Want to be more creative? Do this.
To celebrate Julia Cameron’s incredible book, The Artist‘s Way turning 25 this year, I’ve pulled out this post from a few years ago about my love of the central practice from the book – the wonderful morning pages.
Ever feel like you’re bursting with creativity that you’re just desperate to release? It can feel like a small child pulling impatiently on your sleeves, nagging at you so you feel that whatever else you’re busy doing, you know that really you should be creating instead.
When I was the most dramatic teenager who ever existed (the original EMO, listening to Joni Mitchell and smoking out my bedroom window), I kept a journal. At the time I was madly in love with a wildly inappropriate long-haired 25 year-old artist and I would write long meandering essays on the nature of unrequited love and the pain of loneliness and rejection. It’s all very embarrassing. I stopped writing in the journal when I turned 18 and life took a turn for the worse. I failed to write much for several years after that and really struggled as my thoughts went on the rampage with no outlet to release them.
Until one day my Mum bought me a book called The Artist’s Way. This wonderful book by Julia Cameron spoke to me in a way that no other book ever has. And the most important thing I learned from this book is something called morning pages (I feel like those words should have some kind of shining yellow light around them because they are so wonderful). Now bear with me, this might sound a little hippy-dippy but trust me, it works.
Morning pages are terrifically simple but don’t be fooled – they can change your life (yes, I still have some of the dramatic teenager in me). The idea is that every day, every single morning, the first thing you do, before you’ve spoken to anyone or brushed your teeth, is write freehand three pages of whatever’s on your mind. This stream of consciousness requires no editing: anything goes. No need to worry about spelling, you just write whatever crap is in your head. Get it all out.
Some days it’s is easy, your mind will be so jam-packed full that you’ll be scribbling desperately to get your thoughts out. Others days it’s harder, and on these days you might find yourself musing on the particular blueness of your bedroom carpet or the shape of your wrist. But that’s ok! Just keep on practising this style and it’ll become easier but no less beneficial.
If you’re not yet convinced, here are my five reasons why you should try the morning pages:
Reduces stress: simply releasing your worries from the confines of your mind where they go round and round, never spoken out loud, has an amazingly therapeutic effect. It removes the power of the worry and allows you to move forward, in your day and in your creative life.
Allows creativity to flourish: the morning pages (or mine at least) are normally full of whining, self-pitying, boring stuff about work, friends, the onset of a cold, whether I paid my phone bill on time… and that’s ok – they’re not supposed to be works of art. The point of them is to get all the rubbish out of our minds so the good stuff isn’t trapped behind it anymore. It’s like a mental unblocking that sets your creativity free.
Releases the evil gremlins: I can spend a quite frightening amount of time lost in a jumble of self-loathing and doubt and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Giving yourself this time every morning to let your fears out (you’re not good enough, you have no talent, if you haven’t done it by now you never will etc, etc.) will help to kill the evil gremlin. Sometimes I let my evil gremlins out on the page and then let my nice voices come out (you can do this, it’s not too late etc).
Removes fear from writing: as a writer, the pages have been incredibly useful because they helped take the fear away from the blank page. Giving yourself permission to write down any old rubbish that’s in your mind is incredibly liberating. The best advice about writing I’ve ever heard is to write badly and the morning pages make starting to do this even easier. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, getting used to allowing your thoughts to flow out the pen will feel incredibly liberating and will help with your day-to-day communication regardless.
Small indulgences: one of my favourite things about the morning pages is that I now have a wonderful reason to buy all the beautiful notebooks I want that I use specially for my pages. It feels good to allow yourself a small indulgence that’s just for you and doesn’t have to break the bank.
Practically speaking, fitting the pages in in the morning can be a challenge at first. I find that it takes me about 20 minutes to write the full three pages in my little notebook and, for those whose normal morning routine involves skipping breakfast and running out the door five minutes after waking, it may require a little effort to fit them in.
My answer to this was to set my alarm a little earlier. Once I realised the benefits of writing the pages every morning it was easy to motivate myself to do it. Make the pages part of your morning routine. Keep your notebook and pen by the bed and as soon as you wake up reach straight for them and just start writing. You may even find that you get some of the fragments from your dreams down.
My day just doesn’t seem to go that great unless I’ve done my morning pages and they’ve helped me so much to let my creativity run free. I hope you’ll try them and love them too and if you already have a morning pages practice, let me know about it in the comments.