Can Do It Too
Whatever it is for you - whatever circulates through your brain during the day - maybe day and night…would you like help to get above it - over it - through it? Would you like help to minimize it, let it go, and maybe even get some solutions to whatever is going on for you? Would you want to open up better communication with that profound well of wisdom you have within?
Morning Pages is a simple process to do all of the above, but it takes commitment and consistency. It also takes using that old-fashioned method of putting pen to paper - not using the computer. (“What, Susanna, you mean writing in cursive?!”)
You do have a pen and paper - right? Then you can do this! And you can always print if you’ve forgotten your cursive! Oh, and you need some time, maybe twenty to thirty minutes, depending on how fast you write - or print! …and that time has to be in the morning (that’s why it was before my coffee) - first thing. (Oh, I can hear you already - “I have no time in the morning! That’s when I have the least time! If you do them, your day goes better. You end up saving time.) But more on the how later now here’s more about the what.
Let's Talk About Morning Pages
The process and the tool I’m talking about is Morning Pages. Have you heard of them? Have you heard of Julia Cameron, the creator of Morning Pages - the author of The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self. (Its 25th Anniversary edition published in 2016 by Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.)
The book is a classic. Julia Cameron is an institution - no, she wouldn’t like to be described that way, I don’t think, though the New York Times calls her “The Queen of Change.”
In The Artist’s Way, Cameron writes:
“When people ask me what I do, I usually answer, ‘I’m a writer-director, and I teach these creativity workshops.”
But that’s an understatement. I’d call her a guru, a spiritual guru, because her program, her book with its twelve-week process, is a spiritual path.
“Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within.”, she writes and…
“They provide us with a spiritual ham-radio set to contact the Creator Within. For this reason, the morning pages are a spiritual practice'.… and…
"…pages are my way of meditating; I do them because they work.”
Morning Pages, with their accompanying tool, the Artist’s Date (taking time for ourselves, around two hours, alone, every week), clear us of the detritus that we’ve got going on within (so much comes from our ever-yammering inner critic which I call the Threshold Guardians) and leaves room for “something else” to come through.
The directions for doing them, from Ms. Cameron: “three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness…Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind.”
Introducing Julia Cameron
The book The Artist’s Way is the outgrowth of the creative workshops she began teaching in New York in the 1970s. She taught the same process that helped her recover her own creativity as a writer. Her creative recovery came hand in hand with her recovery from alcoholism - and she credits the “pages” for this. Before becoming sober, she had thought that being a writer was arduous.
She writes, “In my mind, drinking and writing went together like, well, scotch and soda. For me, the trick was always getting past the fear and onto the page. I was playing beat the clock - trying to write before the booze closed in like fog and my window of creativity was blocked again.”
She knew drinking would eventually kill her - and her creativity - so she had to learn to write sober. “I learned to turn my creativity over to the only god I could believe in, the god of creativity, the life force Dylan Thomas called the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.’ I learned to get out of the way and let that creative force work through me. I learned to just show up at the page and write down what I heard…”
“…I didn’t have to be in the mood. I didn’t have to take my emotional temperature to see if inspiration was pending. I simply wrote. No negotiations. Good, bad? None of my business. I wasn’t doing it. By resigning as the self-conscious author, I wrote freely.”
She wrote. She wrote and wrote - three long-hand pages a day, each morning, looking out over Taos Mountain in New Mexico. Things hadn’t been going well for her. She had just become sober. She was there to “sort myself out - into what, I didn’t know.” She writes that no one told her to write Morning Pages, and she hadn’t heard of anyone else doing them, but “ I just got the insistent, inner sense that I should do them and so I did.”
How It Began
Read The Artist Way (and I hope you do), and you’ll learn Ms. Cameron is very good about following her inner guidance. She even writes to her inner artist, who she tells us is a child, when she’s looking for guidance. “When I am stuck with a painful situation or problem that I don’t think I know how to handle., I will go to the pages and ask for guidance.”
She began to teach blocked creatives in New York because she “heard,” Marching Orders:
“One minute, I was walking in the West Village on a cobblestone street with beautiful afternoon light. The next minute I suddenly knew that I should begin teaching people, groups of people, how to unblock.”
More about Julia: She is credited with starting a movement in 1992 that brought creativity into the mainstream conversation— in the arts, business, and everyday life. She is the best-selling author of more than forty books, fiction, and nonfiction; a poet, songwriter, filmmaker, and playwright. Commonly referred to as "The Godmother" or "High Priestess" of creativity, her tools are based on practice, not theory, and she considers herself "the floor sample of her own toolkit." The Artist's Way has been translated into forty languages and has sold over five million copies. There is now an online program that follows the book. Find out all you need to know at JuliaCameronLive.com
How To Start Morning Pages
There are instructions in the back of The Artist’s Way for creating “Creative Clusters or peer-run circles for people wanting to go through the twelve weeks of her course together. She gives detailed instructions in Appendix I, titled Trail Mix (you can probably see why one of the reasons I’m so in love with this process - it resonates well with the Heroine’s Journey.) She believes “success occurs in clusters” and wants us to find those who believe in us. I have facilitated several Creative Clusters. It does help to go through the book, the process, with others. It helps me every time I do it. I recommend doing the “pages” to the people I coach and to people in my course for Real-Life Heroines. They help the people who do them.
Me, too. Besides all of the above benefits, a big added benefit for me is that doing the “pages” helps my memory! At age 70, I can find my brain so full of “stuff” that the name of a favorite flower will escape me, or I’ll be asking my husband for the 40th time, what’s the name of that big fish that jumps out of the Kennebec River?
Let me tell you. I remember names and details more readily when I do my “pages” every morning. I am clearer-headed, more focused, and more directed. I wouldn’t skip them. Have I had dry stretches when I stop doing them for whatever reason? Absolutely, but then I start again and very quickly get the memory benefit - followed by so many more benefits.
They're A Tool
The Morning Pages are just one tool in The Artist’s Way toolkit. The book contains many exercises that contribute to helping one move forward and learning more about yourself and about your own creativity.
One last thing to inspire you. Here’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s accolade about the program: “Just to show how influential it’s been to me - the first time I did the program, I had decided by the end of it that I wanted to 1) travel to Italy and learn Italian, 2) go to an ashram in India, and 3) return to Indonesia to study with the old medicine man I’d once met there. We all know what that decision led….without The Artist’s Way, there would have been no Eat, Pray, Love.” You don’t have to think.
Get Started On Your Morning Pages
You don’t have to worry about spelling or grammar. Just write three pages. You’ll be glad you did.