As writers, we’re never far from a blog post on morning pages. In case you’re new to this game, I’ll explain. Morning pages
are an exercise devised by creativity guru, Julia Cameron, writer of self-help book, The Artist’s Way. The book is more than a little New Age. Julia often comes out with trite spiritualisms, such as ‘we invoke the Great Creator, when we invoke our own creativity’. Whether you go in for this particular brand of California counselling or not, Julia’s morning pages have taken on a life of their own outside her books and her burgeoning ‘Artist’s Way’ business.
I’ve been in a not-writing rut of late. I recently finished a radio drama, which meant ‘the novel’ was looming again. I’m stuck, you see, so procrastination decided rear it’s ugly head, while I stuck mine in the sand. We all get those moments, in life, when we feel a bit stretched. Like we’re spinning plates. It feels like there are a million things whizzing through your mind and you can barely focus on them, to get through the day. At times like these, finding a quiet intellectual space to do some creative writing feels impossible. And this is where morning pages can prove useful.
This morning, I woke up and decided to give morning pages a try. Perhaps the Great Creator had sent my creative child a summons. Who knows. “There is no wrong way to do morning pages” according to Julia Cameron. The idea is to write the first thing that comes into your head for three pages. It’s supposed to be a brain dump, freeing up space in your mind to think creatively again.
There are three rules to writing morning pages:
- Morning means morning: As soon as you open your eyes, pick up your pen or pencil and start writing. Yes, that’s first thing in the morning. Pre-coffee. The idea is to engage with your subconscious, before your conscious, critical mind wakes up and sensors your thoughts.
- Write longhand: don’t be tempted to turn to your keyboard and bang out three pages of thoughts. The point is, that writing with pen and paper engages your brain in a different way. Even on your worst day, you can make a mark on a piece of paper. It’s a more tactile experience and, crucially, it’s slower. That’s right, you’re eschewing efficiency, in favour of efficacy.
- Three is the magic number: Julia recommends writing three sides of A4. It may seem like an arbitrary number, but three pages is quite a lot. This gives you space to empty all the surface junk. The last page might be a struggle to fill, so you’ll have to poke around, ensuring you really expel all the debris, filling your mind with worries and to dos.
I gave it a try this morning. I didn’t even put Radio 3 on. I literally reached an arm out of bed, fumbled for the pen and notebook, rolled onto my side and started writing. I wrote two pages, not realising that three was the ascribed number. I wrote. It took no time at all. Maybe tomorrow will be different. The beauty of it all is, I felt better. No, I feel better. My mind feels a lot less cluttered. I may even be able to write some of that there novel.
I’ll come back next week to tell you if it’s still working and what sort of things I write in my pages. Do you use morning pages? Perhaps they’re not for you, if so, any other techniques you’d recommend?