If you are familiar with The Artist’s Way, you’ll know what I mean by writing three pages every day. One of the foundational practices of this 12-week process is the Morning Pages. It’s rather simple, and brilliant. You start the day by writing three pages, every day. Pen/pencil on paper, longhand. A stream of consciousness. You may call it a brain dump, which it is. An unloading. Because most of us have way too much rattling around in the head. And then there is the inner critic.
I first discovered this book by Julia Cameron more than ten years ago when I joined a FB group for a 12-week journey. My mindset and my life were much different then, much noisier and busier. I did not always manage to do my Morning Pages nor go on all the Artist’s Dates. Even then, I experienced a profound change and received many insights. Over the years, I have returned to the Morning Pages time and time again.
This week I started it afresh. Time for another creativity bloom.
And here’s the thing – even though the book is called The Artist’s Way, it’s for everyone and not just professional and self-identified artists, whether you are a painter, knitter, or writer. First, we are all creative so let’s just get that out of the way.
The Morning Pages, even if you aren’t ready for the 12 weeks of The Artist’s Way, is for everyone. It is a process of unblocking, inviting, and connecting. The Artist’s Way, by the way, has been used in all kinds of settings, institutions, businesses, therapies, as well as artists’ circles.
Start the Day with a Blanker Slate
Writing three pages every day is a wonderful way to start the day. Sometimes the writing continues the themes of the dreams disrupted by a dog nudging to go out or a poorly-timed phone call. Sometimes it’s burning off the dross of an idea that’s been on my mind for a project.
It’s taking off the surface, that nice wrapping we’ve put around how we think and feel to make it acceptable. Morning Pages invites us to write down the stories and the lies we’ve been telling ourselves and other people. Getting the inner critic on paper. So that we can start the day with a blanker state, much less burdened by the ego that had actually dissolved in the night.
Morning Pages to Let Go
Morning Pages is not about making grammatically-correct sentences. As a writer and editor, this one was tough. Missed a loop or an entire word? Didn’t cross your T? Move on. Keep. Going.
It is a stream of consciousness that we pour onto the paper. However that looks like, even if it’s a hot mess of oddly-shaped alphabets.
To do this, we have to let go of judgment, expectation, tendency toward perfection, and this fear of what may appear. It’s risky. Our inner critic may get up in our face. Breathe. Thank your inner critic. And. Keep. Going.
Through letting go, we loosen our grip on what is right or wrong to express or what is too silly or dark to see the light of day. To our benefit, the letting go from doing the Morning Pages transfers into our lives as well.
Meet Your Honest Self
Keeping the Morning Pages private is essential. Show no one.
Whether we write in a journal or a pile of recycled looseleaf paper, it’s for our eyes only.
Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way that we ourselves must not read the Morning Pages for the first few months. This creates a safe container for us to write down everything and anything that appears. From that, our honest self emerges, confident that s/he shall not be judged or ridiculed.
How to Do the Morning Pages
Morning Pages are best done in the morning. Yes, you can make your cup of coffee first. I rather like being half-asleep, in that nebulous state where my mind hasn’t strengthened into being and thoughts are not as rigidly routine. In this liminal state, my thoughts flow like liquid gold, unencumbered by a day yet to formulate.
If you miss a morning session, do the pages when you can. The important part of the Morning Pages is doing them every day, no matter way. In this way we move beyond our resistance and our inner critic.
Initially, writing three pages is easy for most people. There is so much to unload! Even if momentarily you skip a thought and have no idea what to write, just write I don’t know what to write. Keep. Going. After a while, our inner critic may show up and remind us how we never finish anything or that our writing is crap. Keep. Going. Completing the pages is evidence of self-love, self-care, and self-esteem for the inner critic. No matter how brilliant or dull the Morning Pages is looking, it’s always a forward movement. Just wait, you’ll see.
Typing Morning Pages may give us more speed— but will give us less depth. Writing by hand connects us more intimately to our thoughts, and paradoxically is more efficient in terms of getting in touch with ourselves and opening the path to our most authentic selves and the day at hand.
In this age of technology, many people have asked Julia Cameron about typing their Morning Pages. She is very insistent that we write using pen/pencil on paper so we can connect more deeply. Writing by hand, long hand, is a brain exercise. We’re rewiring our brain so bonus!
What I use – letter-sized or A4 paper. Sometimes looseleaf. Sometimes the stone paper journals from Karst. Some people like fountain pens. I grab my most flowing pen.
If you haven’t heard of The Artist’s Way, I encourage you to pick up a copy. If you haven’t tried the Morning Pages, I invite you to start writing three pages every day. Try it and see how it unfolds. When you feel like stopping, keep on going. Keep writing.
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