Morning Pages: An Excerpt from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

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We are a week into March’s Creative Challenge, a month of morning pages. If you haven’t joined in, it isn’t too late. Grab a coffee, a notebook and a pen and then join the March Creative Challenge Group.

We had a brilliant meet up yesterday to check in and see how everyone is finding the challenge so far, and to celebrate the success of the first week I’d like to share the following section from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In it, she writes about why she began writing Morning Pages all those years ago. 

“Morning Pages map our own interior. Without them, our dreams may remain terra incognita. I know mine did. Using them, the light of insight is coupled with the power for expansive change. It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.

The first time I did morning pages, I was living in Taos, New Mexico. I had gone there to sort myself out – into what, I didn’t know. For the third time in a row, I’d had a film scuttled due to studio politics. Such disasters are routine to screenwriters, but to me they felt like miscarriages. Cumulatively, they were disastrous. I wanted to give the movies up. Movies had broken my heart. I didn’t want anymore brainchildren to meet untimely deaths. I’d gone to New Mexico to mend my heart and see what else, if anything, I might want to do. 

Living in a small adobe house that looked north to Taos Mountain, I began a practice of writing morning pages. Nobody told me to do them. I had never heard of anybody doing them. I just got the insistent, inner sense that I should do them and so I did. I sat at a wooden table looking north to Taos Mountain and I wrote.

The morning pages were my pastime, something to do instead of staring at the mountain all the time. The mountain, a humpbacked marvel different in every weather, raised more questions than I did. Wrapped in clouds one day, dark and wet the next, that mountain dominated my view and my morning pages as well. What did it – or anything – mean? I asked page after page, morning after morning. No answer.

And then, one wet morning, a character names Johnny came strolling onto my pages. Without planning to, I was writing a novel. The morning pages had shown me a way.

Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within. When I am stuck with a painful solution or problem that I don’t think I know how to handle, I will go to the pages and ask for guidance.

Sometimes, the answer may seem flippant or too simple. I have come to believe that seem is the operative word. Very often, when I act on the advice I have been given, it is exactly right – far more right than something more complicated would have been, And so, for the record, I want to say: pages are my way of meditating; I do them because they work.

A final assurance: the morning pages will work for painters, for sculptors, for poets, for actors, for lawyers, for housewives, for anyone – for anyone who wants to try anything creative. Don’t think they are a tool for writers only. Hooey. These pages are not intended for writers only. Lawyers who use them swear they make them more effective. Dancers claim their balance improves – and not just emotionally. If anything, writers, who have a regrettable desire to write morning pages instead of just do them, may have the hardest time seeing their impact. What they’re likely to see if that their other writing seems to suddenly be far more free and expansive and somehow easy to do. In short, no matter what your reservation or your occupation, morning pages will function for you.”

What do you think? Even if you aren’t actively taking part in the challenge, are you intrigued to give them a go? Have you tried before?

In our meet up last night we discussed how Morning Pages are a bit like Down Dog in yoga. When you start yoga, everyone tells you that Down Dog is a resting pose, but as a beginner that feels impossible. Down Dog HURTS. Surely Child’s Pose is a resting a pose? And then suddenly, after a little while of establishing a yoga practice, you find yourself aching in a warrior pose and instinctively you move into a Down Dog to recover. Overtime you have built up the muscle strength and memory to find reprieve in a previously active pose. 

Likewise, Morning Pages may feel like work in the beginning. As many of our Revolutionary Challengers are finding, three pages of A4 is a lot. And waking up an hour earlier to fit them in is a lot. I felt the exact same when I began writing them (20 years ago!), and then one day the pages flew by, and one lazy Sunday I actively missed getting up earlier. I fall off the Morning Pages every so often, but like going back to a yoga practice after a break, it doesn’t take long to get back in the swing of them. 

We’ll see! I’m looking forward to meeting up again next week and seeing how the journey is progressing for everyone. 

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