Morning pages were popularised by Julia Cameron, in her book Artist’s Way. The task is deceptively simple: write 750 spontaneous words as soon as you wake up, in one go (no breaks). The premise is that the ritual helps you “brain dump” all the stuff that is a)blocking rational and creative thought and b)unlocks insight into life that is otherwise too deeply hidden to be easily accessed.
And indeed, I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that morning pages have been a life saver for me. They helped me deal with an unexpected and heartbreaking break-up, helped me through my cancer journey, helped me in covid, helped in through my mother’s death and continue to help me as I redefine my life for my “next chapter”.
I write my pages first thing in the morning, preferably while sitting in the morning sun in my garden. The house is quiet, there are no distractions, and I leave my phone in the bedroom. The pages usually take me 30 minutes. I don’t count the words. I quickly realised that my small handwriting means that 750 words fill two full A4 lined pages of an exam pad. So I take one page, and write on both sides. I never write less, and I never write more. I don’t write in paragraphs…just one continuous block of text.
I am sorry to say that I have not been consistent with my morning pages, and I know that is to my detriment. I write them when going gets tough, and release myself from them when life gets better. This is not a good idea, and I hope I continue my current streak of daily writing indefinitely.
I strongly recommend this as a priceless hack to anyone who wants to unblock their life, and gain insight into possibilities.
There aren’t many rules, but they are all important:
Don’t stop writing.You must write 750 words. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write that. Literally write “I am supposed to be writing 750 words, but I honestly cannot think of a single thing to say. Should I just write what I am going to have for breakfast? Because I am dreaming of an avo toast. Like the one I had last yesterday when I went out with Sarah. Speaking of Sarah, I am still angry at her….”. You get the idea.
Don’t edit or keep your work. This is very important. You need to write the pages with wild abandon, and freedom to put down your raw-est self. You don’t want to worry about anyone finding them and reading your most vulnerable thoughts. I have also never found any real benefit in actually reading my own pages, so I wouldn’t bother. Tear them up as soon as you are done. Very cathartic!
The pages must be written free-hand. The computer has a delete button, and you don’t want to be using it. Since the success of this task is dependent on dumping out the contents of your subconscious mind, you shouldn’t affect its success by deleting and editing what your subconscious has graciously shed. This isn’t your thesis – it’s literally a mine dump. And anyway, there is something extra- therapeutic about spewing your thoughts out onto paper, through a pen or pencil. Trust me.
Keep on writing, every day. When you wake up in the morning and feel like you have nothing more to write, that is the time that writing the pages becomes most important. My lovely therapist told me that her lecturer once told her, “When your patient says they have nothing more to say, that is when the real work starts“. The morning pages, which are in fact the most efficient free therapy you will ever gift yourself, are the same. When you have nothing to write, make sure you write anyway.
Write as soon as you wake up.. There is a reason these are morning pages, not evening pages. You don’t want your mind muddled by the unfolding events of the day, or the latest Instagram posts. Don’t reach for our phone when you wake up, reach for your pen and paper. Bonus of writing early: the early pages will often help you clarify your day’s goals, and if you are dreading some specific task, the writing exercise will more often than not help you figure out how to ease it.
Tip: this post is exactly 750 words long, to give you an idea of how much to write!
Thanks for reading,