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Morning Pages: Can The Artist’s Way a day keep the psychiatrist away?

Those who are familiar with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron know about morning pages. From her website:

“The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages.”

artist way“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. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

After first downloading her book in 2012, I have attempted the habit of writing morning pages at least … oh, wow. Ten? Twenty? Thirty times? Each attempt only ended in failure, because my pages would always be filled with chicken scratch rants about the following three topics:

  1. How mad I was at myself for not reaching my goals, for not writing enough, for procrastinating and not living up to my potential.
  2. How I was therefore committing myself once again to start fresh with renewed zest, a long list of goals, and buckets of piss and vinegar. (These pages mostly happened during the months of January and September.)
  3. How my piss and vinegar was losing its zest and procrastination was once again shooting bullets in my long list of goals.
  4. And finally … how mad I was at myself for once again not reaching my goals, for not writing enough, blah, blah, blah.

It was an endless cycle and complete waste of time if all I was going to do each morning was beat myself up.

I do enough of that already.

And yes, Julia was very clear in her instructions that there is no wrong way to do morning pages, that they are not to be high art. But in my mind, my pages should have be filled with poetic, artsy stuff like, “As I gaze out my frost-kissed window to the sherbet-hued sun rising slowly above bare trees with their skeleton fingers stretching from the day’s first warmth, I sigh in peaceful contentment.” Instead, I’m pounding out paragraphs full of stuff like, “Holy crap, I can’t believe I went to bed with my make up still on. Why is it so impossible for me to take ten minutes to wash my face, huh? What, do I want wrinkles? Do I like looking older than I feel????”

Hardly high art, hardly peaceful contentment.

Still, after hearing how successful morning pages have been for other writer friends, I decided to give it another go last year … without filtering, without holding back, and without any attempts to write pretentious high art. I simply wrote everything and anything that came to mind–the good, the bad, the ugly. My failures. My triumphs. My goals. My wigged out digestive system due to last night’s chili, I wrote it all down … even though it still felt as though I was doing it wrong.

Then one day, I had lunch with a writer friend. When asked how I was doing, my reply was, “I’ve been feeling oddly sane lately.”

Trust me.

Me feeling sane is odd.

Later on, we stumbled onto the topic of morning pages and I vented my I’m-not-doing-them-right frustrations, how they were a waste of time that could be spend on actual fiction writing, seeing as how I was doing nothing but berating and ranting about whatever crazy thoughts were spiraling in my head.

She paused for a second.

And then she said, “Have you ever thought that maybe you’re feeling oddly sane because of morning pages?”

Huh.

Interesting.

And worth another Huh.

Was she right? Was my odd sanity because of morning pages? Was purging my crazy thoughts on paper truly worthwhile?

Yes. It was.

And just last week, I discovered this video where Julia Cameron explains why:


“You’re meeting your shadow and taking it out for a cup of coffee.”

Wow. That’s just awesome. And very true–spewing negativity wasn’t a waste of time, it was actually helpful, purging those swirling thoughts from my head and putting them in my back pocket for a while.

It’s also helps with the many different roles I play in life. I’m a writer, runner, blogger, rental property manager, office assistant, and web designer who wants to do more in life, like read more, write more, crochet more, make awesome Christmas presents for my family, organize my home, freelance, and create a running blog with friends. All these roles, hopes, and dreams ricochet in my brain nonstop, leaving me overwhelmed. With morning pages, I get to address each aspect of my life – what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, what I need to improve. After three pages, maybe I don’t feel a poetic, artsy sense of peaceful contentment … but I do feel a little more under control.

And oddly sane.

Anything that can make that happen is surely worth the time invested.

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