Do any of you do morning pages? By this I mean: write longhand immediately on waking each morning.
Julia Cameron advocates this in her book The Artists’s Way. I haven’t read the book but heard about it from someone who has done morning pages for many years. This lady scribbles down everything that is going on in her head, things she has to do that day, negative thoughts about whatever is going on in her life etc. She finds it clears her brain and enables her to start the day in a better frame of mind. Sometimes it produces something that can be used in a story or elsewhere.
I know that other people get up early to work on their novel or another project, either because it’s the only way they can make time in their day to write or because they just enjoy the quiet at dawn before the rest of the family erupts into activity.
Up until now I’ve lacked the willpower to set the alarm any earlier than absolutely necessary, just to write. But my husband has changed his job and needs to be at work by 7:30 am – forcing us to set the alarm for 6:00 am, and therefore giving me the opportunity to try morning pages.
So I’ve been writing for 25 minutes each day before getting up (with a cup of tea brought to me!).
I decided that I wanted something positive to show for this time so I’m drafting a longer piece than I normally write. I never read back more than a sentence of what I wrote the previous day and I don’t edit anything. I don’t pause to think of the right words, I’m just trying to get the flow of the story down on paper.
It’s a positive experience because I get up knowing that I’ve already ‘achieved’ something and the number of completed A4 pages is growing.
Does anyone else do this – or, as Julia Cameron envisaged, do you write about whatever is on your mind?
There’s no right or wrong in this. Different things work for different people.
#1 by Patsy on February 6, 2013 - 10:33 am
I took part in an experiment to try this (think it was Simon Whaley who ran it) It didn’t work for me but I think it’s worth people trying it for a week to see if it does for them.
#2 by Sally Jenkins on February 6, 2013 - 12:36 pm
I agree, Patsy – I feel like I’m giving myself more hours in the day at the moment. Just hope I can keep it up!
#3 by Wendy Clarke on February 6, 2013 - 10:33 am
I haven’t tried this as I am too lazy and I like to read in bed until eight. I find I can’t start writing until I have had breakfast, emptied the dishwasher and walked the dog. Afternoons tend to be my writing time.
#4 by Sally Jenkins on February 6, 2013 - 12:38 pm
Wendy, I’m definitely more creative in the morning anyway. By the afternoon I’ve’gone off the boil’.
#5 by liz young on February 6, 2013 - 10:56 am
Only if I wake up with an idea already buxxing. Sometimes I write something over a cup of tea n bed, but it’s not part of some ga=rand design”
#6 by Sally Jenkins on February 6, 2013 - 12:39 pm
Lucky you, Liz, waking up with ideas buzzing! That rarely happens to me, I just have to slog on.
#7 by carlpeters on February 6, 2013 - 1:53 pm
I remember this advice being given on the creative writing degree, certainly lots of writers employ it! I don’t really have a problem getting up early, my problem is it takes about an hour to feel human! It’s why I have always awoken about an hour and a half before I have to be at work as I cannot roll out of bed, get dressed and roll to work! I would be useless so as for writing I tend to do my best and do that late afternoon or just after tea.
#8 by Sally Jenkins on February 6, 2013 - 5:29 pm
Carl – I sympathise about needing an hour to feel human! I only feel ready to face the day properly when I’ve had breakfast and a mug of tea.
#9 by Julia on February 6, 2013 - 4:02 pm
Yes, I do it but not every day. I do it on a regular basis. I read a book by Julia Cameron many years ago.
#10 by Sally Jenkins on February 6, 2013 - 5:31 pm
Julia, if you’ve found a routine of morning pages that works for you, that’s good. We’re all different!
#11 by Dave on February 6, 2013 - 5:56 pm
There are two things that Julia Cameron advocates, one is morning pages, and the second is the artist’s date.
Morning pages as Julia advocates is not about writing something but about writing anything that isn’t something, if I can put it that way. It’s not about what you produce but about the writing itself – it’s a kind of meditation, or it could be the written equivalent of kicking the cat, or whatever. It’s getting all the distracting stuff out of the way so you can then write your novel or whatever.
The artist’s date is simply a date with yourself, alone, with no pressure to do errands or produce writing or any such thing. A couple of hours each week that is ME time in which I can do anything I want, totally guilt free. Once a month I will maybe get away for a longer time for my artist’s date. It’s all about filling the well so you can draw on it in your creative work later.
