The Morning Pages will unleash your creativity and unlock your mind, allowing ideas to come out and expand. What is this strange tool, and why does it work so well? You might think it’s something extremely complex, but it’s not.
It might be one of the simplest, most effective tools you can use to not only unleash your creativity and help it flourish but also cruise through times when you feel blocked or uninspired.
We all have those moments, so I suggest you check out this tool that can help you as it has helped thousands before you.
The Creative Process
We don’t all feel creative. The way we view our creativity depends on our upbringing, experiences, values, and beliefs. Sometimes that thought is subconscious, but it’s always there.
For example, I grew up in a creative home — both my parents are architects — but I grew up not feeling particularly creative throughout my childhood. Later on, when I started writing, that thinking shifted, and now I feel creative. Perhaps, I’ve always been.
In contrast, some people always appear creative naturally, even if they haven’t been exposed to anything mainly related to art. You can see it in children from an early age. The propensity for exact sciences versus art is undeniable. As we grow older, it’s only later that the border between those two concepts gets muddled.
The question then becomes, is there a way to tickle our creativity and excite it long enough to come out, regardless of how we see ourselves on the creativity spectrum?
In comes Julia Cameron.
Julia Cameron — The Creator of Morning Pages
Julia Cameron was born in 1948 in a suburb of Chicago, and in her early years, she was a writer for the Washington Post and Rolling Stone Magazine. From 1976 until 1977, she was married to movie director Martin Scorsese.
Today, her official Wikipedia page lists her as an American teacher, author, artist, poet, playwright, novelist, filmmaker, composer, journalist, and pigeon fancier. I had to research what the latter meant, as this is indeed the very first time I’d heard the term.
In any event, Julia’s life was not without ups and downs. During the seventies, she began abusing drugs and alcohol, which led to different stages of psychosis and paranoia. She later detailed this dark period of her life in her memoir, Floor Sample.
By 1978, Julia realized that the path she was on not only was leading her away from her creative fountain, but it might very well end her life. She made an effort to stop substance abuse and focused her energy on teaching. As she regained her creative impetus and recovered, Julia continued to research creativity and ways to unblock it.
Little by little, she wrote a book designed to be a set of notes for herself. It was a way to document the process she was undertaking of unlocking her creativity.
As soon as she realized that the material had value, she began making copies and distributing them to various beta readers.
Eventually, the book was published in 1992 by a major publisher as The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity. The book became a bestseller and one of the few self-published non-fiction books to have attained massive popularity. The book’s entire goal is to help people (not just artists) unlock their potential by tapping into their creative supply.
We all, Julia asserts, are creative in one way or another. The problem is that we don’t allow that creativity to manifest because of our own biases and beliefs.
Thousands upon thousands of people have applied the methods and tools presented in the book, and the message is consistent: they work.
Among these tools, this article will discuss the Morning Pages, Julia’s most famed technique for unleashing creativity and reconnecting yourself with your creative self.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
What Are Morning Pages?
Here is what Julia writes on her website about Morning Pages:
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. * There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages* — they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind, and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize, and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages; just put three pages of anything on the page… and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
At first sight, this looks a bit confusing. What do you mean the pages can be about anything?
After all, isn’t that the essence of a creative block-that the creativity is somehow temporarily frozen so that nothing can come to the surface? So, saying to write about anything when your mind is blank is of no help.
Or so it seems. The problem is not that you are no longer creative all of a sudden or that your imagination has vanished. Those capabilities never go away, and as much as you might not believe it, they continue to expand and diversify as you grow older.
It is the connection between what’s inside and their outward expression that becomes broken.
Ideas are there. They exist, but they just won’t come out. And when they do, you are not present to express them.
If you want an analogy, it’s the same as if you were in a coma for a year, and then, when you wake up, your leg muscles are so atrophied that you can no longer walk. Will the doctor then tell you to think a lot about walking and one day you’ll walk again? No, of course not.
That’s because you haven’t forgotten how to walk. Your legs simply no longer respond accordingly. The doctor will tell you to begin with small steps and not stop even if you fall. They’ll ask you to get up and start again. And again, and again. Soon, your legs will recover.
Creativity works in the same way. You need to pull it out of your head little by little. The more you do, the more the “door” opens wider.
If, in the beginning, it doesn’t seem like creativity at all, much like your post-coma steps don’t look like walking, the more you go, the better it gets.
