Every morning, I start my day with an astonishingly empowering and healing practice learned from artist Julia Cameron. Starting around six months ago, it was perfect timing. I was embarking on a new creative project, and probably like many people, was emotionally adjusting to the newly placed restrictions.
Cameron teaches her readers to use a morning writing ritual that she calls “Morning Pages” to unblock their creativity and clear their minds to be their best selves each day. I hoped adopting this practice would help me to feel more centered.
Although Cameron wrote this book for all the “broken artists” out there trying to establish their voices, this teaching can help anyone seeking more peace and clarity in their lives.
So, What Exactly Are Morning Pages?
Writing Morning Pages is a daily practice, and it’s straightforward. Cameron advises sitting down, first thing in the morning, with three blank pieces of paper or a spiral notebook, and writing down everything on your mind. Keep going until all three pages are filled.
After that, she says to place the pages in a private space where no one will ever see them, not even you. She suggests that you shouldn’t look back at them for at least eight weeks.
That’s it: Get up. Go to your desk with your paper. Write three pages full of notes. Put the notes away. Repeat the next day.
The commitment to getting up, setting aside the time, and sitting down to write is a crucial part of the practice. The act of committing requires us to override negative moods and resistance. No matter how you are “feeling” about getting up to write your pages, you get up and do it anyway.
Try committing to this practice on a deep level.
How Does This Work?
Stream of consciousness writing involves pouring everything onto the page while reserving all judgment.
I have found this kind of writing fascinating and very healing. When I sit down to write, I may have one thing on my mind. Yet, by the time I’m halfway down page one, something else comes up, and I write about that.
Many times, my pages can sound whiny and negative, even petty and trivial! (“I’m so frustrated that my package hasn’t arrived.”)
“There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing.”
There seems to be a serious magic in writing a full three pages. At first, looking at the blank pages, I sometimes think, “There is no way I will be able to fill all of these.”
Yet, sure enough, I feel momentum begin to flow when I get started. It’s almost like there’s another voice inside that always wants to be heard. When given the space to express itself, it really goes to town!
What Actually Happens
I find that as I write, the subjects change quickly. I jump from topic to topic, and then I sometimes go back and explore a subject more thoroughly.
Sometimes I will find myself writing something with a lot of emotional charges. I find it helpful to dive in, writing and describing everything I’m feeling. My writing may pick up speed as I explore an angsty area. I feel each word connect to an emotion I’m feeling, and by writing it down, I’m allowing the feeling to unravel onto the page.
Some days, I will reach some clearer thinking beyond that. I will have a strong positive emotional expression, where I write about how excited I am about this or that. Sometimes I will have a breakthrough of sorts. I feel excited and hopeful about possibilities I hadn’t noticed before.
See how you feel when you begin letting your consciousness flow freely onto the paper. It can be uncomfortable at first unbottling all those thoughts and feelings, but the lightness that soon comes from this practice is so freeing.
A Core Belief Behind Morning Pages
Cameron calls that persistently negative voice in our heads “the Censor.” She argues that the Censor stands in the way of our connection to our pure, artistic selves. It constantly says, “You aren’t good enough. You are crazy to attempt that!” It’s that negative voice that judges and ridicules us continuously.
“All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity.”
The truth is that writing Morning Pages is about more than just the negative thoughts I might have about missing friends during lockdown, or venting about the earring I lost last week. It’s shining a light on our conditioned minds. When I write things down, I’ll sometimes think, where did this belief come from? And I’ll realize it’s from a decision I made about myself when I was four years old, for example. These old, conditioned thoughts need to breathe and move on.
The process of writing through the swirling of thoughts in our minds holds the key to bypassing the Censor and accessing our truest, most powerful selves. It’s like when clouds that were obscuring the sun suddenly break, and we see the light shining down.
When we can peel layers away, we can glimpse a happy, hopeful, trusting, and loving version of ourselves that doesn’t take everything quite so seriously.
How the Practice of Writing Morning Pages Builds Mindfulness
Cameron compares Morning Pages to meditation. When we meditate, we try to access that centered stillness within. We try to quiet our minds and find our centers. The Morning Pages ritual attempts to achieve the same thing, but in a more active and actionable way. When we write, we are bearing witness to our thoughts.
Our consciousness becomes aware of the thoughts and feelings that flow through it. By writing, we can begin to untangle those thoughts’ grip, recognizing them as exactly what they are – conditioned thoughts.
Accessing this part of ourselves, which is always there and waiting to be heard, is an ultimate joy. We can feel freedom, delight, creativity. Solutions we’ve been struggling to find may now come to us effortlessly.
Morning Pages also bring us into the now. Our pages have our full attention when we sit down to write. This is another helpful, meditative quality that builds mindfulness as we write.
Writing Every Day is a Practice of Self-Love
I have read a lot lately about the connection between self-love and self-discipline. Just as the old adage tells us, actions speak louder than words: It’s our behaviors, choices, and acts that prove our commitment to ourselves, to self-love. It’s like residents at an ashram, who rise early and sit in meditation. Having this kind of discipline is an act of self-love. You do it – no matter what.
Also, there is a committed level of tolerance and support. It is the opposite of self-abandonment, where I may dismiss the nagging thoughts I have or even judge myself for having them. I’m committed to sticking with myself, allowing myself to express on paper whatever I think or feel. Emotions move and flow, and there is a tangible release of energy. As Cameron puts it:
“Morning pages do get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods.”
I come out of the experience with a clearer mind and often some unique insights that I had previously not recognized. Sometimes I feel positive and hopeful. Other times I feel more aware, like I understand myself and my thoughts. Both outcomes are empowering.
By writing and peeling away the layers, I can begin to access a clear mind that already “knows” the answer to that pressing question that’s been on my mind. Maybe it’s an inner guru or a wise woman that’s buried deep inside. Either way, I can access a more sane, loving version of myself. What could be more worthwhile?