‘Hi, how’re you today?’ a friend texted this morning.
‘I’m okayish, thanks. Woke up in a ‘fug’ from a deep early morning sleep, weird dream on the edge of my consciousness, half-remembered insights from it. Been chatting since with the child within – you know, usual Alison stuff.’
‘Your usual Alison stuff makes me chuckle. In a good way,’ she replied. I’m so lucky with my friends!
‘Ta. I’ve offloaded onto my morning pages now, so I’m good for the day ahead!’ I said.
‘What’s morning pages?’
What indeed are morning pages?
Something I’ve used pretty regularly since hearing about Julia Cameron’s bestselling ‘The Artist’s Way’ at a NAWE coaching course back in 2012. ‘You should give it a go,’ said fellow trainee Beverley Ward. ‘Yes, definitely,’ added another writer, overhearing our conversation, followed by the agreement of three or four others as they joined in the chat. So when I got home, I ordered the book and gave the idea a go.
Basically, morning pages are the practice of sitting down first thing in the morning and writing 3 pages of stream of consciousness in long hand. Every day. Forever. Then you park the pages somewhere, never to be looked at again. You can forget them, they’ve done their job.
It sounds like a waste of energy to spend time writing about ‘nothing in particular’ – time that, your rational brain might tell you, would be better spent on your work in progress. But it’s actually very useful. Very useful indeed.
Morning pages have helped me navigate redundancy-related anxiety, my marriage ending, empty-nest syndrome and, more recently, the death of my father. But they’ve also helped me work out my life purpose and my current career, what I’m good at and what I’m not, and to find out who I am and what I believe in. To become my authentic self on all levels. The latter is an an ongoing process, of course, and one I expect to continue with until my dying day, but I’m much, much further along with it than I would’ve been without morning pages.
Julia’s not the only one to recommend the practice: Natalie Goldberg talks about it, too, in ‘Writing Down the Bones,’ though she uses different terminology and isn’t as prescriptive about how much you should actually write. For her, the important thing is to establish a regular habit of writing the personal, of tapping into your own well, not least because doing so feeds into your creative stuff.
And I agree with her: I’ve found that writing morning pages flexes my writing muscles so well that they want to carry on ‘crafting’. Indeed, my having done them this morning is directly responsible for me having written a blog post today, because having already begun to ‘talk’ with my inner voice, I haven’t wanted to shut it up. Today it’s a blog that it wanted to put onto the page, but it so easily could’ve been work on my children’s book or memoir, or the beginnings of a poem that it was prompting me to write.
I sent a Huffington Post article to my friend to explain about morning pages and you can read about them in a blog by Julia Cameron herself here. But you don’t need to buy the book or course to be able to do it – it’s not rocket science. Just sit yourself down somewhere – anywhere – first thing in the morning with an A4 lined pad and write 3 pages in longhand of anything that comes into your head. Even if at first you’re just writing ‘I hate writing and I’ve no idea what to write’ over and over and over. Trust me, the good stuff will come, and if you do them for a long enough period of time, you’ll notice a shift in your perspective about many aspects of your life.
But even if you don’t, it’ll clear your head of the ‘fug’ for the day. As it has mine today. So I’m off to enjoy my day, now, in a much better mood than I would’ve if I hadn’t ‘done my pages.’