A few years ago, I was a part of a sort of writing/self-development group called The Artist’s Way. It’s a sort of self-actualizing roadmap to help you bring forth your inherently creative nature based on a book of the same name by a woman named Julia Cameron.
This isn’t about that book. Honestly, never read it.
I never even liked the name of the group even before I found out it was the title to the book. It always sounded a bit like… “Who, me? I’m an aaaartist. I’m very deep and very insightful and most importantly, VERY creative.”
I know I was making generalizations and being a bit judgmental at the time. My mother suggested I check the group out because I was having a hard time getting back on my feet financially and emotionally after letting my personal bad habits and vices spin a little too far out of control. It was a rough time, and the group was meant to help ease the struggle and give me some sort of slowly-forming clarity.
I went for a few weeks and, well, it was… fine.
Mostly middle-aged folks trying to get themselves out of their own ruts by trying to tap into their own respective creative sides and perhaps learn a bit more about themselves in the process with the help of workbooks and writing activities. This part of the group was the part I was most interested in — the writing. I didn’t really need the awkward social setting or the group sharing bits, but I had already been writing a decent amount at the time and already knew that it helped me work through my own thoughts and problems.
So, when I was introduced to one of the main aspects of the group, a habit we were meant to form called Morning Pages, I was more open to seeing what else it had to offer and thus, kept returning.
It turns out that this one thing was really the only thing I found to be beneficial, but I’m just one person. I found a lot of what else was offered in the program to be a bit generalized and seemed to be geared towards people who either needed help exercising their creative side, or didn’t think they had one at all and wanted to try and locate it wherever it happened to be hiding in their brain. I never felt I had a problem understanding my creative mind or expressing my feelings I just wanted to get in the habit of writing more often.
That’s where Morning Pages comes in. It’s a habit I had started forming all those years ago and something that helped me immensely when I was going through a rough patch. Not that I am now, quite the contrary, actually, and not that this exercise is only meant for help through tough times, that just happened to be the case at the time.
If you’ve never heard of Morning Pages, the idea is simple: The minute you wake up, before you do absolutely anything else — though perhaps after you stretch and take your tinkle — you sit down with a notebook and write for three pages straight.
That’s it. Easy as that.
It doesn’t have to be directed in any way, there doesn’t need to be any sort of topic or idea, you just have to free-write continuously for three pages then stop. Boom. Done.
I loved the idea when I heard it. I was already writing in similar ways during different parts of the day anyways, so trying to force myself to freely write three pages every morning sound like a great habit to get into.
And it really was.
There are so many benefits to allowing your mind to relax itself on the page for a bit before you start your usual morning rituals.
I used to be much more of a night owl back then, or at least tried to be. My idea of a tortured artist was someone who stayed up late into the early hours of morning twisting their brains into knots trying to wring out the magic that would normally form dreams had they been sleeping. I suppose I was doing something close to that for awhile, but the older I got, the more tired I became and more resistance to sleep was futile. I decided to flip my sleep schedule.
I do still believe that a person is able to access their most creative nature when they’re a bit sleep deprived and loopy, just before real exhaustion kicks in. For me, it was in those late night hours. That ethereal time between 2 and 5am. When the world is silent and your abstract mind can roam free in the real world, uncaged by the confines of a sleeping brain. Things can get pretty dreamy and surreal when you regularly stay up late and I didn’t want to lose access to that free-flowing wizard juice by forcing myself to go to bed.
What I’ve found over time though, is that free-writing with those early worm finger-wiggles in the first few minutes of waking up can be just as potent as scratching a notebook with night owl talons. When you actually get decent sleep and wake up early enough, you’ll not only still have access to those dreamy thoughts that were permeating your exhausted mind in those late night hours, you’ll actually have more energy to continue working for longer than you could before because your body and mind aren’t screaming for sleep.
It’s like this: instead of starting to write coherently and slowly becoming more and more abstract as the night wears on, eventually kicking your conscious brain to the curb, you start abstract and slowly become more and more coherent and understandable. Then, since your day has just begun, you’ll even have the energy to go back and edit and work on other things as well.
I say I want to bring back Morning Pages because I honestly fell out of the habit a few years ago. I’ve been writing just as much, if not more, but I haven’t kept up with the daily practice of writing three simple pages the moment I wake up.
It has to become like a ritual. Forget the work you may have done at night or any sort of official writing you know you have to do. This isn’t about work, or obligations, or goals. This is the start of a built-in habit of massaging your brain before the day begins by letting whatever leftover emotions and half-baked dreams you may have upon waking spill onto a page, or three, and starting your day free from those lingering feelings.
It’s a way to truly hit the reset button instead of the snooze button. So, before you decide to lean over and punch your alarm clock to sleep for another ten minutes, slide out of bed and grab a pen before you even start thinking about the reasons why you don’t want to.
Open a page and write the first words that come to mind, even if those words are literally, “I do not want to be doing this shit right now.” I guarantee you’ll find that three pages of random thoughts are easier to get through than you think.
Once you start to make it a daily habit, you’ll start to notice the benefits of clearing your mind of all the unnecessary word-clutter that you don’t even realize you have when you first wake up.
So, let’s make it clear:
1. Wake up
2. Stretch your stretchiest stretch
3. Toilet time (as needed)
4. Notebook and pen
5. Write 3 pages of absolutely anything (feelings in that moment, dreams cut short, frustrations about forcing yourself to start the habit in the first place, anything)
6. Feel fresh and relaxed. Start your day on a high note
It’s as easy to do as it is hard to keep up with, as with most things beneficial, but it’s a great morning habit to form and one that I’m personally going to start up again.
Have you ever heard of Morning Pages before?
If not, try it for a week and see what you think.
Perhaps you'll be as surprised as I was.
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