June 4, 2012

writing practice: morning pages

My morning pages check my pulse.  
They are my daily beginning, and my steadfast companion throughout my days and weeks and months and years. I use them as a sort of journal, but they are so much more. They hold the record of my days and locations, as my writing each day begins with those bits of information logged at the top of the page. (I like this sort of documentation, and I wish I had always included ‘location’ as one of my daily notes - I have only begun this recently!) My morning pages could map out a graph chart of my highs and lows, my emotional ups and downs, what I am facing in my life, from these last five or more years that I have been practicing them. They are a daily cleansing.

My morning pages are my minimum daily writing requirement. They hold me accountable to show up to the page each and every day. I try to begin them at the beginning, first thing in the morning. My thoughts are rested after a full night’s sleep and all those thoughts that have settled in my subconscious throughout the night are still right at the threshold, waiting to enter my conscious mind. I would rather think them onto the page, where I will see them written and established outside of myself. I can do more with my thoughts that way. They are allowed to sit and rest and hold their place firmly, so if I need to see them again, they will be right there. Or if I read through the pages later, I might see themes emerge, in thoughts that repeat again and again, when I do not face or answer them.  
But if I miss the morning for some reason, I try to be gentle with myself and let the pages take their place somewhere else in my day. Sometimes I miss doing them, but no one is disappointed except me. They are a private practice, a personal accountability - no one else is waiting for them. They will usually remain a secret forever, unless I choose to turn them into something else later. But it is never about a destination, when I am sitting down to fill a minimum of three full pages in my journal each morning - simply a record of the journey.

As I sit down to write my morning pages, I am aware of 'truth,' of the importance of practicing honesty in the words that begin to flow onto the page. If I am not honest, I will only cheat myself. I think about ‘abandon,’ how I must continue to learn to practice ‘letting go’ of my words and following their winding paths even when I cannot begin to imagine where they are leading me. My morning pages make me feel free to follow wild words and see where they might lead. The pages cull and curate my thoughts and passions in a way that I never could within my own head. And often, what I find, is that I need to release them onto the page in order to see my truth clearly.
A million interruptions creep into my mind as I begin to write, taking the form of the plants that need watering, or something I should remember to tell my husband, or a friend I should really try to call today. Even my body conspires against them often, as I am suddenly cold or warm or hungry or thirsty, right as I sit down to begin. But part of the practice is that I must humor only the absolute necessities as I write. I am learning how to anticipate those needs before I sit down, to protect this time and process. And I can see how it is proof that I am embracing awareness, that I am slowing down in order to hear and transmit my thoughts more clearly. And perhaps these instances of distraction are just a necessary part of my growth process?
I think sometimes that my morning pages are the most true 'best friend' - another facet of myself, a chance to show myself kindness, compassion, acceptance that I am not prone to demonstrate otherwise. They can handle my honesty - every last bit of it. They can handle my fear and my ambition, and the only way they judge me is the way I judge myself. 

("Morning Pages" are another critical writing discipline I have adopted from The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self, by Julia Cameron. They are NOT just a tool for writers, but for artists of any discipline! I strongly encourage you to check out her book and read her very compelling account of the difference 'Morning Pages' have made for herself and her students!)


  1. so beautifully said!

  2. I applaud you whole heartedly. Your writing emits light, soft and inviting. You are a breath of fresh air and I will be following your blog as I too love writing and reading.. Good luck to you!

    1. Shannon- thank you for reading and for your lovely and kind feedback! Means more than I can say. :)

  3. I'm sorry in advance if this reply gets a little long! I just thought your post was so well written and I was really interested to see someone else (other than one of my old professor) talking about the idea of morning pages.

    The professor that mentored me and a group of other students during my first semester of college first introduced me to morning pages after he read Julia Cameron's book. I haven't even tried to write them in over six months and your post made me really miss taking that time to do write for myself. It was such a cathartic experience and I'm not sure why I ever stopped. I guess I just got busy with school and put them at the bottom of priority list until they didn't even make the list anymore. But I loved how each time I felt different when I was finished writing my three pages. Sometimes it felt just like when I've emerged from water after holding my breath beneath the surface, gasping air into my lungs, because I had been writing so quickly and intensely only to suddenly come to a halt when I'd said all I needed to say that morning. Other times it was more peaceful and comforting, like the warmth of a cup of hot chocolate was sweeping through me, reaching out from my core to spread to the tips of my fingers and toes. Some days were harder than others to get those words out on the page, but there was such a sense of accomplishment, of completeness, after I finished with them each day.

    Your post on morning pages has inspired me to start sitting down for them again starting tomorrow. Thank you so much for sharing and I'm looking forward to reading your blog posts in the future. Your writing is absolutely beautiful. ♥

    1. Brittany - I loooooove long comments! :) so excited to meet someone else who has practiced 'morning pages'!! Your reflections on the practice are really lovely and I hope you can make them a regular part of your days again! Thank you for reading!!