In late March, after being home for a few weeks, I purchased The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and began working through her 12-week program. It was perfect timing. I was embarking on a new creative project, and probably like many people, was emotionally adjusting to the newly placed restrictions. I hoped this morning ritual of writing Morning Pages would help me to feel more centered.
Although she wrote this book for all the “broken artists” out there trying to establish their voice, this teaching can help anyone seeking more peace and clarity in their lives.
What Exactly are Morning Pages?
Writing Morning Pages is a daily practice, and it’s straightforward. Cameron advises her students to sit down, first thing in the morning, with three blank pieces of paper or a spiral notebook and write down everything on your mind. Keep going until all three pages are filled. After that, she tells her students to place the pages, or journal, in a private space where no one will ever see them, not even you. She suggests that even you shouldn’t look back at them for at least eight weeks.
That’s it. Get up. Go to your desk with your paper. Write three pages full of notes. Put the notes away. Repeat the next day.
The commitment to getting up, setting aside the time, and sitting down to write is a crucial part of the practice. The act of committing requires us to override negative moods and resistance. No matter how you are “feeling” about getting up to write your pages, you get up and do it anyway. Try committing to this practice on a deep level.
How Does This Work?
Stream of consciousness writing involves pouring everything onto the page while reserving all judgment.
I have found the stream of consciousness writing fascinating and very healing. When I sit down to write, I have one thing on my mind. Yet, by the time I’m halfway down page one, something else comes up, and I write about that. Many times my pages sound very whiny and negative. “I’m so frustrated that my package hasn’t arrived.” It can be very petty and trivial! I often find myself venting about feeling trapped in the house during quarantine, frustrated that I haven’t finished taking this course or that course, etc. Cameron says,
“There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing.”
There seems to be a serious science in writing exactly 3 pages. At first, looking at the three blank pages, I sometimes think, “there is no way I will be able to fill these.” Sure enough, I feel momentum begin to flow when I get started. It’s almost like this other voice that always wants to be heard. When given the space to express itself, it really goes to town!
What Actually Happens
The subjects change quickly. I jump from topic to topic, and then I sometimes go back and explore a subject more thoroughly.
Sometimes I will find myself writing something with a lot of emotional charges. I find it helpful to dive in and write and describe everything I’m feeling. My writing may pick up speed as I’m diving into an angsty area. I feel each word connect to an emotion I’m feeling, and by writing it down, I’m allowing the feeling to unravel onto the page.
Some days, I will get to some more clear thinking beyond that. I will have a strong positive emotional expression, where I write about how excited I am about this or that. Sometimes I will have a breakthrough of sorts. I feel excited and hopeful about possibilities I hadn’t noticed before.
A Core Belief Behind Morning Pages
Cameron calls that persistently negative voice in our heads “the Censor.” She states that the Censor stands between our connection to our pure, artistic selves. It constantly says, “you aren’t good enough. You are crazy to attempt that!” It’s that negative voice that judges and ridicules us continuously. Cameron states,
“All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity.”
It’s more than just the negative thoughts I might have about missing gathering with friends or venting about the earring I lost last week. It’s shining a light on our conditioned minds. When I write things down, I’ll somethings think – where did this belief come from? I discover it’s from a decision I made about myself when I was four years old. These old, conditioned thoughts need to breathe and move on.
The process of writing through the swirling of thoughts in our minds holds the key to bypassing the Censor and accessing our truest, most powerful self. It’s like the image of clouds obscuring the sun that suddenly break, and we see the sun shining down. When we can peel layers away, we can glimpse a happy, hopeful, trusting, and loving version of ourselves that doesn’t take everything quite so seriously.
Morning Pages as Meditation
Cameron compares Morning Pages to meditation. When we meditate, we try to access that centered stillness within. We try to quiet our minds and find our center. Morning Pages attempts to achieve the same thing but in a more actionable way. When we write, we are bearing witness to our thoughts.
Our consciousness becomes aware of the thoughts and feelings that flow through. By writing, we can begin to untangle those thoughts’ grip, recognizing them as being exactly what they are- conditioned thoughts.
Accessing this part of ourselves, which is always there and waiting to be heard, is an ultimate joy. We can feel freedom, joy, creativity. Solutions to things we’ve been struggling to find may now come to us effortlessly.
Morning Pages also bring us into the now. Our pages have our full attention when we sit down to write. This is also a helpful, meditative quality we benefit from when we write.
Writing Every Day is a Practice of Self-Love
I have read a lot lately about the connection between self-love and self-discipline. When you think about the old phrase, “actions speak louder than words,” we can see that it’s our behaviors, choices, and actions that prove our commitment to ourselves, to self-love, just like residents at an ashram. They rise early and sit in meditation. Having this kind of discipline is an act of self-love. You do it – no matter what.
Also, there is a committed level of tolerance and support. It is the opposite of self-abandonment, where I may dismiss the nagging thoughts I have or even judge myself for having them. I’m committed to sticking with myself, allowing whatever I think or feel to be expressed on paper. Emotions move and flow, and there is a tangible release of energy. Cameron states,
“Morning pages do get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods.”
I come out of the experience with a clearer mind and often some unique insights that I had previously not known. Sometimes I feel positive and hopeful. Other times I feel more aware, like I understand myself and my thoughts. Both outcomes are empowering.
By writing and peeling away the layers, I can begin to access a clear mind that already “knows” the answer to that pressing question that’s been on my mind. Maybe it’s an inner guru or a wise woman that’s buried deep inside. Either way, I can access a more sane, loving version of myself. What could be more worthwhile?
So, why not give it a try? Put a date on your calendar and begin a 30-day practice. Commit to 10-15 minutes of writing each morning. See how you feel, and let us know!
For now, good morning and happy writing!
For another great practice in self-love, try looking here.