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Morning Pages – The Artist’s Way

by jenny sansouci on August 17, 2009

This was originally titled “How to Figure Out What to Do.” Sounds a little broad, huh? That’s because the tool I’m about to share with you can help you figure out what to do next in many different areas of your life.

These days people keep themselves so busy that they don’t take the time to sit down and really listen to themselves. And by listening to yourself, I don’t mean sitting down and just overthinking everything. I mean listening to your intuition, your subconscious, your inner guide. We can’t listen to our inner guide when we have too many thoughts swirling around – too many tasks to accomplish – we’re not sure where to go next.

Having too much clutter in your mind is blocking you from your true purpose. One way of working on this is meditation. If you’re not ready to dive into meditation or you need something more tangible, I totally understand. This tool is perfect for you.

The tool I’m talking about is called Morning Pages, and it has changed my life. I learned this tool from Julia Cameron at her Artist’s Way Workshop at the Omega Institute in May 2009. Ever since I attended her workshop, I have been doing Morning Pages every day. I haven’t skipped a day, and I don’t plan to. The leaps and bounds I’ve made in getting to know myself better and clearing my mind of clutter have been extraordinary. Although the Morning Pages are a part of the full Artist’s Way program, they are super powerful on their own too.

I’ll describe how to do Morning Pages, and then talk a little more about their purpose.

1. Get a notebook. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A plain spiral notebook will do. Make sure the pages are standard size, though, around 8.5 x 11 – no mini journals.

2. Get a pen.

3. Wake up 20 to 30 minutes earlier than you usually do. As soon as you wake up (and I mean first thing!) take out your notebook and start writing. Write 3 pages. (Not 3 pages front & back, but 3 pages total). Write about anything and everything that comes to mind. Don’t stop writing. If you don’t have anything to say, write “I don’t have anything to say” over and over until you do have something to say. And you will. Believe me, you will.

4. Repeat every day. Enjoy your newfound clarity.

If you are doubting the power of the Morning Pages, you obviously haven’t given them a try yet, at least not for a prolonged period of time. If you don’t want to try it, no problem. Don’t try it. But if you’re anything like me, digging deeper into yourself and what’s really going on is a really exciting thing. I was thrilled to try it, and every day I wake up excited to write my Pages and grateful for the insights I get from the writing.

Here are a few questions that often come up around Morning Pages. I’ll answer them the way I was taught.

Q: Do I really have to do them as soon as I wake up? What if I want to make a cup of coffee first?

A: You really should do them as soon as possible when you open your eyes. This is because you’re still close to that subconscious state and more in touch with your raw vulnerability. You’ll get the best results this way. But if you want a cup of coffee, nobody is going to deny you of that. I took Julia Cameron’s advice on this one, and I make a pot of coffee every night and refridgerate it. As soon as I wake up, I open the fridge and pour a cup of cold coffee. I start writing.

Q: I already have a morning meditation or exercise practice. Can I do the Morning Pages afterwards?

A: My advice would be to wake up 30 minutes earlier than you usually do. Do the morning pages first. Morning pages actually sets you up beautifully for a meditation. Your mind will be clearer and you’ll slip into a meditation with ease. And same with exercise – lately I’ve been going on a morning run right after my Pages, and I find that my mind is clearer and I enjoy the exercise more.

Q: I’m not sure I understand what I’m supposed to write. Can you give me an example?

A: Sure. It could start out a little something like this: “Hi. I’m awake. I’m really tired. I didn’t sleep much last night. My throat hurts a little. I want to sleep for another hour. Why did I go to bed so late last night? I want to start getting more sleep. I need to make a dentist appointment. I can’t remember where I parked my car. I have 2 unpaid parking tickets. I need to pay them. I have to remember to call Lisa today. I am excited for Leo’s birthday, I still have to get him a gift. I am not sure what to get him. I’m really happy that I went running yesterday. I want to get in shape.”