#12 by Sally Jenkins on February 6, 2013 - 6:11 pm
Thanks for the explanation, Dave. My problem is I always want to write with a target market or competition in mind – so maybe ‘proper’ morning pages aren’t for me. Because I don’t have buckets of writing time, I want to be as productive as I can in the time I have.
#13 by susanjanejones on February 6, 2013 - 6:18 pm
Hi Sally, I’ve got the Right to Write book by Julia on my bookshelf. I tried it, but my morning pages were written during mid-morning coffee breaks. I found it helpful to write down things that annoy me or just jotting in general everything that comes to mind. From this I won Eddie Walsh’s 4 sentence story competition, where I wrote about children splashing in puddles. Little darlings, splashing all our stuff. At least I won something from it.
#14 by Sally Jenkins on February 6, 2013 - 6:22 pm
Susan – good to know that something of merit can emerge from these morning pages. It’s a shame Eddie’s comps bit the dust.
#15 by Vikki Thompson on February 6, 2013 - 8:04 pm
I LOVE Julia Cameron 🙂
I did morning pages religiously for about 2 and a half years, but I got so fed up with constantly moaning lol 😉
Now I do them as and when I feel the need to, so probably a couple of times a week 🙂
#16 by Sally Jenkins on February 6, 2013 - 8:18 pm
Hi, Vikki. Sounds like morning pages were therapy for you! Seriously, I can see that if they help clear the mind ready for writing then they are a good thing.
#17 by Vikki Thompson on February 7, 2013 - 12:32 pm
I definitely find they clear my mind 🙂
#18 by Debbie W on February 7, 2013 - 11:18 am
Interesting idea, Sally. MIght just give it a go in the early mornings as I’m up at 6.20 anyway to nudge everyone else out of bed. I do already write down things in my head, things that annoy and thing that please, but not at any particular time of the day.
#19 by Tracy Fells on February 7, 2013 - 2:21 pm
Hi Sally, I do this every morning Mon-Frid with the obligatory cup of tea (has to be lemon and green for me). 2-3 pages in a specially chosen fancy notebook always sets me up for the day. I use it to download a to-do list & evaluate the previous day, but sometimes pose questions if I’m struggling with a story. And then more often than not the answer pops up during the day! My golden rule is never to read back over the previous days, well maybe not for a few years…
#20 by Sally Jenkins on February 8, 2013 - 1:13 pm
Debbie, Vikki & Tracey – thanks for dropping by. It seems like there is a positive effect to be had by ‘downloading’ early morning thoughts – even if it’s not an actual story. (Sorry for the late reply but home broadband is down & I’m doing this at work).
#21 by Linda on February 8, 2013 - 3:01 pm
I do morning pages occasionally – scribbling down whatever comes into my head. It has generated some useful ideas but I’m not disciplined enough to do it every day.
#22 by Sally Jenkins on February 8, 2013 - 5:31 pm
Occasionally is better than never, Linda. Glad to hear it’s producing some ideas.
#23 by Tom on February 7, 2016 - 8:44 pm
I’m not sure if it is permitted to respond three years after the original post?
If not I’ll try to be a little more current in future.
I have been doing Morning Pages on and off for about four years now since I bought Julia Cameron’s book in a charity book shop.
It has been more on than off since I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time last November (2015).
As I don’t have a great deal of time to devote to writing, some days Morning Pages is all I have time for. The important thing for me is to write something every day and Morning Pages helps me to achieve that.
Some mornings it is just a brain dump of the dreams and thoughts I had before I got out of bed. At other times it is just a rant against the system. Don’t ask me which system. It changes from one morning to the next.
More often lately I find that I use the time to write down the outline of a short story or add more ideas to a longer thing, (A novel?) I keep trying to bring into focus.
What I do find is that there are days when, after completing my Morning Pages, I surprise myself at how much I have been able to write. And I also am quite surprised at the quality of the work that appears on the page when I just let my pen do the writing.
Thanks for taking the time to produce this excellent blog
#24 by Sally Jenkins on February 8, 2016 - 7:55 pm
Absolutely you can respond 3 years after the original post! It’s heartening to know that people are still reading it. It sounds like you’re benefiting from Morning Pages, Tom – keep up the good work and best wishes.