When I was struggling through a very difficult time in my life, I stumbled upon Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I was and still don’t consider myself a spiritual person—at least not in a religious sense, but when I started writing what Cameron calls “morning pages,” I did indeed go through a process of self-discovery in ways I had not done before. The daily writing process helped me face and overcome some fears and challenges I was experiencing at the time by freeing my mind of useless worry and anxiety.
“Working with morning pages, we began to sort through the differences between real feelings, which are often secret, and our official feelings, those on the record for public display.”
In her book, Cameron advocates producing at least three pages of writing a day, in longhand, and in a strictly stream-of-conscious flow—with no concern for grammar, spelling, or continuity. I contend morning pages can also be typed, but more about that a little later.
The process of morning pages is about unloading your mind on paper. You may begin writing about how the current morning is no different from the previous morning, or the morning before that. As you add a few more sentences, you may start scribbling words about how you hate your job, or how good it was to run into an old friend.
The topic you begin writing about may fill up three pages, but if it doesn’t, it’s not a concern. If your writing leads you to another topic, follow it. You might write about three topics one morning, and five topics another. You may find yourself at first writing about why morning pages don’t make sense, but yet several sentences later you’re unpacking what’s keeping you from accomplishing a particular goal, or breaking away from a failing relationship. When you feel blocked, you don’t stop writing; instead, you write, “I don’t know what else to write about. I guess I could write about…”
Often what you write in morning pages, Cameron says, will be “negative, frequently fragmented, and often self-pitying, repetitive, stilted or babyish, angry or bland.” Exactly! In your morning pages, you don’t read back over what you write. You don’t correct misspelled words. You don’t even need a period at the end of each sentence. You just need thoughts pouring out of that brain of yours. No one is going to read what you write. You’re not writing a blog post, or a Facebook message. You don’t stop to read back over what you’re writing, because you’re too focused on releasing what’s on your mind through the writing. And you’re not necessarily pushing for coherent meaning, but instead letting thoughts and meaning emerge. In the free flow of writing, the process pulls out thoughts and feelings in the caves and minefields of your mind. You seek to stop worrying about being judged, and judging others, and focus instead on the real you—whatever and whomever that might be.
I recommend starting morning pages when you can be most devoted to it for a stretch of time. Push to keep up the process for at least a month. Cameron calls morning pages a “tool for creative recovery.” I agree with her contention, that is if creative recovery is what you’re searching for. Her book is about that subject. But I discovered morning pages to be a way of relaxing the mind and working through the personal and social challenges of life.
I have not done morning pages for several years now, but I still use the tool in my journal writing today. There are times when I turn to my Day One journal to write about what’s making feel angry or sad, just to process how my day is going.
The act of writing out your emotions can be a comforting process. It’s like when thoughts are written down, they are left there on paper or in your text editor, and you don’t have to keep worrying about things you can’t immediately change or solve.
Typing Morning Pages
Of course, with a digital journal like Day One, there are no pages to complete, but there are a number of words to write. Writing 675-750 words equals approximately three pages of long-handed writing. You can click the info button after an entry is saved to see its word count.
But unlike other journal entries in Day One, morning pages are not really for re-reading. Avoid doing that. Concentrate on the writing and what emerges as you write. Don’t look back. Look forward. Use writing to start or end your day. Do morning pages daily for at least a month and see what difference it makes.
If you rather not do stream conscious writing in Day One, you might find 750words.com a better option. It’s a free online application for typing 750 words per day, and all your writing is kept totally private. The application will keep track of and report your writing accomplishments. This type of writing is a great way to build writing fluency if you struggle to get words on paper. It’s alway a way to write and not be concerned about the content ever being read. It’s as if you’re writing on sheets of paper and then deposing of them in a paper shredder. Read Peter Elbow’s classic, Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process, about how this type of writing can build your writing skills.
I used the 750words.com to learn the voice-to-text software, Dragon Dictation. I voice dictated 750 words per day for several weeks to get comfortable with writing dictation, and of course write morning pages. If I ever do strict morning pages again, I would use this site, because its purpose is for strictly writing and not publishing what you write for others to read.