Last month, I talked about the artist’s date, one of the two key practices recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. This month, I’d like to talk about her second key practice: morning pages.
The idea is simple enough. As soon as you roll out of bed in the morning, pick up a pen and write three pages, longhand, about whatever comes to mind. Then put them away. No re-reading, no polishing – just write whatever’s at the top of your head when you first get up, and put them away. Then the next day, do the same thing. And again. Every day.
I’ve found that this concept sometimes confuses writers. We tend to think that if we’re writing, we ought to be working on our WIPs. So what are morning pages for, if not for plotting your novel? And if you can’t go back and read them, what’s the point of doing them?
The point is to clear your brain of all the junk that’s been getting in the way of working on your WIP. I never used my morning pages for keeping track of story ideas or conversing with my characters – or anything else, really, related to my writing. Instead, my pages were chock-full of whining and complaints. Occasionally, I recounted a dream I’d had. Often, I included a to-do list, in narrative form, of mundane stuff I needed to accomplish that day.
Interestingly enough, writing those pages helped me both to get organized, and to clear space in my life for being creative.
So what happens to these pages you write but never get to read? Eventually, you will get to review them. Nine weeks into the program, one of the assignments is to pull out all of your morning pages and look them over. Cameron recommends you do this with two different-colored highlighters in hand – one for insights and the other for actions you need to take. Your pages will give you a road map of your subconscious – both of the things that are holding you back, and of the progress you have made.
You should also take time to acknowledge that you’ve given yourself a gift. Writing morning pages allows you to ramble, to vent, and even to dream – all without criticism or judging. They’re a safe place for your thoughts. And after you’ve reviewed them and gleaned what information you can from them, you throw them away.
I have renewed the practice of writing morning pages a few times since I worked through The Artist’s Way. The last time I did them regularly, I typed them on the computer, which Cameron does not recommend. But it seemed to work okay for me. And I’m all for doing whatever you will stick with, so that you get the full benefit from the practice – so you can clear the psychic space around you and do your best creative work.
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