The’Morning Pages’ have been my refuge, my place to cry, my thought organiser, my decision helper, and my main method of offloading and processing how I feel for nearly 18 years now. Over the past year I have adapted them into nightly pages instead. This seems to also stop me from browsing on my phone before sleep – something that never helps me and yet I automatically reach for the phone as soon as I get into bed.
“Write three pages, longhand if possible, on A4 paper”Julia Cameron
Morning pages – what are they?
The morning pages technique comes from Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way‘. The book’s main purpose is to help you get back to your creative self, free from the suffocating hands of criticism and self-doubt. She sets out a 12-week programme for recovering this part of you but there are two main techniques that are a core part of each week’s task; The Morning Pages, and The Artist Date. Morning pages are 3 sides of (preferably A4-sized) pages of free writing, written long-hand. We are instructed to start by dumping words onto the page until something comes. It’s even fine to start with “I don’t know what to write, this is useless, I don’t feel like writing…”. Just keep going until you find a thread of something else to take you off on a tangent. The pages become a way of not only offloading, but starting to see what is within and processing any self-doubting thoughts, or critical comments. Unpacking feelings and judgments, and starting to see the possibilities if you want to look for them. They are a way to confront your blocks, to sit with them and see what is behind them.
In the original book Julia spoke of how she keeps hers for 12 weeks and then burns them. She didn’t look back over them once written they were of no use to her as her mind had already moved to a different place. She has softened this view now and often will check back to see themes and ideas that had come out. I think this is a personal choice. For me, my memory issues mean that I keep mine so as to not forget and to have a resource for writing. I also know that our brain’s can only keep in mind a certain amount of information at any one time and so there is a lot of archive material in our mental vaults. Just like in the film ‘Inside Out’ where long-term memory was a vast space, some information filed so it is easy to retrieve, but some information lost forever because the ‘tags’ are missing. Memory is a library, but the strength of any library is in how we find what is there.
Try the Morning Pages
Have you got a bit of time to yourself right now? Just a few mins is fine. Get a pen and a sheet of paper, don’t worry what size it is right now. Start writing out the first thing that comes to mind, or just let your pen move across the page and see where it goes. The point is not to try too hard to think about what to write first, just let your hand write something and go with that. If you are someone who doodles, then doodle. Some of us draw shapes and visuals rather than words and that is just as valid a way of expressing yourself and offloading.
Keep going. When you feel like you come to a stop. Keep going. This might be where you find you are a bit stuck for what to say. If this feels frustrating then let that out. “I really have nothing to say now”, “I just want to stop now there’s nothing, blah blah blah blah, this is useless, grrrrr what the hell am I doing I should just stop this! Aaarrrghhh, god I feel really worked up now, okay what is the point of this what the hell!!!”
Keep going. This is where writing by hand starts to produce something different to typing. When we type we are concerned with typing correctly, making sentences, using full stops. When we are mark-making with a pen and by hand we can doodle, and scrawl, and cross out and not make any sense with words if we want, this is where the expression starts to happen.
It is in this halfway point of feeling like I’ve reached the end and have nothing to say that I find I can get down to a deeper level – but I have to let myself write rubbish first, sometimes swear, sometimes scrawl and doodle too. Try it. Keep going at this point and see what happens. If you feel annoyed, or stressed, or sad even, notice this. Notice this feeling in your body and write about how this feeling feels.