Morning Pages

In her book, Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande proposes waking up earlier than usual, and before doing anything else, writing.

Just writing anything that comes into your head, not worrying about the quality of your prose or how interesting your thoughts are. Keep writing until you run out of time or, in Brande’s words, “you feel that you have utterly written yourself out.” Then, after a few days start increasing your writing, little by little until you’re doubling your original output.
The point of this is to use your unconscious mind to train yourself to write, making it second nature.

This idea was adapted slightly by Julia Cameron, who coined the term “morning pages.” In The Artist’s Way she recommends writing three pages a morning.

I’ve now been writing morning pages for a month. I began with two pages a day and am now writing four pages a day in only a slightly longer amount of time, so my writing speed has at least increased, as has my ability to keep writing even when I don’t necessarily feel like it, or I think I’ve run out of things to write.

The content of my morning pages is changing too. I still begin by writing about the dream I’ve just woken from, if I remember it, then what I did the day before and what I plan to do on this day, but I am finding myself writing, “I don’t know what to write,” a lot less frequently than I did at first. During the day I am looking for things to write about, making myself more observant so I won’t get stuck in the middle of my morning pages with a blank mind. If I do seem to have run out of things to write, I’m more likely to write something like, “I need a topic to write about. I could write about butterflies.” And then writing everything I know about butterflies, following any tangents my mind goes off on along the way. Sometimes I have slipped into a semi-dream while still writing, and without realising it have written pages of ideas I didn’t know I had.

Whether or not my writing has improved since I started doing morning pages is difficult to tell. They have definitely helped me find ideas and the physical act of writing feels much more natural, but the task of putting words together in a way that sounds good is just as hard as it always was.

Some tips for morning pages:

• Use a pen or pencil you can write with comfortably
• Use a cheap notebook so you don’t feel like you have to write something great in it
• Don’t plan too much in advance what you’ll write- be prepared to go wherever your mind takes you
• Once you start writing don’t stop until you finish
• Don’t censor yourself


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sally Jenkins
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 19:25:25

    I think morning pages are a great discipline, Catherine. I’ve tried it on and off but find that having to get for work 3 mornings a week means I don’t always have time to spend writing, and once I don’t do it for a day or so it’s easy to get out of the habit!
    Good on you for sticking with it!


  2. catherinerosedavis
    Apr 25, 2014 @ 09:31:05

    Thanks, Sally.
    Yes, I can see it must be difficult to keep up if you can’t do it every day. It’s much easier when it becomes part of the morning routine, and you just reach for the pen and notebook straight away without thinking about it.


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