Morning Pages Revisited

In daily use the Morning Pages described in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way serve as brain drain. They help you take all the extraneous detail – the stuff that Cameron insists stands between you and your creativity – and put it on the page. On a daily basis this can be quite helpful, but what can we learn from the pages over time? Armed with two different coloured pens I read the morning pages and noted two things – insights and action items. I can’t begin to tell you what a fascinating exercise this proved to be. The trends were quite obvious. Infact I think they can probably be seen from space. From the mundane (practically every entry started with some variation of ‘Oh my god, it’s so cold’) to the profound, the morning pages had my number.

Killing Me Slowly…
One of the most disconcerting things to be revealed through the morning pages was about my health. I was unwell more often than I was well. Coughs, cold and flu symptoms, small things certainly but scarcely did a day go by that I didn’t make reference to some ailment. ‘I need to eat better, exercise’ was a reoccuring mantra. And at one point I found myself admitting that while I knew I should look after myself, I didn’t really ‘see the point.’

The Proof Is In The Project
I was amazed reading through the pages at how many insights I had about my project Heartbroken and Grieving. I say this mostly because when I would actually sit down to write this thing I felt an overwhelming feeling that I had no idea what I was doing or what I was trying to achieve. It was quite shocking to see the detail I go into about it in the course of the morning pages. It was quite heartening, actually. I’m going to take all my notes, collate them and attempt to piece the project together once more.

Global Confidence Crisis
There’s a lot – and I want to stress a lot – of space devoted to fears about writing, not writing, being creative, not being creative, and not being much of a writer. I (somewhat ironically) write about wanting to write but feeling too terrified to start lest I discover I’m actually more of a hack than a writer. (In a similar vein I wax lyrically about why it has taken so long to start pre-production for season two of the JOJCAST podcast.) But there are also moments where I rejoice at how good it feels to actually write and how I discover that I’m not nearly as awful and talentless as I imagine. Sadly these appear much less frequently.

Action Items = Instant To-Do List!
I often feel directionless. I probably shouldn’t though. My morning pages provide literally pages and pages of things I could (and perhaps should) be doing. I allude to ‘cleaning up’ a lot. (Maybe one day.) There is also a reoccuring suggestion that I should probably get around to banking ‘that cheque’ and all that loose change. There is talk of things I would like to do more often (make web videos, photography) and very specific dreams I have (live in Brisbane for a month, and in Melbourne for a month).

All in all the morning pages have helped me articulate my thoughts and my desires, and build a bit of a map for the future.

5 comments… add one
  • wow. and add to that you’ve got some more ideas for the ms. excellent!

  • I wonder if this idea could work with drawing?

  • Greg,

    Julia Cameron seems to think so. She writes in The Artist’s Way:

    A final assurance: the morning pages will work for painters, for sculptors, for poets, for actors, for lawyers, for housewives – for anyone who wants to try anything creative. Don’t think they are a tool for writers only.

    You can download a free PDF of the Basic Tools (Morning Pages, Artist Dates).

    I would highly recommend checking it out.

  • I am restarting my Morning Pages and am wondering if I should add little sketches or if I will keep a sketch diary as a separate exercize. I am a painter and I am fairly active in my sketch pad. Are there any painters out there who have tried to combine drawing with the Morning Pages?

    • Jim,

      For me it is just about filling three pages. Quite often when words don’t seem to ‘come’ I scribble or draw or sketch. I think it’s a perfectly valid way of getting started. Just keep moving the pen – or pencil – across the pages.

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