A few weeks ago, I spent a full day with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, someone who I’ve admired at a distance for several years. It was a special, memorable and insightful day.
Okay, it was not a date. She is 70 years old. It was a creative writing workshop that she hosted in New York. She guided a small group of us through a series of introspective writing exercises.
I got into a conversation with Julia about how she developed Morning Pages, a writing process that I’ve practiced at least 500 times now in the past 3 years. I first learned about in her well-known book, The Artist’s Way, published in 1992. She shared her story of wanting to become a Hollywood writer at the time and failing at it. She moved to Mexico and unsure what to do next with her career, she just started to write every morning when waking up to avoid boredom. And writing every morning freely began to change her life.
Morning pages changed my life as well. And it continues to everyday.
The process is simple:
1) Commit to writing (by hand) at least 2 full pages (ideally 3) in one sitting in the morning.
2) Do not let the pen or pencil STOP, continuous writing is a must. If you do not know what to write, write “I do not know what to write” continuously until it changes.
3) Do not read a single thing you write, throw it out out (or recycle it) immediately.
When I first started writing Morning Pages, I noticed that many of my deepest fears, anxieties, insecurities and attachments would dominate the pages. I kept going though and eventually it changed. After shedding many of my self-critical and self-doubting thoughts, clarity started to surface. I then realized the power of Morning Pages as a process to make sense of my reality.
My inner critic. Core to this process is learning to bypass my inner critic, who is constantly editing and censoring my thoughts, words and actions. For example, as I compose this blog post, my inner critic is hard at work. It is useful to help me function in society effectively, as a filter of sorts for when I communicate with others. However the critic also gets in the way of understanding myself and my reality. Writing continuously without pause and knowing that no one, not even my critic, is going to read the pages, the critic takes a backseat and doesn’t feel the need to be involved. I am free.
Purposefully unfocused. Julia explained to us that unlike journaling where there is a topic to focus on, Morning Pages are unfocused. My experience is that they are very unfocused. I’ll start writing a few lines about a dream I had last night, then a few lines on the soreness in my hamstrings, then on what someone said to me yesterday, then about a key project at work, and so on. There is absolutely no structure or flow at the surface. It may sound useless at first however having the space to flow is where the magic begins.
It is self-therapy. While writing continuously and freely, without judgement, I will start to get into a flow state after a few pages where a stream of consciousness starts to pour onto the pages. I express thought patterns that I am not even conscious of. Clarity, inspiration and a synchronization of sorts of my life starts to form. I am able to unblock and release the mind. What’s amazing is that all of answers to my problems are already sitting inside of me, I just need help to access them. The ability to tap into my inner wisdom is truly special.
It is for everyone. This is not a creative writing process. It is a process to unblock and free my mind (which helps with both creativity and life). Morning Pages often help me become aware of business decisions I’ve already made inside but have not realized. When I find myself feeling agitated mentally (not if, but when), I will start writing. Doesn’t matter if I’m in the subway, at my desk or in the lobby of a client’s office.
Write by hand. Someone had asked Julia about writing by hand versus typing on the computer. ‘When we write by hand, we connect with ourselves’, was her response. Writing is slower than typing and that’s why it works. When typing, we miss the opportunity to connect with what we’re writing (I think cyberbullying is perfect evidence of this), as we move too fast.
If you have read to this point in my post, you have been inspired to at least give it a try. Take a few pieces of blank paper, a pen and start writing. Do not pause to think. Keep writing. Do not stop until you have filled up the pages. Do not read what you wrote, throw them out once done.
Do it again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. You just may start to see your life change in ways you did not expect, as I did.