Good morning universe! 18 months of writing morning pages

21 August 2018

A notebook filled with morning pages

A mini-milestone for me this morning: I finished another A4 notebook of morning pages.

The result, as you can see above, is 800 sides (yes - eight hundred!) filled to the brim with rapidly scribbled ramblings, ideas, problems, failures, hopes and dreams.

Morning pages?

Morning Pages, if you don’t know them, are a creativity ritual most commonly credited to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, a sort of recovery guide for lost artists.

She calls Morning Pages “the primary tool of creative recovery”.

The ritual is this: each morning, before you do anything else, fill three sides of A4 with stream-of-consciousness writing.

“Do whatever it takes to fill those three pages. All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity.” - Julia Cameron

The idea is that by emptying your brain of worries, fears and problems accumulated over the day before, you free up space to make art during the day that follows.

Morning Pages and Me

I first start doing Morning Pages in 2016, during my last creative fallow period. I was hesitant to begin with, and didn’t see much benefit from them immediately.

But like meditation, I agreed to be patient and simply do the exercise without expectation.

And here is what I discovered happened:

Page One: I get out all the obvious stuff. “I didn’t sleep well last night. I watched a movie yesterday. I’m feeling a bit uncertain….”

Page Two: I run out of the obvious stuff. Midway through the page I’m vamping. “I don’t know what to write any more. Just keep writing. Just keep writing.”

Page Three: not always, but often enough, pushing through the second page initiates a breakthrough. My brain suddenly delivers a gem I had not been expecting. An idea. A connection. A complaint from page one becomes an idea for a project on page three. A question that’s been niggling for weeks is answered.

It worked often enough that I have kept writing my Morning Pages every day I can since. I start each entry with the words “Good morning Universe”, as this is a private conversation between me and whatever it is that’s bigger than us.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of Morning Pages.

Do them early: Morning Pages can be time consuming, especially at first, so you might want to get up earlier than usual to make room for them.

Don’t be disturbed: it’s important you are not interrupted while you’re writing. If possible, save the pages for a private hour. I also like listening to ambient music or nature sounds as I write to avoid distraction.

Write them by hand: the muscle movement of your hand on paper makes a difference, I promise you. A screen is just a big temptation to check your email. Make this a rare analogue ritual.

Don’t edit, don’t read back: Morning Pages are a process not a result. These pages are a sacred space where you can write, think, feel anything. Reading over your words risks self-censorship so don’t do it.

Highlight good ideas: that said, make a scribble in the margins anytime you have a breakthrough or an idea. This allows you quickly find them later on and save them elsewhere.

Be Positive: it’s useful to use Morning Pages to vomit out all of your complaints from the past 24 hours. But I have found it is even more useful to use them to be unashamedly positive. Write about how great you are, how great you have the potential to be, and how important your creativity is to the world. I found that when I started doing this, the positivity lingered with me throughout the day. The result: bolder, braver ideas and work!

“It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power…they are a trail that we follow into our own interior, where we meet both our creativity and our creator.” - Julia Cameron