There are many ways you can uncover and enhance your creativity as an artist. According to Julia Cameron, an American teacher, author, and creativity guru, one of them is the concept of Morning Pages. Curious to learn more about the concept and help your creativity flow (and glow)? Keep reading as we delve deeper into the topic!
What are Morning Pages?
Before we dive into the concept of Morning Pages, we want to emphasize that the technique may only be suitable and valuable for some. Human creativity is complex, and for every individual, different ways or methods might help them unlock their creativity. Don't push yourself if you try Morning Pages, but don’t feel like they fulfill their purpose! Other methods might work better for you.
Overall, the Morning Pages method is highly straightforward and “not high art,” as Julia Cameron explains. It is a daily practice of longhand-crafting three pages of “stream-of-consciousness writing.” This means you should aim to fill in three pages with everything and anything that both subconsciously and consciously crosses your mind: no thinking, no pondering, no editing.
The outcome doesn’t need to be ‘pretty,’ well-written, or make sense. It’s also not for anyone to revisit or read — not even you, if you don’t particularly want to. Instead, the technique should serve as a no-stress practice that perhaps helps you unwind and write whatever you think without any boundaries, restrictions, or the need to be perfect.
Morning Pages are not a new invention. Julia Cameron introduced the concept in her 1992 self-help book ‘The Artist's Way.’ In the book, she describes Morning Pages as a unique method that helps people recover their stagnant artistic creativity. Since then, several editions, renditions, and continuations of the book have further elaborated on Morning Pages, with Cameron releasing the most recent one at the beginning of January this year.
Living the Artist's Way: An Intuitive Path to Creativity by Julia Cameron (Source: Amazon)
The benefits of Morning Pages for artists
When naming and highlighting the benefits of Morning Pages, Cameron doesn’t just stop at unlocking one’s stagnant creativity. One of the essential advantages of doing the Morning Pages is learning to let go of your so-called Censor. That is the part of you that feels the need and urge to edit yourself. Instead, the method should help you find and see the real you and pay more attention to your true, authentic voice, not the voice of the Censor.
Cameron emphasizes that listening to the voice of your Censor, which tends to correct you, criticize you, or even judge you, will only contribute to or deepen your creative stagnancy. It’s difficult to express your creative self freely if there’s constantly someone on to you or against you.
Learning to ignore and eventually overcome your inner Censor should lead to other significant advantages: clearing your mind and getting to know yourself better. And what better things are there for your art (and creativity) than having a calm, relaxed mind and knowing who you are and what body of work you want to create?
Additionally, Morning Pages can help you remember your dreams more often and vividly (also great for your creativity), find your center (and thus your imagination), and become more confident about yourself, your decisions, and your artistic expression. In this way, you might be able to overcome negativity, doubts, and fears.
How to do Morning Pages?
While Morning Pages are about nurturing a calm, stress-free, and, if possible, positive energy, the rules applied to the practice are relatively strict. Personally, we wouldn’t put much pressure on the rules — after all, it’s about how you feel about it and what you need. However, we emphasize that you may not experience Morning Pages' actual benefits and outcomes without consistency. Here are the key rules:
1. Do your Morning Pages first thing in the morning.
Crafting your Morning Pages right after you roll out of your bed, perhaps still half-asleep, may give you some time before your full consciousness and ego’s defenses wake up, too. It’s almost like tricking your body into doing (and, in this case, writing) things it’s not fully aware of. This, as a result, might give your writing even more authenticity and access to your true self.
2. They must be longhand.
No computer, no typing. It should be just you, a pen, and paper.
3. Exactly three pages — not less, not more.
According to Cameron, you must fill out exactly three sides of the US letter paper (or A4). On some days, starting out might be challenging. On other days, finishing the second page-and-half may feel like hell. However, with time and practice, you might find it easier, with your thoughts coming to you more effortlessly.
Simultaneously, the more you write, the more you’re likely to realize that you can’t write about nothing for three whole pages every single day. This is the sign that your creativity is slowly unlocking.
It’s also vital that you stop writing after you finish your three pages. According to Cameron, this is when your “self-involvement and narcissism” is likely to get mirrored in your writing, which, as we already know, is something you should try to avoid.
4. It's a daily practice.
You must do your Morning Pages daily, even when you feel down or uninspired. Once again, while consistency is important, don’t ever push yourself. It’s better to miss a day than become resentful, right?
5. Nobody should read your Morning Pages, nor should you ever revisit them.
Just like journaling, Morning Pages are private. It’s just and only about your thoughts, feelings, and ideas; thus, nobody else should be welcome to read them. Additionally, there’s no good coming from reading back your Morning Pages.
Therefore, as Cameron suggests, you can do whatever you want with your Pages once finished. You can bin them, tear them apart, or burn them. You’re the one in control!
How do I stay consistent with my Morning Pages?
As we’ve already mentioned a few times, consistency is key! Unlike motivation, which can come and go whenever ‘she’ pleases, consistency rests in the discipline. And to maintain discipline, you need to form habits.
For years, many have claimed that it is the 21/90 rule that brings positive results in habit formation — it takes 21 days to form a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change. However, researchers have found that the 21/90 rule is a myth! Instead, a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology revealed that it takes an average of 66 days to transform a new behavior into a stable habit.
There are several different ways one can build a habit. In our article, we’ve decided to combine two sources to develop what we hope will be a simple-to-follow and easy-to-implement 5-step process to form the habit of crafting your Morning Pages (or any other habit).
While other sources might be rather strict with their steps and processes, we take things easy when it comes to habit formation. Indeed, if you decide to build a habit, you must be prepared that it might take work. Some may say you must use your willpower to make it happen.
However, willpower is like a muscle; it grows when you train it and fatigues when you use it throughout the day. While our list of steps may take more time to form the habit you want, we hope it will help you reach more sustainable and long-lasting results.
1. Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve.
This one is easy in our case. We want to enhance our creativity by practicing the Morning Pages daily.
2. Start with a small task.
Crafting three whole pages might be relatively easy if you enjoy writing and have more experience. However, if this is your first time getting into writing, you may find yourself struggling in the beginning. That’s why it might be easier to start small — instead of three pages, you can only write one page.
Additionally, in the beginning, you may find it challenging to commit to Morning Pages daily. You can, therefore, start by doing it once a week or every other day — whatever you find suitable when starting out.
3. Plan when and where you will do your task.
You might find it easier to do your task if you link it to a specific time and place you encounter daily. One should write one's morning pages first thing in the morning.
As for the place, choose one you find comfortable or love. You may have a cozy armchair, a spacious work desk, or a room with a nice view at home. Writing your Pages in a comfortable environment might give you an additional push to complete your task.
4. Gradually increase your task.
Once you feel confident about the task you’ve set yourself to do, you can bring it to another level — you can increase the number of pages you write or do your Morning Pages more often! If writing three pages every day still feels overwhelming to you, simply make it two pages. Going from two pages to three might feel even easier afterward.
5. Don't shame yourself if you miss a day.
Shaming yourself for missing a day will never positively impact you and your habit formation. If anything, it will just make you feel low. Should you ever miss a day, strive to accept it and get back on track the next day.
Sometimes, we all experience situations that don’t allow us to commit to something we usually would. In such cases, it’s all about understanding why it happened (and whether it can happen again) and showing up again as soon as possible.
Research has shown that slipping up on your habit once has no measurable impact on your progress. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, suggests following a motto: “Never miss twice.” Such a rule can serve as a plan if you miss a day and take some pressure off yourself to always do things perfectly.
So, what do you think? Will you give Morning Pages a try?
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