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What Are Morning Pages?
I first read about morning pages in Julia Cameron’s famous book, The Artist’s Way. The concept is brilliant in its simplicity: before your day begins, free-write three pages in a journal, notebook, or if neither of those options is available, you could even use three scrap pieces of paper. The catch is, you can’t think too hard about what you’re writing. This is critical for morning pages to work properly, but it’s especially hard as a writer to not worry about punctuation or subject matter.
It took me a few attempts when I first started doing morning pages, but after making it a habit, it became easier to ignore my inner critic who worried too much about the quality of my simple journaling. If I didn’t know what to write on a particular morning, sometimes I would simply write, “I have nothing to say,” until the words finally came pouring out. This has been especially useful on days when I have writer’s block (more on this later.)
The second component to making morning pages work is to not immediately read what you have written that morning. Let it rest. In her book, Julia Cameron suggests not reading your journal for several weeks. I’m glad I followed that advice. After weeks had passed since I wrote my first entries, it made it easier for me to have a clearer perspective about how I was feeling at the time of the writing. For example, it’s much easier to read about a difficult time you went through after weeks have passed rather than too soon when the pain is still raw. It’s true that some things will still hurt, but at least for me, I found it to be therapeutic to revisit old entries.
The final, vital part of making morning pages work is to make it a habit. They work so much better if you make it a part of your morning routine. You have more material to work with later when you do actually read the pages and it becomes easier to write without worry the more you do morning pages. It’s also important to eventually read the pages to see if there are any recurring thoughts or themes that you need to address. You may find in your pages that you have a project you want to start or changes in your life that you want to make. Reviewing your morning pages can be a very helpful tool for goal setting.
How Morning Pages Have Helped Me
When I made my first attempts at morning pages, I was skeptical. I have always loved journaling, but at the time, I didn’t think that I would have much to say right after waking up. I felt silly writing, “I have nothing to say,” or complaining about whatever what bothering me for three solid pages if I woke up in a bad mood. But then a curious thing happened after a while: my morning pages were starting to flow more easily. Suddenly, it was as if someone had opened the gates to my subconsciousness and I wrote about things, both good and bad, that I didn’t even realize were weighing on me. It was an eye-opening experience to review those entries, and it helped me make necessary changes in my life to feel happier and more fulfilled.
While I’m still very much a work in progress, it gives me peace of mind to use my morning pages as a safe place for me to check in with how I’m feeling. Not every entry is filled with profound meaning, but they still serve a secondary purpose that has also helped me tremendously. Making it a habit to free-write every day before any other writing takes place has reduced my writer’s block. It feels good being able to write without any sort of pressure of it being good or meaningful. It almost feels like clearing the cobwebs from my mind, and I’m much more relaxed when I sit down to write later on in the day.
Expectation vs Reality
When I picture doing my morning pages, I envision waking up early to a sleeping, peaceful household, making myself an iced coffee, and sitting down to leisurely do my morning pages. The reality is, that isn’t going to happen during the particular season of life that I’m in. I have two young children, a 3-year-old and a breastfeeding baby that still occasionally wakes up for nighttime feedings. On top of that, I have never been a morning person. The idea of waking up early when I’m already tired horrifies me. Here is my typical routine:
- Wake up to the alarm clock (or more likely, my youngest wakes me up, wanting to eat.)
- Make my iced coffee. This step is essential. If I don’t have my coffee, I won’t be able to get anything done.
- If my husband has to go to work, I make breakfast. Otherwise, on his days off, my husband usually makes breakfast for everyone while I feed the baby.
- After breakfast, I set a timer on my phone for 10 minutes. My oldest knows that when I have my timer set to keep himself entertained while I write unless he needs help. I’m very lucky that he’s so sweet about it. When I’m writing, he says, “Momma’s coloring.”
- When I’m all done, it’s back to reality as a stay-at-home mother to my little ones until their nap time, which I use as my primary writing time.
More often than not, I’m writing my morning pages with my baby across my lap while my oldest is playing nearby, sometimes loudly, but always enthusiastically. It may not be the ideal, tranquil way that Julia Cameron intended, but doing my pages does give me clarity about my needs and what I want to accomplish for the day. Maybe someday, when my children are older, I will do my morning pages the proper way. For now, this works for me, and I’ll enjoy my little bit of extra sleep in the morning.
Make Morning Pages Work For You
Keeping in mind that I don’t do my morning pages exactly the proper way, here are a few practical tips for finding time to write your own pages:
- Instead of checking your email or social media first thing in the morning, write your pages. It’s amazing how easy it is to fall down the rabbit hole of mindlessly scrolling. You may even find you have more time in the morning if you don’t check email or social media during breakfast.
- Before you go to bed at night, set your notebook or journal out where you plan on using it in the morning. Make it a convenient location- you don’t want to hunt down your materials every day.
- If you are running short on time in the mornings, consider setting your alarm clock ten to fifteen minutes early. You shouldn’t need more than a few minutes to free-write. (I know this is advice I will never take myself, but maybe it will help out one of you, my readers.)
- If mornings are truly too chaotic for you to even think about writing, consider making your morning pages your nightly pages and write them at bedtime as a way to unwind. You could also spend part of your lunch break writing your pages as a midday check-in, but take care to guard your privacy if you choose this route. You don’t want to worry about co-workers peeking over your shoulders while you’re writing. I would suggest only doing this in your car or if you have your own office where you can write undisturbed and as a last resort if you have no other free time.
More About the Artist’s Way
I could easily go on about how much The Artist’s Way helped me get through a terrible creative slump. In fact, it will probably be the focus of a future blog post. If you are interested in reading more about finding or rediscovering your creativity, I highly recommend this book! If you purchase a copy through my link, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I’ve also included links to journals that I have loved using if you want to keep your morning pages in a beautiful home.