Writing Begets Writing
Why I love/hate morning pages
I am doing morning pages again, but the thing is that I can’t stand morning pages.
If the term is new to you, morning pages come from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which is a 12-week program that promises to help you “recover” your creativity. Doing morning pages — writing three longhand pages of whatever as soon as you wake up in the morning — is an essential part of the program. I was reminded of the tool thanks to Kelly Bjork’s recent newsletter and decided to pick it back up again even though morning pages and I have a love/hate relationship.
Why I don’t like morning pages:
I am a SLOW writer with TINY handwriting who likes BIG notebooks. Actually doing three longhand pages takes me like 90 minutes, and 90 minutes is basically all of my writing time on a good day.
I don’t actually find unstructured journaling very helpful. Morning pages are supposed to be a brain dump, but if I’m having a lot of anxious thoughts, indulging them in a notebook seems to reinforce my tendency to ruminate.
My actual writing — e.g. the novel I’m supposed to be working on — is better when I read first thing in the morning.
All that said, I have had success with morning pages in the past, I think because they tap into a truth that may not be universal but has always been true for me: writing begets writing. When I have a strong notebook practice, whether it’s morning pages or daily lists or daily doodles, I tend to notice more and write more down and have more ideas.
So I’m trying to figure out a way to make morning pages work for me. I want them to be a joy and not a drag. Thus far, my experiments include:
Using prompts to direct the writing. You’re “not supposed to” do this, but they’re my morning pages, so! I love doing Joe Brainard-style “I remember”s, basically long lists of stream-of-consciousness memories. I also like doing exercises from Alan Watt’s The 90-Day Novel, which has never helped me write a novel in 90 days but still has some really thought-provoking prompts to get inside the heads of your characters.
Incorporating drawing. The whole point of these pages is to unleash your creativity, and drawing helps me tap into a different part of mine. I might also try collaging? Generally just making the whole thing more visual?
Doing afternoon or evening pages instead. Because I know that my morning time is limited and best used on my actual projects, I’m trying to fit these pages in at another time. So far I have not been very successful carving out the time elsewhere, but I may end up doing weekly pages instead of daily pages…
Doing pages while reading. Reading until I come to a line I love or an idea that sparks something and then riffing on it.
Do you do morning pages, or something similar? Any other tips for making this ritual my own?
Two more things:
Substack has an app now, if you’d prefer to read this newsletter (and others) there instead of in your email inbox.
If you’re going to be in Philly on Friday, March 25, come see a bunch of us read at Strangelove’s (216 S. 11th Street), 4-6pm!