If anyone likes them, that person is stared at in wonderment and disbelief, as if that feeling just doesn’t exist in the realm of possibility. They are the subject of countless memes – dreaded, besmirched, and beleaguered. Life is much more hectic than when these are around. Perhaps you’ve figured it out already, but if not, we are talking about mornings. And while each new day is full of possibilities and represents the opportunity to start again, according to a 2016 23andMe genome-wide association study (GWAS) of just under 90,000 people, only 39.7% of men and 48.4% of women would call themselves “a morning person”. Maybe Morning Pages can change that.
Julia Cameron is a best-selling author, has written over three dozen books, the New York Times calls her the “Queen of Change”, and she is the creator of Morning Pages. In a nutshell, this method of journaling is done as soon as you wake up in the morning, is to fill 3 longhand-written, single-spaced, 8.5x11” pages, for 3 months, and you are not to edit or change what you have written – nor can you censor your writing – in any way. Called “stream of consciousness writing”, no matter what is running through your head, it goes on the page, but dreams should not be included because they are more filler and less breakthrough-inducing substance. The thinking behind Morning Pages is that starting your day by uncluttering your mind gives you a clean slate, which allows for less distractions, clearer thinking, and increased productivity.
Upon gleaning information from people who have shared their experiences with this practice, we’ve realized there doesn’t seem to be too many fence-sitters when it comes to Morning Pages. This is especially true when recounting their first few days to a week of the ante-meridiem journaling exercise.
Perfectionist tendencies? Check those at the night table.
If you are a fan of correcting spelling mistakes, grammar faux pas, and the rules of punctuation, this type of writing may be difficult for you. In fact, professional editors, proofreaders, and writers seem to be the most troubled by creating their Morning Pages. It seems almost cruel to ask a person who is used to structuring their ideas in a way that flows, brings the reader to an end conclusion through careful steps, and needs to be very conscious of the proper word choices, to leave their “work” uncorrected or unchanged. Due to the work responsibilities they are so used to, and usually analytical thinking process, a writer even just getting into the proper mindset to complete the daily free-flowing journal entries the minute that person wakes up is challenging.
There are many videos on YouTube made by creators who tried Morning Pages. Several of them went through a rough patch because of thoughts and feelings the writing exercise brought up. In the end, many made their way to the other side of that, and decided to keep the practice as part of their routine; some continued on for a short time, but didn’t see enough benefits or felt it wasn’t a productive use of their time after all. Writing every morning per Cameron’s explicit instructions would tack on – if absolutely no interruptions or breaks – roughly 30 minutes to getting your day started, when using a handwriting estimate of 25 words per minute and considering it would take about 750 words total to fill up all 3 pages.
If anxieties are cast aside, the stream of consciousness approach can be emotionally and mentally freeing. Since no one is supposed to read the entries, whatever is on your mind can be cleared out, and in addition to increasing productivity, this may make room for forgiveness and healing – somewhat reminiscent of what a letter burning ritual is meant to do. Useful affirmations and intentions to set or reinforce might come out of this form of writing as well, since what we think about ourselves, what we want or need, or concerns and worries are often on our minds with each new day.
No excuses! No skipping! No stopping early! Lots of no-nos.
There are several “rules” involved with Morning Pages. For example, if there are creative blocks, or the three pages aren’t filling up for whatever reason, she urges these issues be dealt with in the journal entries – even if the problem that day is a lack of desire to write. In fact, Cameron even shares that writing the Morning Pages is even more critical when there is no interest whatsoever in writing. Rachel Wilkerson Miller of BuzzFeed wrote an article titled “Here's Everything I Learned From Doing Morning Pages Every Day”, partially subtitled, “Yes, you really do have to write them *by hand*.” Throughout the piece, Rachel outlines some of the explicit and precise directions, including quotes from Julia Cameron:
- On why the pages cannot be typed: “Longhand pages give us details and the truth of how we feel emotionally. Accuracy is what we are after, not velocity.”
- On why they must be written first thing in the morning: “To catch yourself before your ego’s defenses are in place. We are after candor — that, and specificity. We want to know how you really feel about your life.”
Rules are made to be broken though. And while Julia Cameron created the method and what the best way to do it is, people who write their Morning Pages have come up with ways to make the concept work with time and other constraints. Life Coach Edwin Soriano, for example, made the following adjustments:
- Instead of writing immediately upon waking up, he showers, does some reading, then completes his Morning Pages for the day; or he writes them in the evening.
- Because typing is faster, he “writes blind” (as he calls it) in the Evernote app on his laptop, and “blacks out” the monitor; one time he even did an audio recording.
Soriano also shared that the first 5-10 days might seem “just sooo boring…so tedious”, and to enter that feeling in the pages, but around day 20 or 30, “you will start to feel the *need* to write your morning pages. You will feel as if your mind *needs* to release its thoughts into words…”. He also credits Morning Pages with getting him back into writing on his three blogs, becoming “more focused and purposeful…more outspoken, more expressive…and solving problems and breaking through obstacles”. Clearly, Morning Pages has made a positive difference for him!
About Morning Pages, in Julia Cameron’s Own Words
- “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, our negativity, of our moods.”
- Morning pages are about tuning out our inner critic. “We learn to hear our censor’s comments and say, simply, ‘Thank you for sharing,’ while we go right on writing. We are training our censor to stand aside and let us create.”
- “The pages may seem dull to you, even pointless, but they are not. Remember that they are not intended to be ‘art.’ They pave the way for art. Each page you write is a small manifesto. You are declaring your freedom — freedom from your Censor, freedom from negativity in any quarter.”
- “The morning pages teach logic brain to stand aside and let artist brain play.”
- “Write your pages daily and be open to their suggestions.”
Have you tried Morning Pages? If not, do you think you will? Do you do a different journaling exercise? To learn more about Morning Pages, visit Julia Cameron’s website. Both The Right to Write and The Artist's Way, two of Cameron’s books, have Morning Pages listed as one writing exercise among many meant to help stimulate and inspire creativity.