I began the daily habit of writing in 2011, after reading Julia Cameron’s The Artists’ Way. Following her technique for writing what she calls Morning Pages—stream-of-consciousness, anything-goes journaling style—has been the single most profound influence on my creative work. When I first began writing Morning Pages, I was often crabby and cranky about getting up early to do them. They felt like an arduous chore. But after a month, I began to look forward to them and relish the experience because I realized how powerful of a tool they are. Now, I’d sooner give up my morning coffee than I would my morning page practice.
* Morning Pages allow your playful subconscious to come out because there’s no agenda or end goal in mind. I’ve solved problems/hang-ups in my personal life, probably saved myself thousands of dollars in therapy bills, and touched on inspiriting raw material that has informed some of my best essays and stories. Virginia Woolf said, she wanted her diary to be “Something loose-knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful, that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art. The main requisite, I think, on reading my old volumes, is not to play the part of a censor, but to write as the mood comes or of anything whatever.”
*Routine provides momentum that can propel you to meet your writing goals even when you don’t feel like it. Cognitive scientists believe it takes 3 weeks for a habit to form. Once you’ve formed the habit of daily writing, it’s easier to stick with because once the habit is formed you feel “off” if you skip it. On days when you truly dread sitting down to face the blank page, it’s easier to do it if it’s something you always do. Daily writing trains you to work even when you have a headache, are tired, are sad, are hungover, or when you have any of the other dozens of excuses that can keep you from the page.
*Producing writing daily frees you from the scarcity mentality. When I only wrote sporadically, it seemed like every sentence had to be perfect. I was terrified I was going to screw up. I was paralyzed by perfectionism. The freeing things about doing morning pages is that they create abundance. Just by spending 20 minutes a day writing, I easily tally up 50,000 words a month. It’s quite liberating to know that they don’t have to be perfect sentences or page, they just have to get done.
*Consistently writing in a private format allows for wild risk taking and the bravest of truth telling. I say things in my morning pages that I could never say aloud in real life. I can cut clear to the marrow in my morning pages because it is private writing, for me alone, and there’s not even the obligation for me to reread it if I don’t want to.
If you make the commitment to write Morning Pages every day for one month, I know you'll be truly astonished at the way the practice enhances your creativity, your writing, and your inner life.
Sarah K. Lenz