I’ve been deliberating about my return to writing as if it’s been a long time since I wrote. The fact is I write almost daily.
My dark side always snidely adds, “if you can call that writing,” which is neither kind nor helpful. My morning pages are not intended to be shared, but that doesn’t invalidate them. They are not intended to have meaning even, but they continue to be an exercise to put words down on a page. Maybe you have never heard of Morning Pages or the workbook from Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way that inspired me to start mine back in 1999. This book motivated me to get a dog, to consider myself a kind of artist, and to begin a decade of self-help workshops. It also introduced me to a new concept in journaling.*
The way I remember it, morning pages have these guidelines:
- write them first thing
- write longhand for three pages
- use any size notebook
- write quickly without too much thought
- keep it private
- don’t reread them
I break these all the time–mostly #4 and occasionally #6. Although Julia tells us to throw them out! I can’t do that**–I now have 79 notebooks stuffed in a closet, filled with blather.
And it is blather. It’s intended to be blather! The purpose is to let your stream of consciousness go to town and write out the petty emotions, fears, issues of the day so that you can greet the rest of the day with a clean slate. It’s like emptying a stinky trash can. You can rant about the injustices that you know you’re making up, you can be sorry for yourself, hate yourself, get pissy about the people in your life, and it doesn’t matter. Of course you can also dig up pearls of wisdom, and that doesn’t matter either. No one will see this (because #5 is really important); no one will judge you. If you keep #6, even you can’t judge you! It’s done. It’s over. You got that out of your system. And if it’s still there, that rant, you can repeat it the next day. And the next. No one cares. This is for you.
I’ve been doing my MPs most week days for 23 years. Sometimes it takes me an hour, but if I really do them as directed, it’s half that time or less. When I miss, I am simply not as grounded in my day, and everyone pays for that. My pages help me process my life, clarify my emotions, and focus myself on what matters to me. Because I can complain in the pages, I don’t have to complain to others! (You’re welcome) Occasionally, my pages erupt into something more creative and purposeful, but mostly not. It’s so relaxing to just fill them up. A hot tub. A ritual.
Writing this, I really want to revisit The Artist’s Way. It had such an impact on me in my early 40’s! What could it teach me more than 20 years later?
Have you gone through it? What did you learn? Any other recommendations?
*Prior to this, my journaling had been sporadic at best.
**For some reason I imagine in my very old age I will want to look back on the angst of my prior life. And I still giggle at Gwendolyn’s line in The Importance of Being Earnest: