By Kerry Schafer
Author Julia Cameron is a beautiful soul. I confess I haven't yet read The Artist's Way, but I have read (repeatedly) the life book she wrote for authors: The Right to Write.
In both of these books she talks about what she calls Morning Pages. The concept is simple. Every morning when you climb out of bed, before you do anything else, you sit down with your journal and a pen and free write three pages of whatever comes into your head.
Why morning? Yes, night people, I hear you and understand. If you crawl out of bed at 1 pm, then that is morning to you. And yes, you can write in your journal at the end of your waking period, but that will serve a different purpose. Also, I believe that the physical act of writing with a pen is different than writing on a keyboard. If possible, they are best done in a notebook. (There is actually some research on this.)
Morning pages don't take long, especially once you've done them for awhile. In this practice there is no pondering, no stylizing, and most importantly, no criticizing. The critic is locked in the attic amusing himself with the book of your worst enemy, and doesn't get to contribute to the proceedings. You get the pen moving and keep it moving, and that is that.
I did morning pages for years. The fact that I'm not doing them now has everything to do with time constraints - the time that used to go to morning pages is now my writing time. But I miss my pages and I need them back in my life.
Without going to the book and rehashing what Julia has to say, I'm going to share what I've personally experienced - the four main benefits to regularly writing morning pages.
Morning Pages are an Emotional Thermometer
As you spill words directly from head to hand to page, it becomes clear what sort of mood you are in. Now, you might think you already know this when you wake up in the morning, but most of us really don't. Often enough, I've thought I was in a reasonably good place emotionally, but the words and phrases spilling into my journal signaled me that the dark side was doing a flank move. It's like intel from a scout, alerting you to danger up ahead. And as you probably already know, it's much easier to avert a bout of depression or rage or even a massive pity party if you tackle it before it's got you handcuffed and blindfolded and locked in a dungeon somewhere.
Which takes us to number two.
Morning Pages are an Emotional Regulator
It's true. If you write through those dark emotions you can leave them on the page instead of spewing emotional toxins on the people around you. Think of this as an emotional safety valve, if you will, but I think it's more than that. There's an almost magical process that occurs when you allow yourself to write through the difficult emotions. The ugly dark toxic mess begins to transform itself into a cleaner grief, a purer anger, and sometime even into joy. At the very least, you gain understanding about what it is that is triggering the emotion, and then you can take action to make change.
Morning pages are not only good for your emotional health, they are awesome for the writing process. Because of their free flowing nature, they often serve as a sounding board for ideas. And when the first little tentative ideas realize that they are safe from the Big Bad Critic here, they come flocking onto the page like cats to the sound of a can opener in the kitchen.
The other thing that morning pages will do for your writing is help you make it flow. You know those dry days where every word has to be dragged onto the page kicking and screaming? The ones where maybe it feels like there aren't even any more words - they have all dried up and withered into dust.
A practice of morning pages is a great cure for that particular problem. When you sit down daily, every morning, and just let the words flow from brain to hand to page, it creates a pattern. Your subconscious feels nurtured and loved and stops holding out on you, afraid that the critic is going to trash every idea, every phrase that makes its way into your consciousness. Trust develops. Your mind is much more willing to give you the good stuff when you sit down to work on a project.
I challenge you to give Morning Pages a try. And by this I mean a real try. Not just for one day, but for a week. For ten days. For a month. See what happens, see how you feel. And while you're at it, pick up the Right to Write and work through the rest of the exercises.
Kerry Schafer’s first novel, Between, was published in February 2013 and the sequel, Wakeworld, is slated to hit shelves and e-readers on January 28, 2014. Kerry is both a licensed mental health counselor and an RN, and loves to incorporate psychological and medical disorders into her fantasy books. She is a bit of a hypocrite who does not always practice the relaxation she preaches. You can find out more on her website, www.kerryschafer.com, or find her on Twitter as @kerryschafer or on her Facebook page Kerry Schafer Books