The Importance of Morning Pages & How It Changed My Life
Five years ago, I was told about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a 12 week step-by-step guide to uncovering your “inner artist” and becoming unblocked creatively. What I thought I would discover is a cult-followed book that spouts a bunch of non-sense about how to overcome self-doubt or the “secret” that would fall short of my expectations like so many other books. What I never thought I would find is a book that changed my life.
I know—that’s a heavy statement, but I mean that even in the lightest of terms too. At the heart of The Artist’s Way is a ritual called morning pages. At the very least incorporating this ritual changed my morning routine and in the greatest sense, it made me acutely more aware of what I want out of life, in my career, and to sort through things/thoughts/people that might be weighing me down. You might’ve heard of “morning pages” described in a different way. I had heard of stream of consciousness writing or free-writing, where in both instances you write about whatever comes to mind. Morning Pages are similar, but Cameron refers to morning pages as 3 pages written in longhand form (preferably on 8 1/2 x 10 paper) every morning. The idea behind this ritual is that you will start to free yourself creatively, write away the self-doubt that burdens your creative dreams, discover things about yourself you may not have realized, and get to the core of what might be blocking you from creative success.
What’s the Difference Between Journaling and Morning Pages?
Mornings pages aren’t addressed to anyone, as in “Dear diary…” and unlike a journal or diary, they aren’t meant to look back on and read. Think of them more as a write them and let ‘em go type of thing. But, it’s up to you to decide where you want to take your morning pages. Similar to a diary though, they are meant for your eyes only. What I love about morning pages, as Julia Cameron puts it, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages.” This takes away so much pressure because you can rest assured that you’re free to write whatever comes to mind. If you want to complain about the dentist yesterday, that’s fine! If a new character pops into your head for your novel, go with it! At first, the task of writing 3 pages every single morning is daunting. I’ll admit that I even dreaded it at first because it felt like I had to think of things to write. If you have to, you can write over and over again “I don’t know what to write” until something pops up. But don’t feel like a fraud if you struggle with this at first because it becomes easier. That I promise you!
The best thing you can do is explore how morning pages best fits you. There’s no wrong way to go about it, so try different things! For example, I usually feel like I need to spend the first page writing down things that are bugging me or stressing me out or weighing negatively on my mind. Then the other pages are usually more positive, filled with things I want to do or I’m working on or excited about. I’ve also heard of some people using their morning pages to map out their day or to do a handwritten meditation, so there’s a lot of possibility for something that’s “stream of consciousness.”
Moving Through Morning Pages
A lot of thoughts will pop into your head as you move through the weeks of The Artist’s Way and morning pages. So even when you think you want to quit or don’t want to get up 30 minutes earlier to write your pages, here are some advantages that come from them:
- You start to look forward to it. You move from struggling to find things to write, to struggling to keep up with all the thoughts that are popping into your head. Seriously—you should see some of my pages. They start out so nice and then towards the end of the 2nd page it’s completely chicken scratch because I have so many things that are coming to mind that I want to write down before they vanish! Chicken scratch or not, you start to find a peace of mind not just about your creative pursuits, but about your life, relationships, things you stress over, things you have anxiety over… the list never ends. You end up recording your thoughts about things you didn’t even realize you had an opinion on, or a feeling about, or an idea of. That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it?
- You gain more confidence and hear that voice A LOT less that says, “Are you crazy? You can’t do that.” As Julia Cameron likes to call it, your “inner critic” shuts up a lot more.
- The greatest thing that happens though, is the clarity you get from doing these morning pages. Essentially what we’re doing is starting our day with a thought dump. You write down everything that comes to mind (good and bad). I found that when I did this brain-dump in the morning, I was able to move through my day with such a freeing feeling. A lot of the thoughts that seemed to cloud my mind or give me anxiety over were all dumped into this notebook that I left behind as I went about my day each morning. And then came the flood of creative ideas.
- It was as if I had to push aside the worries and self-doubt that clouded my brain to make room for confidence and ideas that were just waiting to pop into my mind. I have no doubt that’s what will also happen for you and THIS is why Julia Cameron created “morning pages.” But it’s not just meant for creative people that need to make room for more ideas or who are feeling creatively blocked.
What If I am Not A Creative?
Morning Pages is one of the most helpful rituals/tools for people that don’t even know they are creative. Everyone is creative on some level, but what “creativity” looks like is completely different for each person. I know, I know—maybe you’re sitting there on the other side of this screen saying: “Sam, I am not creative. I work out of an office in a cubicle from 9-5 and the thought of writing or drawing or taking a picture sounds like the most boring thing in the world to me.” That’s fine! But if you don’t think re-decorating your room or sanding a coffee table down to be re-painted or baking a pie is creative…then I’m real excited for the things you’ll discover after making morning pages part of your ritual.
The discovery that comes through writing down everything that passes through your mind is amazing. You may be that “suit” that works in the office, but when you start to do morning pages you start to uncover dreams you buried 30 years ago and suddenly that idea you had of opening your own restaurant doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. So yeah, I’d say that morning pages are pretty dang life-changing!
Give It A Go
Here are some of my tips for starting morning pages:
- Have an open mind. Like I said, even if you don’t consider yourself creative or don’t think you have any thoughts or feelings buried within you—just try it!
- Take it one day at a time. Don’t think about week 12 when you’re on week 1. It will make it easier on yourself when you think of the day’s ritual of writing those 3 morning pages as opposed to stressing about how many you’ll need to write by the end of week 12. Don’t stress because more than likely your mindset will shift by the end of it all.
- If you find 8 ½ x 10 page papers too daunting, choose a smaller notebook. This is something that I’m not sure would be recommended straight from Julia Cameron herself, but I’ve found that I feel accomplished after writing these pages no matter how big the pages are. I wouldn’t sell yourself short, but don’t stress on page size either.
- Don’t write your pages on your laptop. This is a big no-no because it’s defeating many of the purposes of morning pages. Writing longhand means you have time to process your thoughts and ideas. You have time to sit with your thoughts whereas on a laptop, you’re more likely to rush through your pages and focus more on grammar errors than being aware of what’s going on in your head and heart. Plus, is it just me or is there something a little romantic and nostalgic about writing in a notebook with a good cup of coffee at hand?
- Put your phone on silent. Your thoughts will get interrupted right when you’re on the verge of something great and your brain will start thinking ahead about your to-do or the Instagram you need to post. For the 20-30 min. that you need for your pages, that cute puppy video can wait!
- Just start. Morning pages are really such a simple idea that it’s almost unbelievable to people that they can have this much of an impact. So with that, I leave you to go try morning pages for yourself!
Leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about incorporating this exercise into your routine! I’d love to know if you plan on giving Morning Pages a go and your thoughts throughout the process. Reach out if you’ve read the Artist’s Way and currently write morning pages yourself, too!
Ready to give it a try? As silly as this sounds, sometimes I was more apt to write my mornings pages when the paper or notebook was cute. Feel free to check out my Etsy shop and the cute notebooks I’ve added!
Pin the below image to Pinterest so you can easily refer back to this guide on Morning Pages!