In a previous post, I mentioned morning pages; if you’re not familiar with the idea, this is what it’s all about.
The term “morning pages” comes from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. This is an inspirational book for anyone interested in exploring creativity, or who feels their creative impulse is floundering. I was first introduced to morning pages by the playwright Sebastian Bacziewicz (Bonch-kay-a-vich), and I’ve found them incredibly useful – possibly even transformational. They’ve become a daily ritual.
I’ve discovered some of my most important ideas, and written some of my best scenes in my morning pages
Morning pages are private writing. In a world that seems to revolve around sharing and likes and validation by others, not everything has to be, or should be shared. In fact you might not even re-read your morning pages yourself – I don’t. I sometimes mark in the margin where something I want to act upon arises, but other than that, once they’re done, they’re done.
This kind of writing, writing that’s just for you, will be some of the most important you do, because you can tell those pages anything. You can express yourself in any way you wish as you translate complex thoughts into language. Fully appreciating what that means, and the opportunity the process offers for self-discovery and expression, can be revelatory. I’ve discovered some of my most important ideas, and written some of my best scenes in my morning pages.
There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing’. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only… Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page.
– Julia Cameron
Here’s the lowdown.
When: write your morning pages as soon as possible after waking up. If possible, don’t leave it longer than 45 minutes, as after this time your conscious mind will be taking over the subconscious. Some people keep a notebook by the bed; I get dressed and brush my teeth, then do my pages before I take our dog for a walk. They take me about 20 minutes. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or neatness: these simply aren’t relevant to this writing, and the ability to abandon these concerns is an important part of morning pages’ benefits.
Where: sit somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed, and write three sides, long-hand, in a notebook. As an American, Cameron suggests US letter size; others suggest that A4 is a good UK alternative; Bacziewicz said A5, which is what I’ve been doing. For me, three sides of A5 was enough to get warmed up, but not so much that I started to force the words. If you’re new to morning pages, I’d suggest that three sides of A5 is plenty. However, I’ve recently started writing five sides of A5 each morning. This takes about half an hour. I find the extra space allow more thoughts to come through. To begin with, though, I’d still recommend three sides.
How: just write. Try not to think or steer the writing. Just allow yourself to sink into the paper and keep the words flowing. As Cameron points out, your morning pages may be repetitive or self-indulgent – it doesn’t matter; just let the writing appear. If your mind wanders, simply write the words and so it goes over and over again until your subconscious finds its way to something else – because it will. Just keep the pen or pencil moving, and write anything that comes to mind. Don’t stop until you’ve filled those three pages.
giving yourself permission to write absolutely anything can be difficult at first
I usually end on a few sentences of self-affirmation, reminding myself who I am, what I am, what’s important to me, the positive things in my life, or what I’d like to see happen. Those final lines ensure I end on a positive note regardless of what’s found its way on to the pages beforehand: sometimes this writing can go to unexpected places.
Opening your mind and giving yourself permission to write absolutely anything can be difficult at first. It’s also true that morning pages don’t work for everyone. However, many academic studies support the benefits of regular expressive writing. When I first started morning pages I didn’t find the process easy. I used a notebook with fairly wide-spaced lines and wrote in large letters, because I didn’t want to run out of things to say. I also wrote and so it goes a lot.
Now I use a notebook with narrow lines, write small, and never run out of words, even with the extra couple of sides. Through this writing I’ve gained insights into what’s on my mind, approaches to projects, useful text, first draft material that I’ve used in scripts or blog posts, notes and ideas of all kinds. In fact Think Feel Write may be the result of morning pages. Just get a notebook and pen, and see what your mind reveals.
I’m a novelist and scriptwriter, Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow and Advisory Fellow, workshop lead and creative coach. Click here to get the lowdown on updates, insight into projects, and a look behind the scenes on creative stuff. You can also follow TFW on Twitter, or like the Facebook page.