Have you ever heard of morning pages? They are one of the basic tools laid out in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I recently had a writing instructor recommend her students read the book and begin the practice.
The morning pages practice is simple: rise early each day to write three pages “of longhand writing, strictly stream of consciousness” (10). One should use the space/time to get the gunk of life out of one’s head, down on the page, and move on from there. The book has many examples of the miracle of morning pages, about students who had started the practice and found success in their professional field, crediting morning pages for the breakthrough.
I was completely enamored with the idea. It was presented that if I could just journal for three pages every morning, well, then I’d start writing in a meaningful way and actually become a writer. Though I already had a pretty consistent journaling practice, this was a more structured take on it.
Since last fall until about two weeks ago, I was very dedicated to the morning pages. I would wake up at four AM before my twelve hour shifts to journal. I would journal on my days off my day job. I would sometimes write more than three pages. I would pull a tarot card and use that as a prompt. I felt very productive.
Can you guess what I wasn’t doing? I wasn’t writing anything creatively. No inspiration appeared “seemingly out of nowhere” (17). In fact, my morning pages turned into me writing that I was anxious about not writing. I was talking myself through it being ok that I wasn’t writing creatively. I was making excuses, writing, ‘well, at least I’m reading a lot right now.’ I would journal and then think ‘ok well there’s that writing done for today…now to go do my work/errands/chores/exercise/etc’ with no space left for the writing that I actually wanted to produce!
I talked this through with a writerly friend. About how journaling/morning pages was actually holding me back from writing. About just doing the damn thing and actually writing. I decided to say fuck it to morning pages and put my journal aside.
That was a week and a half ago.
Since opening up that time in my life — and giving my headspace a break of the ‘checked box’ that was morning pages — my creativity and desire to write creatively has grown. I still get up at four AM on a work day, but now I produce story. I read more short stories. I’ve nearly finished my own short story. I am doing. And that’s the real miracle.