The Morning Pages
Why I write them, and why you should too
My need for daily, uninterrupted stretches of solitude has firmly established me as a morning person. Some people derive their energy from being around others. Mine comes from working alone and in silence.
I often get a lot of raised eyebrows when I tell others that I wake up every morning around 4 am. The most common response is, "Why?".
My answer is that it's because those dark, pre-dawn hours are the most peaceful, isolating hours that I can realistically latch onto for my daily dose of solitude. People are still asleep, and in a way, the world is completely empty, and I'm alone.
There are no interruptions at 4 am. No supervisors are looking over your shoulder. The kids are still asleep. There are no friends or relatives calling you, and no noisy lawnmowers or traffic outside of your window. The only deadlines that need to be met are those you set for yourself.
The world is silent, still, and these hours are all mine to do with as I please. I have cultivated a routine for this morning stretch and fiercely protect it. The couple of hours I have before the day's obligations begin are practically sacred to me.
But the most important practice of my pre-dawn routine is the morning pages.
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the idea of the morning pages. It's the practice introduced by Julia Cameron in her manifesto for creators, The Artist's Way.
Essentially a daily burst of three pages of stream-of-consciousness, freehand writing done first thing in the morning, the morning pages are messy, oftentimes incoherent, and not meant for the eyes of others. I doubt most who write them ever reread them after getting them down. I know I don't.
Nope. The main purpose of the morning pages, at least from my perspective, is to unload all of my mental garbage first thing in the morning and, by doing so, regain clarity, focus, and perspective for the rest of the day ahead.
Basically, it's my way of cleaning the house before getting started for the day. Cameron calls it a morning meditation, which is pretty much spot-on.
The pages are where I probe and purge different parts of my mind, chasing down random, fleeting thoughts I've had over the past couple of days, no matter how inconsequential they seem. Nothing is off-limits. The pages give you the freedom to explore, prod, and play.
Sometimes I discover something interesting while doing the pages that can be developed and polished into a bigger idea that can stand on its own and be shared with others. I've had some issues of this newsletter that began as unexpected ideas that I happened to stumble upon during a morning pages session.
I've modified Cameron's approach a little to fit my own intent. I prefer to type the pages digitally. This may come as a surprise, as I'm strictly a pen and notebook guy with nearly everything else. But I've found that the scattershot, rapid-fire nature of how I log the pages lends itself better to a quick capture method such as typing. The thoughts come flying in fast, and while I get Cameron's aim behind writing out the pages by hand and taking the time to really be with your thoughts, my "empty the trash" objectives differ slightly. My goal isn't so much spending time with my thoughts than it is quickly whittling them down and corralling them into something manageable.
My morning pages serve as a precursor to any writing that requires focus and clarity. Hell, more often than not, they serve as a precursor for just getting on with my day. The pages are not my journal. The words are not meant for posterity.
And the "morning" part? Well, that's always been optional. Although getting them done first thing in the morning makes the most sense, it's far from necessary. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with a busy brain in the middle of the afternoon and need a session with the pages to slow things down and distill my thoughts, one at a time.
Occasionally, as needed, I will have multiple sessions within a single day. In times of momentary crisis or creative deadlock, it's nice to know that I always have the pages available as a tool to leverage and bring me back to reality.
The benefits I reap from writing the pages are not the pages themselves. It is the act of doing them. It's the filtering and compartmentalization of my thoughts. It's the mental housekeeping. The pages are equal parts therapy and mindfulness exercise.
I encourage anyone to take up this daily practice. Set a minimum word count (mine is 750), and spill it all onto the page in a hot, sloppy mess. There are no rules here. You don't need to be a writer or a creative to benefit from the morning pages. We're not aiming for a masterpiece or even anything remotely "good." The morning pages are immune to judgment. They're there to guide us and help us regain our bearings.
Just because we're getting older and (hopefully) wiser doesn't mean that life and the world are inversely getting any less complex and confusing. In fact, I'd argue that part of becoming wiser with age is coming to terms with some truths that may have you questioning and eventually giving up some of those stubborn, congealed beliefs that you may have held on to for your entire adult lives, and what could be more confusing than that?
The morning pages are there to help you process, digest, and assimilate. Do the practice. Write the pages, and they will become your mental anchor. They can help you find your slice of clarity as you grow older in this mad, mad world.
How have the morning pages helped you? What does your daily practice look like? Sound off in the comments! Since MidThoughts is still in its infancy, your feedback is vital in growing this community and delivering compelling content that resonates with you.
If you enjoy the newsletter, subscribe (it’s free!). If you really want to show your support for my work, you can pledge for a future paid subscription.
That’s all for now! Be sure to join me back here in a week or two for another issue of MidThougts.