If you’re a writer, you’ve surely brushed upon Julia Cameron’s invaluable tome, The Artist’s Way. It’s an incredible book/workbook that’s helped millions upon millions of creative types surpass their blocks and go on to thrive in their chosen fields. I’ve been lugging around my beloved copy for at least a decade, and now “thanks” to COVID I’ve re-cracked the spine and have been digging into the lessons she has to offer. (It’s been hilarious to see the faded highlights of yore next to my fresh ones. What did I think was important then vs. now? By the time I’m done, the whole damn thing will be yellow.)
One of Julia’s major tools for jumpstarting your journey is something called the Morning Pages. The process is simple – handwrite three pages, first thing in the morning. Yep, that’s it. Here it is, in her own words:
[The Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do the Morning Pages. They are about anything and everything – and they are not to be shared with anyone. Yes, they must be done by hand. Yes, they must be done in the morning. If we do “evening pages,” we are reflecting on a day that we’ve already had and are powerless to change. Morning Pages empower us and give us clarity, helping us find tiny choice points in the day ahead.]
So much good stuff there, right? Who could argue with such a simple process? Well, it turns out that person is ME.
Here’s the thing: I’m a rule-follower with a finely-tuned sense of guilt about nearly everything. (Yes, it is as much fun as it sounds!) So, imagine when I read Julia’s directions about the Pages… and found I couldn’t fulfill them. First thing in the morning? My day simply doesn’t line up like that. Sometime in the morning? Sure. First thing? No. But the real sticking point for me was her insistence that the pages be handwritten. I tried, I really did. But my handwriting looks like shit after a lifetime of typing, my hand cramps about a page in, I’m a lefty so I get the extra fun of an ink-stained side-of-my-palm, and the environmental crusader in me can’t stand using all of those trees. Plus, where in the hell am I going to store all of those journals, year after year? (The Morning Pages aren’t something you do for the run of the book, they’re a lifetime commitment if you really want to go all-in on your creative recovery.)
I was much more comfortable with a digital footprint. But Julia insisted on pen to pad. She says there’s “no wrong way” to do them, but also that they “must” be done by hand. There’s “no wrong way,” but they “must” be done first thing. In short, there apparently is a wrong way – which is the way I wanted to do them (late and typed). In short, what ultimately happened for me was that I stopped doing them. Occasionally there would be days here and there, where I’d adhere to “first thing” and “handwritten” rules… and then months to years of silence.
Oh, the irony! The point of doing the Morning Pages is to help with artistic blocks, but the very nature of the rules was contributing to more blocks!
So, here’s what I finally did and I’m giving you permission to do the same: type them. (For those looking for a guideline – I give myself a 1,000-word goal instead of 3 pages, given the difference between cursive and Word.) Do them later in the day. Workout. Have your coffee. If it ends up that it’s noon in front of a laptop instead of 8 AM with a journal on your lap, that’s okay! Any good artist knows that rules are made to be broken, and any good writer knows getting the words on the page – any way, at any time of day – is a million times better than nothing at all.
(Update: I'm compelled to write a postscript because I'm feeling guilty. What did I tell you? I'm gifted in the art of guilt -haha! But seriously, I've gotten so much from Julia's work so this entry is in no way a diss on her. Writing the Morning Pages by hand is awesome, and I'm sure I'd be getting a ton more out of it is I was able to do it that way. But, as I've said, I feel strongly that something is better than nothing and I hope you can benefit from this little "ah-ha" moment the same way I have. xo)
Thanks to Julia Cameron for the inspiration - I adore you, even if I'm doing it wrong! Have you had luck with the Morning Pages? Drop me a line and let me know!