It was 1994, I think. I was sitting in an audience laughing myself simple as author, Julia Cameron, shared both her life and how she’d come to write The Artist’s Way. The book was a blazing success, and she was most entertaining with the sense of humor only a recovered alcoholic has, having stripped themselves clean of the puffery most people employ to fill out the dents in their persona that denial and non-accountability whacked in there.
I worked through The Artist’s Way back then as I was just starting to write and my life was in chaos, both of which the book addressed. The activity that Julia stressed in order to tap into our source of creativity and wisdom was what she called Morning Pages – 3 pages (8 ½ x 10) of longhand writing about anything or everything that crosses your mind done the first thing when you get up each morning. As Julia says,
“They [Morning Pages] appear to have nothing to do with creativity, yet they are the bedrock on which my creative life is built. They are the terra firma of my book The Artist’s Way and the central, life-changing tool that guides and safeguards creative emergence.”
Trust me if you will, Ms. Cameron is not being overly effusive in that statement. The book she recently published is specifically on the topic and is entitled, The Miracle of the Morning Pages , which I heartily suggest you read if anything in this blog strikes a chord. You see this recent book was written 25 years after Ms. Cameron's original experience with Morning Pages, and the power of this practice is now time-tested. Whether you are in the arts or just living a life that has far too many issues unresolved, this simple, doable activity could change your life.
I started the Morning Pages all those years ago, but I didn't realize their power, and somewhere along the way stopped writing them. So this past February, after Bert found Julia’s new book mentioned above, Bert, friend Adrienne and I began this practice anew, and we were all amazed at the results and continue to be.
How do the Morning Pages accomplish what they do? I’m not sure I see it all, but of this I am clear. There is an elemental activity that goes on continuously in all human beings, call it an energy or force that is constantly active. I refer to it, thanks to Don Juan Matus, as our attention. We don't have a choice about whether it is active or not. Where our choice lies is in directing its focus. If we don’t take an active role in directing it, attention generally focuses along the lines of habit – paying heed to old stories, opinions, expectations—our usual habituated look at things. Or worse, it trundles through life like an early morning dog on the run, nosing into all kinds of garbage.
If we take an active say in where we place our attention, many possibilities open up to us, not the least of which is being present. Another is awareness of our intuitive core, the home of creative instinct. That instinct can serve our artistic endeavors or direct us toward solving issues that are diminishing our lives. By the simple act of putting pen to paper and writing continuously for 3 - 8 ½ X 10 pages whatever comes up or whatever you indicate you want to understand, your attention resides in the present and accesses your creative inner core. Rumi, the Sufi mystic, referred to this aspect of ourselves as The Friend, and you will soon find out why.
Get yourself past the New Agey frame of reference that Julia comes from, if that bothers you, so you can find out for yourself what this amazing practice has to offer. Each day, Morning Pages become the first thing you do because that makes the pages easier to write. Your attention is still close by and hasn't yet gotten caught up in that infernal inner chatter or shot off to La-La Land. Get up, grab your coffee then sit back down and write.
ONE WARNING – The Morning Pages are absolutely private. Do not let anyone read then. It will inhibit you if you think someone might see what you are writing. If you have someone in your space that you fear might not honor your right to privacy, put the journal where it will be safe. You must feel you can write whatever comes to you. That is critical to the success of these pages. You can discuss ideas and insights as you wish, but don’t give anyone access to the journal itself.
I would suggest you read The Miracle of the Morning Pages before you start. Then buy yourself a journal that you like of the proper size and get started. If you hit a morning where nothing is coming, just keep writing something, repeating a question or soliciting the flow to begin, until it does.
For those of you who take me up on this, I would love to hear your comments about your experience. Friend Adrienne, who’s new to all of this, reports her results have astounded her. Help those still fence-sitting by sharing your experience of a week with Morning Pages. We’re all waiting…