Morning Pages – A Writing & Creativity Exercise

One of the things we hope to do with the shop and the blog is to encourage and inspire you to write more. Whether it’s writing letters, or writing in your journal, or writing creatively, I hope you can find the physical tools to inspire you, but that you can also read the blog and maybe find some small spark for your writing. So, when I stumbled across this, I couldn’t resist sharing. What a great exercise to try!

This is a tool designed by Julia Cameron, who writes and speaks on finding ways to build on your creativity and your thoughts.

From her website:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *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. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and
synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put
three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

The basic exercise is to write three pages in the morning, without stopping or thinking or pausing. I’m not sure if this is “first thing in the morning” like after you shower and have a coffee, or actually “first thing in the morning” like you roll out of bed and you start writing. I think I’m going to go with the first one, because I don’t think I could handle the latter.

But the idea is that whatever comes into your head makes it way out onto the page, even if it’s nonsense words or thoughts about chores. This ritual is designed to clear your head of any residual thoughts or distractions so you can focus for what’s at hand. I love how she says it’s to clear the cobwebs from all the crevices of your brain because I do find myself thinking about a million things at once.

I also find it really interesting that she suggests you become “acquainted with all the dark corners of your consciousness” because it really does give you an opportunity to think and write what you may have had at the back of your mind for a while but you haven’t actually thought directly about it. By writing it out, you may be able to just let it go, and clear your mind out of it.

It may be similar to how some people work best when they can clear off their desk or organize their workspace and just have the task at hand in front of them.

It’s interesting that people often get good ideas in the shower or while driving, because their active mind is focused on the task at hand, preventing their brain from getting too caught up in all the little stresses, and their “thinking” brain can start churning.

I am very, very, very fortunate that for the most part, Caleb goes to sleep in 1-2 minutes, sometimes more and sometimes less, but he generally goes down for his naps and at his bedtime without too much fuss. But during those 1-2 minutes of rocking, some of my best ideas occur to me! I have something in my arms to occupy the active part of my brain, while my thinking part can daydream and wander. Maybe Caleb has gotten used to having to go to sleep quickly because I need to rush out of his bedroom to write down my ideas…

But sometimes when you sit down to do something creative that requires thinking and time, like blog writing or creative writing or letter writing, often you can become distracted. This exercise is supposed to help you clear out some of those distractions, so you have a clear mind before you write or draw or just get on with your day. As a bonus, if you do this as a warm-up exercise before you begin writing, it’s a little easier to get started because you know you’re going to start with something that has no pressure, no need to write anything that’s going to be kept into eternity.

Lamy 2000 Wonder Pens Wonderpens.ca Blog Toronto Canada Writing Inspiration

When I was a teacher, I sometimes tried this stream of consciousness as a writing exercise for my students. I mainly used it to help students realize that sometimes you just have to start writing and stuff will come out of your brain! Some of it may be nonsense or garbage but you might get an idea or two out of there. But even if you don’t get any “real ideas” that you like, it will warm you up and get you writing. It was often hilarious to see what students would write, but also really, really interesting because sometimes students and I would both be so surprised to see what other students were really thinking about!

Julie Cameron’s idea of the morning pages is more to help cleanse your mind of everything by getting it out on the paper, which I imagine could be a bit therapeutic as well as helping you to clarify and prioritize and all the other things she describes.

Either way, I think one of the key takeaways here is that writing begets writing. Writing clears your head of gunk, it warms up your fingers and your brain, it spills ideas onto the page, even if most or all of them are nonsense. Another key takeaway might be that writing helps channel all of the random bits floating around your brain into letters and words and sentences, and can help warm up your brain to start percolating some of those million dollar ideas. Or just start percolating in general.

This would also be a great exercise to try if you’re someone who sometimes thinks about journaling, but then you don’t quite get to the state of actually writing in your journal. If you’re stuck on what to write in your journal, maybe because there’s sometimes an idea that your journal needs to be interesting or meaningful or important, you can take a scrap piece of paper and just start writing whatever pops into your head. It’s helpful to set a timer or a goal such as one page or three pages, so you don’t give up too easily, even if you stumble across one idea after 15 seconds of writing. You might be surprised at what thoughts are occupying your brain, and maybe that will be something you want to journal about.

One last point is this exercise is intended to be completed in longhand, writing by hand, rather than typing or dictating. While Julia Cameron doesn’t elaborate on this anymore than making the point to say it, I think the physical act of writing by hand does activate parts of your brain in a different and deeper way than just tapping away on a keyboard.

***

Additionally, while this is totally beside the point of the Morning Pages exercise, this is a good opportunity to really get a good writing sample of a pen so you can see if you truly like writing with it or that nib size or how the grip is. Sometimes you can write a few quick notes here and there but it’s not until you get a solid writing session in that you really find out how a pen suits you. But I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Julia Cameron had in mind when she designed this exercise. Although I’d like to imagine she might agree that it is important to have a writing tool that you really like…

3 thoughts on “Morning Pages – A Writing & Creativity Exercise

  1. Ted

    Somewhere I read an interview with Cameron, and her way of doing Morning Pages (MPs) went like this: Wake up, roll over, get out of bed. Walk to kitchen, pour coffee, (she makes it the night before and drinks it cold in the morning), walk to armchair, start writing.

    I first did MPs 3 years ago for about 6 months when I was planning a relocation, and they were amazingly helpful in a variety of ways. I moved, fell out of the practice. Then life was unravelling and I picked up the pen and notebook again to do MPs. Lasted about 1 month, because I found my mood and thinking so negative I needed to stop. MPs didn’t help me clear my mind; they gave me a fantastic vehicle in which to winge over and over and over. It set me up for a crummy day. But at least I knew what was bugging me.

    If I need to capture a thought or idea quickly, I record it on a 3×5 notecard, and sort it with all the other cards later, using a system I got from Daniel Levitan’s “The Organized Mind”. It’s turned out to be a great system for me. Often if I’m doing some focused journalling or on a phone call and an unrelated “to do” item pops into my mind, and it’s easy to put it on a card and get immediately back to the journalling or whatever. When that’s done I can put my attention to what’s on the card.

    Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with the Morning Pages exercise! It didn’t occur to me but I guess I can see how writing and focusing on negative things can compound rather than clear things in your mind.
      I will definitely have to look into Levitan’s “The Organized Mind” – I have ideas and notes on scraps on my desk and in notebooks and on post-it notes everywhere! Thanks for the tip 🙂

      Reply

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