That is the essence of Morning Pages. Here are the elements of this tool and why they work.
1) Longhand writing
Virginia Berninger, a researcher and professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, said that “pictures of brain activity have illustrated that sequential finger movements used in handwriting activated large regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory. Handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential finger strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding only involves touching a key.”
Many other studies have analyzed how handwriting is a brain-stimulation tool, and it keeps you focused, much more so than its typing counterpart. In addition to this, I find handwriting also extraordinarily tranquil and peaceful, whereas typing always makes me feel on the run as if I am in a rush.
If you write fifty words per minute and continue writing at that pace for about twenty-five hours, you will produce as many words as the first Harry Potter book. Of course, that is impossible.
A much more viable alternative is to write one hour a day for twenty-five days. Even that might be hard to maintain. But thirty minutes per day doesn’t seem so daunting, does it?
There’s an interesting idea called the divide and conquer method, where you apply the power of breaking things down into bite-size pieces, and that’s how you can swallow an elephant.
Morning Pages relies on that element as well. By writing consistently every morning for at least ninety days (the approximate time it takes for new habits to stick), you create a routine.
Routines are known as “pull” habits. You no longer need to “push” yourself to do it; the routine itself “pulls” you into it. By applying this technique consistently, you set yourself on a path to ensure it will work for you.
So, if you set yourself on this path, you mustn’t skip a day.
3) First thing in the morning
This point is critical. As your day goes on, information comes into your brain (inputs), and information goes out (outputs). The inputs come from the news, your friends and family, Facebook, the weather, etc. We all know that there’s no shortage of information input these days.
The problem is that in today’s world, there are so many inputs rolling over us constantly that they drown our minds before the day even starts. Once you turn your phone on, it will hijack your mind in seconds. All your ability to create an output (which is the result of your creative work) takes a second chair.
Sometimes, that chair is so far behind, you never get to it. That is why it’s so important to set your Morning Pages first thing during your morning routine before you allow the day’s inputs to hijack your brain.
Before you see anything, talk to anyone, listen to anything — sit down and write your three pages. It will teach your brain that you put importance on your output, and, in time, it will learn how to prioritize it.
4) Stream of consciousness
No matter how blah your day, week, or month is, there is always something on your mind.
Even if it’s something so mundane that it would bore even Mother Theresa to death, it’s still something. Your mind is never blank.
So, by merely allowing your hand to write what is on your mind, you will never run out of material. If you really cannot think of anything, simply note that you can’t think of anything.
Ponder over three pages about how impressive it is that you have reached the Zen of having your mind completely blank. Keep going.
You’ll see that, eventually, something will come up. That is the power of using your stream-of-consciousness versus writing prompts. I know this will be hard if you are a perfectionist but look at it as a practice ground to break that pattern, too.
5) No judgments
One of the biggest impediments for anyone, regardless of whether they see themselves as artists or not, is the emotions we feel when we think somebody will judge us.
Even if you are a well-established actor, writer, or singer, every time you perform, there’s a part of you that’s wondering if the audience will embrace your performance. In contrast, with Morning Pages, whatever you write is always private.
So private that even you should never read it. Because neither you nor anyone else will ever see it, there will be no judgment. Ever. Nobody, including you, will ever wonder if the writing was good because that’s not the point of it.
By taking this burden off your shoulders, the process will go forwards without any encumbrances.
Doing Your Morning Pages
Now that you know what Morning Pages are, this is a quick recap on how you can start doing them today:
- Get a good notebook. Ideally, a lined one with thick enough paper so that it won’t show up on the other side if you use a fountain pen.
- Buy a decent pen. I find that fountain pens are good, but they tend to get expensive and require maintenance. Use anything that makes it easy for you to write.
- Put today’s date on the first blank page, and number two more pages.
- Fill those three pages with longhand writing.
- Tomorrow, go back to step 3.
- Keep going until the notebook is complete.
- Put the notebook somewhere in storage. Don’t read it.
- Get a new notebook, and repeat.
That’s it! It’s so simple it almost sounds silly. Please, try it out because it works.
Especially if you are a writer, Morning Pages will be a great addition to your arsenal of tools to combat severe writer’s block. As a writer, I’ve hit that wall many times, and this method was there to save me.
Adapted from an original article published on iulianionescu.com under Morning Pages: Unleash Your Creativity And Crush Your Writer’s Block.
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