This article is for people who are stuck in life, with a severe loss of self-confidence or for victims of trauma, which impact their ability to be creative and to realize what they want. The Morning Pages as a tool is a powerful method for processing deeply felt emotional issues and to slowly regenerate a feeling of confidence in one’s abilities.
The paradigmatic example is that of the stuck artist who can’t produce anything anymore, because they are totally wrapped up into a Gordian knot of emotional issues. This is often called the writer’s block or the syndrome of the white page, but it applies much more generally about any important situation where someone is stuck in life, getting nowhere, without a sense of direction.
For about 2 years going back 20 years ago, I applied the Morning Pages religiously, often getting up at 4 or 5 AM to write my 3 to 5 pages of stream-of-consciousness prose. By the time I quit, I had a dozen full 200-pages notebooks. In my late twenties, I had a lot of issues for which this stream-of-consciousness approach was helpful, like unresolved anger, feelings of desperation, and indeed being very stuck in life.
If you are stuck in a very dark corner of your life, this tool could well be for you.
What Are the Morning Pages?
It is a method developed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, with an accompanying workbook, and which she continued exposing in several other books, such as It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again. In very few words, The Morning Pages method consists in setting up an alarm at an early time each morning, and not yet out of the fog of sleep, to write quickly, without editing, everything that comes to mind, writing at least 3 pages, taking perhaps 20 to 45 minutes doing so. Then you go back to sleep or you get up as suits you.
It’s quite important that you do it just as you wake up, not wait until you’ve taken your coffee, or your shower, and even before you did your 5 Tibetan routine 😉 (Our much recommended morning exercise routine!)
The Artist’s Way is a wonderful book, that unfortunately contains a lot of spiritual stuff that is not my cup of tea, and hence I can only recommend it with some reserve. You don’t need to read it, you already have all the information to get started, and if you keep doing it for several weeks, or perhaps months, you’ll definitely experience solid progress, as I and many others have.
My key recommendation is that you set your alarm now for an early wake up tomorrow morning, 45 minutes ahead of your regular wake-up time, that you put an empty notebook and a pen by your bedside, and that you plan to do the Morning Pages exercise as soon as tomorrow morning, and the mornings after.
In our days of computers and notepads, it is not at all necessary for the exercise validity to actually do your writing on nice paper with a fancy fountain pen. If it works better for you, you may as well type it all on the electronic device of your choice, as long as you can type at least as fast as you write. If not, then please stick to the hand writing. If you’re using an electronic device, write for at least 20 or 30 minutes in order to write a sufficient amount of material each day.
However, if you were to experience a block with just getting started or with keeping going with the Morning Pages, that will sound like a sure sign that you need a deeper understanding of how the method works, and hence I believe you ought to read the book, for all its wonderful gems and wisdom, including great quotes of various thinkers and artists.
What Are the Benefits?
This method has many fervent followers, especially among writers and creative people, but as I emphasized at the beginning of this article, it can very much help anyone with a sense of being stuck. Its reported benefits include:
- Effective release and progress on very deep emotional issues, especially the kinds that are very difficult to address with conscious analysis, like rape, many forms of abuse, post-traumatic disorders, anger, etc.
- It gives the practitioner a sense of recovery in their own abilities. Actually, each chapter of the book is about a specific sense of recovery: safety, identity, power, integrity, possibility, abundance, connection, strength, compassion, self-protection, autonomy and faith.
- A clear sense of getting unstuck and moving forward with what you want and what is important to you.
An Example of Morning Pages
I opened one of my old notebooks at random and took a snapshot. On the left is the end of the previous morning, on the right is the beginning for that morning. Most of it is in English, but some is in French. Notice how packed the writing is. It’s very much a stream-of-consciousness: retelling the past day events, what I noticed then, planning the next day, expressing my worries, etc.
Why It Works?
As Julia Cameron puts it, the method doesn’t teach people to be creative, it lets them be creative, because we are all creative people to begin with, fundamentally.
She expresses the why and the how it works in terms of 10 principles, which I’ll summarize here in a couple of brief sentences: Creativity is the natural order of life, we all have it, and it’s safe to be creative. When we refuse to be creative, we run counter to our true natures. But when we let our creativity flow, we experience great changes and progress.
In summary, the Morning Pages work by inhibiting the censoring elements in ourselves, and liberating our creative energy.
The Artist Date
The Artist Date is a second tool besides the Morning Pages to help with building a sense of recovery. Essentially, it is just giving yourself alone some special quality time on a regular basis. She recommends 2 hours per week as a guideline.
If you’re living a busy life that lets you little time for yourself, then the exercise might be simply to just spend quiet time alone. On the other hand, if you’re already spending much time alone, you might need to find an activity that takes you further out of your habitual ways.
What activity would be the right one for you is highly personal and individual. You’re welcome to share your examples in the comments below!
Conclusion: the Morning Pages and the Artist Date
Here I wanted to tell you about a very effective method to dissipate deep emotional issues and get back on track with one’s life. It is a very simple method that consists in forcing yourself to write at least 3 pages without any censure or interruption every morning, as soon as you wake up. In addition, your are requested to schedule regular “Artist Dates” which help you rekindle your interests and passions.
I very much hope you will get started with this process as early as tomorrow morning. Whether you are or not, please let me know about your experience with it below, or any other question you may have.Social tagging: Creativity > Writing