“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~ Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith
In the Artist’s Way program, there are two pivotal tools that are essential to creative recovery. One of these is the Morning Pages. What are the Morning Pages, you might ask? Julia defines them as:
“Three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness: “Oh, god, another morning. I have NOTHING to say. I need to wash the curtains. Did I get my laundry yesterday? Blah, blah, blah…” They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.
I personally have done the Morning Pages ever since the first time I went to the program many years ago and I can truthfully say they have made a huge difference in my life. While doing my Morning Pages, I have come up with ideas for novels, ideas for new business ventures, solved difficult problems – all by while moving the pen across the page.
The nice thing about the Morning Pages is that they take hardly no effort at all. That is to say, you don’t have to try to be creative at all. Grammar does not matter. Sentence structure does not matter. Spelling does not matter. The only thing that matters is that you write the three bloody pages. Sometimes, just writing out all the negative stuff that’s been building up inside of us can make a difference. Sometimes, all we need to do to feel better is to let it all out.
What’s important to remember, is that there is no right or wrong way to do the Morning Pages. If you simply cannot think of anything to write, then fill up three pages with, “Dammit, I don’t know what to write.” Eventually you’ll tire of this and other words will come through.
Your Morning Pages can be nonsensical. They can be in list format. They can be in the form of a short story. They can be an excerpt from your novel or part of a song you’ve been working on. They can be your grocery list or party invitee list. They can be anything you like.
According to Julia, the Morning Pages are the primary tool of creative recovery. She states that oftentimes when we are writing, the dreaded Censor comes through and keeps up with a constant stream of subversive remarks. The Censor says things such as:
“You call that writing? What a joke. You can’t even punctuate. If you haven’t done it by now you never will. You can’t even spell. What makes you think you can be creative?” And on and on.
My own personal Censor tends to be someway more harsh. He had a tendency to say, “Congratulations Roger! You just wrote another page of shit.”
Julia says of the Censor:
”Think of your Censor is a cartoon serpent, slithering around your creativity Eden, hissing vile things to keep you off guard.”
The important thing to remember when writing your Morning Pages, is that the Censor’s opinions NOT not the truth – and by writing freestyle as quickly as you can, you learn to evade the Censor. Let him prattle on all he likes but keep writing. After being ignored, he’ll eventually shut up as he loses his power over you – and you’ll eventually learn that he is not the voice of reason; in fact, he’s nothing more than a nasty little critter whose sole purpose in life is to make you doubt yourself.
So how often do you have to do the Morning Pages? The answer: every day. Julia states firmly that the Morning Pages are nonnegotiable and that you should never skip or skimp on them, regardless of your mood. You may find that your best creative work may appear on days when you are in a bad mood or simply don’t feel like writing.
If you want, use your tarot journal as your Morning Pages. Draw a daily card or even throw out a spread and then journal about it. Look at the images, colors, situations and characters in the card and write about whatever comes to your mind – Morning Pages, stream-of-consciousness style. Apply the meanings or images of the card to things or issues that are occurring in your life. Again, there’s no wrong way to do it – as long as you write three pages.
I do have a confession to make however. Julia insists that you write out the Morning Pages longhand – that is to say, with pen and paper. Now being a gentleman of a certain age, I have come to experience painful wrist and arm problems due to years and years of computer & mouse work. Writing anything out longhand is no longer a possibility for me (at least an enjoyable one!). So I admit that I type out my Morning Pages on the computer, as do many others.
There is a fun Website you might want to check out called 750 Words that are inspired by the Morning Pages. According to Bruno, the owner of the site, 750 typewritten words equals about 3 pages. At the 750 Words Website, you can login every morning and type in your Morning Pages. Now this is not considered blogging and your writing is not public in any way – it is for your eyes only. In fact, you never have to look at your entries again. But what’s nice about the site, is that it tracks your progress, allows you to set goals (I will do my Morning Pages every day for a month) and receive various badges upon attaining certain milestones. I’ve been using the site daily ever since I discovered it and find that it provides me additional motivation to do my Morning Pages. You can check out the site HERE.
So tomorrow, put your pen and paper and begin your Morning Pages. Remember, they are nonnegotiable and are an essential part of the program. While they may seem like a chore at the moment you will soon discover the many benefits they provide – and you may soon begin to unlock your creativity.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the second of the Basic Tools – the Artist’s Date.
Need a copy of The Artist’s Way? You can check out a paperback, hardcover or a Kindle verions HERE