I learned about morning pages during a songwriting workshop I took a few years ago. The technique was developed by Julia Cameron, and she teaches the method in her book The Artist’s Way. She talks about it here.
Morning pages "teaches broken and frightened artists to get back onto the path of creativity and away from the fear that holds them back." (Little Coffee Fox Blog)
I personally found the daily exercise a great help in clearing out mental cloudiness and distractions, and it helped me set my focus for the day toward whatever I intended to do--writing, editing, or developing a new book concept. I can testify to what freewriting three pages first thing each morning can do.
What Are Morning Pages?
Three pages, handwritten, first thing in the morning about literally whatever crosses your mind. You wake up, reach over to your nightstand and grab your favorite journal (I have one specifically set aside for morning pages), a favorite pen, and write whatever comes to your mind--prayers, worries, lists, things you forgot to do, how you feel at that moment--angry, happy, tired, hopeful, afraid... Three pages. That's it. No editing. No crafting. No creativity. Just stream-of-consciousness type of writing. Then you go about your day as normal. This exercise can do amazing things for your writing life.
Morning Pages and Me
When I first started writing morning pages, the exercise felt pointless to me. I have always journaled in some way or another and didn’t really think I was at any loss for words, but morning pages showed me something different.
It’s an intentional pump-priming exercise that showed me I had “lucked out” on some of the tasks I had been accomplishing and getting great credit for. I was sort of on autopilot. But could I do better than that?
Over time sludge had set into my creative space, and I hadn’t noticed it. Upon writing these three pages first thing in the morning, I was able to see what was in my mind that needed to be let out, canceled, rethought, prayed about, developed more, investigated further, and so on.
Morning Pages Help Me Generate New Ideas
In those first few days, I pushed through the initial feeling of “this won't work,” and I found in those early morning moments solutions to challenges I was dealing with or prompts for further writing discoveries or concepts to build on. I would circle words and phrases that I wanted to come back to later. I would take those words and phrases into my editing or writing assignments, explore them, and then use them if they turned into a viable concept. It was really cool.
Being able to rethink concepts that have been written about for centuries and develop new ways of saying old things are at the center of what I do every day, and I need a clear, positive mind to do it. Morning pages got me back on track. Morning pages is a way for me to prime my creative pump and to break past any blockages.
Morning Pages Seven-Day Challenge
Maybe you’ve been wrestling with writer’s block or wondering if you should be writing at all. Maybe you can’t seem to home in on your purpose in the writing world as it seems like everyone has everything covered. Maybe you tell yourself day after day, “I’ll start writing today,” but you don’t for whatever reason makes sense at the time. Well, I challenge you to try out the morning pages basic writing technique for one week, seven days. Make it a part of your morning ritual. Before anyone in the house wakes up, get up and write. Three pages. Whatever is on your mind. And stop. For seven days. No excuses. You can do it. Then come back and tell me how you think it’s working for you.
Maybe you’ll go seven days more. Three sets of seven days and you will have formed a healthy daily writing habit.