Morning pages: A daily creative jump start

This is one of my favorite morning rituals…one that I have been doing on and off for over 10 years: Morning Pages.

I found it in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I know she’s talked about it in many of her other books. Googling “morning pages” gets all kinds of great results too, and this site was full of helpful hints.

It works like this:

First thing in the morning – still in bed even – reach over and grab your ragged notebook and writing instrument (I love a good smooth pen). Start writing, three longhand pages of whatever is traveling through your mind. Don’t stop until you get to the end – 30 minutes later give or take. Try not to get interrupted.

The idea is to dump all the chaos of that morning out-of-control mind onto those pages. Just get it down and out of the way so you can really get your creative juices pumping.

When I started, I found that if I didn’t get out of bed, I’d be asleep half a page in. Sometimes a quarter. So I’d have some water and nestle in a chair. You wouldn’t believe the lively curses that I could muster some days. The boring drone of complaints and annoyances. Mostly about relationships and money and the combination thereof, interjected with heavy doses of self criticism. My dreams would come by here and there for a visit. Sometimes I’d repeat myself over and over: “I’m tired. I don’t know what to write.”

Then, something happened. Sheer inspiration. Flowing from my pen, first thing in the morning. Stories, images, ideas. I would dance as I wrote, or at least, felt like I was dancing. Creativity flowed through my body and out my pen.

I don’t know – maybe I finally dumped enough sludge from my mind that interesting things could emerge. It didn’t matter to me…I could hardly wait to get to that page to see what might come out. What possibilities it might present for my day. If I decided to act on them, that is, and there was freedom in knowing I didn’t have to.

In fact, Julia Cameron recommends that you don’t do anything with those pages. That you write and store it away for months before you read it. If you ever read it at all. I cheated at that after it got really good, transcribing my inspirations to my computer right away (and I don’t regret it). But mostly, I let the negativity lie.

Once, I did pick up one of my old notebooks. I was bemused to see that some things hadn’t really changed. Still angry about the same things. Guess I can work on that a bit harder. And I was happy to see that some of them had changed…that I’d actually forgotten how much those things used to annoy me. I closed the books and returned them to their dusty shelf.

I have a few clients that I’ve encouraged toward the practice as well. Recently, one of them told me that after the first page of trivialities, she found herself listing all the things she was grateful for – a list that had grown substantially since she had found her joy.

I’ve heard of prayers emerging, business ideas, all kinds of inspiration. I think it comes from getting the mind out of the way and giving the deeper inner voice room to speak.

One last bit of advice before you jump in: At first, take it seriously. Do it everyday, in the morning, first thing. After that (could be a couple weeks, a couple months), don’t worry if you miss a day or two, or a few weeks. Get a feel for how it works best for you and follow that guideline instead.

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"You made my day yesterday. I'm still encapsulated in sunny-yellow, powerful warmth."  -Denise Lewis Premschak