There are plenty of tips and tricks out there that many writers swear by for fighting writer’s block and developing a consistent writing routine, like writing every evening or using writing prompts to find inspiration.
One strategy, however, promises to not only improve your writing, but also bring clarity to your life and help you set priorities. I’m talking about morning pages.
By writing 3 full pages every morning as soon as you wake up, you can free your mind of whatever’s blocking your creativity and also learn a whole lot about yourself. Read on to learn more about morning page benefits and how you can get started.
What Are Morning Pages?
Morning pages are a concept that originated with author Julia Cameron, in her 1992 book The Artist’s Way.
As she explains in the book, morning pages are:
- 3 full, 8.5″ x 11″ pages
- Written in stream of consciousness
- About whatever crosses your mind
Ideally, this exercise is handwritten, and not typed out on your phone or computer. Refrain from self-editing (something that tends to be much more tempting when you can simply hit “delete”), and keep writing until you fill 3 pages.
The idea is that you’ll dump all the “stuff” that’s in your mind, and make way for more constructive and creative ideas to pop up throughout the day.
Fans of this strategy have reported improved focus, ideas that totally changed their businesses for the better, a deeper connection with their intuitions, eye-opening revelations about their habits and relationships, and more.
How Can This Exercise Help Writers?
According to Cameron, the morning pages can benefit all of us. Like journaling, they can help you to really get in touch with your inner self—they can help you recognize the goals, feelings, desires, and motivations that, amidst all the hustle, bustle, and noise of life, you might not have even realized you have.
Of course, everyone stands to benefit from these revelations, but the morning pages can be especially helpful to writers.
Clearing out all of your lingering thoughts first thing in the morning can help to fight writer’s block, since you’ll address the concerns, conflicts, or even excitement that might be distracting you and blocking your best ideas.
And, as Cameron elaborates, “The morning pages teach logic brain to stand aside and let artist brain play,” which means this could be the push you need to unleash some of your best, most creative ideas.
What Do You Write in Morning Pages?
The good news about the morning pages are that you can write about anything and everything you want. Actually, to be more precise, you should write anything and everything that comes into your mind just after waking up in the morning, stream of consciousness style.
Unlike other exercises that involve different writing prompts for each day, you don’t need a specific theme in mind or any questions to answer as you write.
All you need to do is pour your thoughts out until you finish 3 pages. Whether you’re thinking about everything you have to do that day, still fuming from an argument you had the night before, or wondering what the weather will be like today, it’s all fair game.
The only thing you should try to stay away from is a documentation of the previous night’s dreams. While writing down your dreams is a tactic that many psychologists recommend, it’s not exactly compatible with the aims of the morning pages.
Julia Cameron explains: “Remember that the pages are intended to sweep our consciousness clean. If you have used half of your pages to record a dream, you won’t have room enough left for all the corners to be swept clean.”
So, with that exception aside, you can really write about pretty much anything. And if literally nothing comes to mind, write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over again until a thought arises, or until you finish your 3 pages.
How Long Do Morning Pages Take?
There aren’t any hard rules about how much time you should dedicate to your morning pages—you should simply write until you’ve filled 3 pages with whatever thoughts come to mind.
However, since you shouldn’t be worrying about misspellings, grammar, or proper sentence structure (you could really just write one sentence for 3 pages), it should be fair to say that morning pages could take as little as 5-15 minutes of your morning, depending on how fast you write (though it’s ok to spend more time).
You also don’t need to spend time brainstorming or penning thoughtful responses to a very specific prompt. In fact, your prompt for this exercise is simply, “What are you thinking right now?”
So while finding time to write 3 full pages each morning might seem like a near-impossible task (especially before coffee), if done properly, you’ll find that it really doesn’t take much time at all.
Do Morning Pages Have to Be Done in the Morning?
Besides the “no-dream-analysis” guideline, there’s really just one simple rule to follow when it comes to writing morning pages: they must be done in the morning.
Why does that really matter, you might ask? Why can’t you pour your thought out right before bed? Wouldn’t that help you sleep better, too?
Well, it might, and no one’s saying you shouldn’t try that, too. But if you want to reap the intended benefits of the morning pages, you should write them as they were intended to be written.
By writing 3 full pages first thing in the morning, you can “catch yourself before your ego’s defenses are in place,” as Cameron explains.
You’re probably safe to go get that vital first cup of coffee, and please don’t ignore your bladder—but other than that, you should try to get your pages done as soon as you can after waking up.
Do not assume that you can do them upon arriving to your office or during your first morning break and still get the same results, because you can’t. By then, your mind will already be clouded with that work email you read in the parking lot, the 3 dozen cupcakes your kids just told you they need for a class party tomorrow, or the credit card statement you just got an alert for.
The sooner you finish your pages, the better you’ll be able to efficiently get your unfiltered thoughts out of your head and onto the page.
A Few Tips for this Exercise
If you want to make the most of this exercise, follow these tips for maximum benefits from your morning pages:
- Be open and receptive to the thoughts that emerge.
- Write your morning pages every morning (and by hand!)
- Don’t self-edit; keep going, no matter how many mistakes you make or how many times you change your thought mid-sentence.
- Your goal is not to write something good—it’s just to write, so don’t get caught up in crafting the perfect sentence or finding an ideal word. If you do this, you’re missing the point.
- Nothing is too stupid, silly, or weird to be included (though you might wish to lock up this journal somewhere safe, or burn it once it’s completed).
- Find a great notebook or journal that you’ll actually enjoy writing in each morning.
- Some days will be harder than others to fill your pages. Don’t give up! When you hit a wall, Cameron suggests asking yourself questions like, “What should I do next?”, “What do I need to know?”, and “What do I need to accept?”
Amp Up Your Writing Routine
Just as importantly, however, morning pages can bring clarity to your thoughts and help you to prioritize your day and life. So why not give them a try?
Have you tried writing morning pages? What effect did it have on your writing or life?