Writing motivation – the drive to create – varies naturally at different stages of the writing process. Learn about Morning Pages, Julia Cameron’s simple technique for getting back into a state of writing flow:
What are morning pages?
‘Morning Pages’ is a writing exercise and concept devised by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (1992).
Cameron describes morning pages like this:
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.Julia Cameron, ‘Morning Pages’, Basic Tools, via the author’s website.
Cameron describes this exercise as ‘a bedrock tool of creative recovery’ that provides a useful daily practice for creative people.
6 benefits of Morning Pages for writers:
- Recover from creative block or grief
- Clarify your creative process
- Set yourself idea-finding provocations
- Prioritize writing ideas and process
- Connect thoughts and images
- Check in with yourself and record progress
Let’s unpack the benefits of doing Cameron’s daily writing exercise:
Recover from creative block or grief
There are times in life where writing (or creating music, or visual art and design) feels hard.
It’s unnerving when creation is something you ordinarily love or at least enjoy for its challenges and adventures in communication, expression and imagination (like writing this blog).
Doing an exercise like Morning Pages (which is essentially a type of ‘freewriting’) is a useful daily writing practice. Why? Because you take part of what makes writing hard – inertia, being anxious about what you’re going to say, or how you’re going to say it – and put it aside for a minute.
Giving yourself permission to write fast and loose is freeing. Ray Bradbury calls it ‘lizard writing’. Because you let your mind dart beneath (or out from under) whatever rock you want.
There’s often something healing, too, in letting your writing go wherever your intuition and emotions need it to go, with less filtering or self-obstruction. For more tips on how to heal through writing, read our post on ways to heal from trauma through writing.
Clarify your creative process
Creativity comes with a lot of clutter. A writing teacher or writing group member may have said ‘don’t do this/that’, so that you’re too focused on it to feel properly free.
Or maybe you’re struggling to focus on the core of a story because specific images or ideas keep drawing your focus.
Cameron’s exercise offers a method to Marie Kondo all that.
You can sit down to draft with a cleaner slate after you’ve purged background noise or clutter by getting it all down in a freer, more unstructured way.
Set yourself idea-finding provocations
In describing Morning Pages, Julia Cameron says ‘they provoke’.
What exactly is provocation? The verb ‘to provoke’ comes from the Latin provocare (to challenge), from pro- (‘forth’) plus vocare – to call forth (emotions, reactions).
Morning Pages call forth creative ideas via surprising chains of association you may have not expected.
They also challenge you to fill three pages with anything. After doing that, a paragraph of focused storytelling may feel much easier, the way a soprano can hit the high notes if they’ve warmed up enough.
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Prioritize writing ideas and process
One of the benefits of Morning Pages Cameron alludes to is how it helps you prioritize.
How does writing three pages of longhand first thing each morning do that?
Sifting through unconscious associations and imagery living in your mind helps you to hone process and clarify thoughts. Maybe you start free-writing on a topic you’d planned to introduce in your story, only to find that it’s not grabbing you anymore. But something else is…
Use a freewriting exercise like this to explore doubts with the underlying aim of resolving them to reach new, more productive decisions.
Connect thoughts and images
Use Morning Pages to practice connection. Great stories are built on connection, chains of cause-and-effect.
You might pick a situation or scenario in your story as a guiding idea for your pages before you start. Or else just go wherever the pen or pencil takes you.
Check in with yourself and record your progress
Any form of journaling is useful for keeping a record of where you’re ‘at’. How is writing going? What unresolved questions do you have (in creative process, or life generally)? Read more on keeping a journal to aid your writing process.
Morning Pages thus provide a means to build regular checking in with yourself into your creative habits. If you keep your Morning Pages to look back on, you have the benefit of a record of your day-to-day thoughts. Among them, you might just find the catalyst for your next story, your most exciting idea yet.
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