Just a stream of consciousness. It doesn’t even have to make sense. When you get all of these thoughts out at the beginning of the day, you clear your mind and start to get in touch with your deeper feelings and intuitions.

Usually, I find that after about a page and a half of writing as I described above, I start to dive a little deeper into things. It may take you a week or so of writing “to-do list” type Morning Pages before you start tapping into deeper emotions and personal goals. After writing for awhile, though, you’ll start to see patterns and you’ll know what you really need to work on. You’ll start to see what problems you keep writing about, and you’ll want to figure out solutions. As an example, for the past few months the 2 main things I was frustrated with / complaining about in my Morning Pages was that I wanted to re-do my blog, and that I wanted to get in better shape. I wrote about those 2 things almost daily and complained about how I wasn’t doing them. One day, it all just snapped. I got sick of writing it over and over, and I took action. I worked on my blog. I went for a run. The next day, I didn’t complain about those 2 things. I felt unblocked.

Many people say the Morning Pages helps them to be more creative or intuitive, because it helps you begin to clear the clutter of the mind. If you’re an artist or an aspiring artist and feeling blocked, this can work wonders for your art.

If you don’t know what’s really important to you or what your next step should be, ask your Morning Pages. Ask for guidance each day. Write, and see where the writing takes you. There are things inside you just begging to be uncovered. You’ll ask questions, you’ll find answers, you’ll gain insights, you’ll unblock your inner artist (we all have one!) and you’ll be set in motion. Just try it for a few days and see how you feel. Trust me!! Miracles are waiting to happen.

“Each of us has an inner dream that we can unfold if we will just have the courage to admit what it is. And the faith to trust our own admission. The admitting is often very difficult.” -Julia Cameron

If you have additional questions pertaining to morning pages, feel free to contact me and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my ability. Check out The Artist’s Way if you want to deepen the process of self-discovery and unblocking.

Good luck! Happy writing!




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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ritu September 2, 2009 at 10:27 am

I am huge believer in this tool. It has helped me so much! although, I’ve been slacking lately and doing these at night, this post totally inspired me to get my butt up early in the morning and do my morning pages.

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yogachicken October 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm

i did morning pages for a while and my roommate/best friend actually read them out loud months later with my tone and boy did we laugh our asses off!

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Maggs October 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Hi
Loved your article but can you say exactly how the morning pages has helped you, eg, do you find writing/painting/dancing skills has improved? Do you feel the MP are a form of meditation.
Many thanks

Reply

Michael Riscica December 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Wow… I wish saw this post in 2009. In 2009 I read “artist way” and it changed my life. I wrote my morning pages for about 1 year every single morning. Writing them each day brought massive clarity to each day and general feeling of well being during a time when I needed it most.

I learned that letting go of my penmanship helped me tremendously in the process of getting clarity. By the end of the year my pages were basically unreadable, although they definitely convey tons of emotion through how the lines are used.

A few months ago I discovered the website 750words.com. Its basically the cloud based version. Lately it has been more efficient for me to type the 750 pages then it is to handwrite the 3 pages.

Great post. Thanks Jenny.

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jenny sansouci December 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Michael! That’s so awesome. Thanks for sharing that. I agree, writing is soooo therapeutic and helps to get so much clarity. By the end of the 3 pages (at this point sometimes it’s 1/2 a page, sometimes it’s even been like 8 pages depending on what I’m going through) I have such a clearer perspective. Total brain drain. :)

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BJ May 29, 2014 at 9:15 am

Morning Pages is the one thing I’ve been introduced to at IIN, that I’m struggling with. Well by struggling with, I mean, I haven’t tried at all. The thought of it makes me go “blah…” Having said that though, I’ve just had an “ah ha” moment while reading your post. It goes something like this; The old me is feeling insecure about how the new me is evolving & it’s trying to sabotage my progress by dissing what could most likely me an essential tool on my journey. Very interesting indeed!!

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Rachael July 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm

BJ you should check out some of the posts on Julia Cameron Live for further inspiration. Some great stories from people who are doing the work and getting so much out of it.

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