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The Value of Morning Pages

Some writers become discouraged by the Morning Pages practice: It can feel like running on a treadmill to nowhere, never sure if you’re making progress.So how do you know if you’re ‘doing Morning Pages correctly’?

This morning when I had a realization that might convince you to try (or enjoy) Morning pages, yourself.

Handwriting in notebook with pen

Do you write Morning Pages?

Julia Cameron popularized this free-writing practice in her book The Artist’s Way and many writers swear by it.

The idea is that you write 3 pages of no-obligation, possibly-stream-of-consciousness ‘stuff’ every morning, to warm up.

But some writers become discouraged after doing Morning Pages for a while. It can feel like you’re running on a treadmill to nowhere, never sure if you’re making progress. So how do you know if you’re ‘doing Morning Pages correctly?

I’m sporadic with the ‘morning’ part of Morning Pages, but I do tend to journal most days and/or free-write before I try to write anything ‘proper’.

That’s what I was doing this morning when I came to a realization that I thought you might enjoy sharing. it might even convince you to try Morning pages, yourself.

Julie’s Morning Pages 21 Jan 2022

I am at my desk and facing the classic writers’ dilemma: there is so much I could work on. I can feel the clock ticking away the minutes I have carved out for writing and the first stirrings of panic bubble low in my chest.

I want to write. I don’t want to waste this precious moment but the task seems so huge—and it is! I either find my way back into a dormant story or begin building a whole new world full of decisions about the world (is there gravity? Are we even on earth? Which Earth? When? Where?) and people with full, complex histories before we meet them on the page. And then, how do I make something interesting happen, and keep happening?

The whole thing weighs on me like heavy cloth and I begin to feel the gravitational pull of busywork, the need for the affirmation of a thumbs up or little red heart on social media (It’ll just take a moment to check and I might get an idea for a story!) or perhaps it’s time I learned to use Scrivener properly—whatever that means. (I’m sure I bought a whole course on that.Surely when I have mastered a new tool, THEN it’ll be easier to write…)

Luckily for me, I have been pursuing my writing goals with a will for over a decade now and I know, beyond a doubt, that my only hope of doing anything like ‘good writing’ rests in one practice:

Actually writing.

That’s how this piece began life: me, sitting at my desk, writing about how I felt as the clock ticked over into what I had already assigned as ‘writing time’.

Writing by hand in my notebook creates a kind of repetitive motion that soothes me.

The single-spacing allows no room for corrections. I choose poor metaphors and wince as I use cliches, but have no choice but to move forward, vaguely reassuring myself that if I ever decide to publish this thing, I can clean it all up in the edit.


morning pages notebook snippet

By the time I reach the 250 word mark, I can feel my focus narrow deliciously. I am writing— something! Anything!

I can feel myself relax, my blood pressure lower, my sense of humor reawaken.

I am reaching for words and phrases that muse or delight me, or, at the very least, feel like they flow in a satisfying way.

My mind is both free to wander and tethered to one object, like hot air balloon at a summer fête— thrillingly weightless and full of nothing but potential, yet connected to a point on the ground to which it will return safely, if everybody obeys the rules.

If I lose focus—if someone cuts the balloon’s rope—we soar off into endless possibility again.
(Truth: All the freedom in the world is not freeing — it is terrifying.)

So I tether myself with the thought that I only have this one project to work on right now. I only have this current thought, this current moment.
And that reassures me that when I go back to my work-in-progress I will, in fact, only have to (and will be able to) write that scene I’m working on. I can only write one sentence, one word, one letter at a time. As long as I cam doing that, I am making progress.

I am reassured by my stream-of-consciousness ‘morning pages’ thatI can write and be happy.
I am reassured that I can gain focus and work on my writing if I keep my pen — or my fingers — moving fast enough (but not too fast) to force my brain to pay attention to this one task.

I am a little giddy at the feeling of well-being that comes over me as I write and I find myself ravenous for more of that. I no longer hear the call of the fridge or the social network because this deep contentment (a warm blanket this time) settles in around me while I am writing. Now I find myself thinking well of projects—and potential projects—that just moments ago felt like sandbags piled on my chest, pinning me to the dirt.

Now I will resent anything that makes me not move on to my work-in-progress or the next story. Pass me a writing prompt! Mama gotta write!

I’m warmed up and ready.

And the cure for being afraid to write?

Writing.

Something.

Anything.

Now, as I finish up, I feel the change in my state, mental and physical. I wish you the same happiness.
Pick up a pen and write.

Not for publication.

Not to be good.

Write to feel better.

And see where it takes you, today.


StoryADay Short Story Framework

If you need some structure for your ‘proper’ writing today, download the Short Story Framework and brainstorm a story you can write today, not ‘some day’.


And for those who need to know, here are the stationary details from the photos:

Notebook: Leuchtturm1917 A5 Hardback, dotted (this year’s color: navy)

Pen: Pilot Custom 823, fine nib (and yes, it’s pricey, but it was a gift and I’ve used almost nothing else every day since 2015. When I broke the lid, I got another from Pilot. When the barrel split last year, they replaced it for free! Finding a writing tool you love to use pays off over time!)

Ink: Pilot Iroshizuku (this year’s color: Shin-Ryoku).

These are Amazon Affiliate links, which help support StoryADay, but I like to buy my ink from Goulet Pen Company in Virginia. But whatever you don’t don’t follow them on Instagram. Or do. You will be tempted…

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