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Morning Pages

freelance writing dawnBy Helen Kaiao Chang

I gave up my regular yoga classes, checking emails and lolling around in bed to do “morning pages.” Now, I feel closer to my raw passion for writing.

Writing morning pages is one of the techniques described in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron This classic suggests devoting this time first thing in the morning to free write. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, creative or business pieces, morning pages are a great way to tap your deep subconscious and practice writing from you heart.

For me, journaling as soon as I wake up is perfect time. This is the magical time between dreaming and waking, when my inner critic and logical mind have not quite switched on, so my writing flows with images and voices from the subconscious state. It’s the perfect time to capture such thoughts. 

The amount of time doesn’t really matter. At first I committed to 10 minutes each day. Then 20 minutes. The key is to be consistent. At first I didn’t have much to say, but later, as my mind got used to writing every morning, the words just flowed and I wanted to spend whole days writing. Weekend retreats filled that desire.

Writing morning pages are like lifting weights everyday. They keep me in the habit and discipline of simply writing. These are my rules:

  • Let the thoughts flow, regardless of how stupid it sounds. I allow myself to write anything, even if it is: “I don’t feel like writing today. These words are stupid. I suck as a writer.”
  • Don’t cross out anything. I keep moving forward, even if I want to correct or change a previous sentence. I might add new phrases, but not cross out what was already written. So it might look like this: “I didn’t really know/ wasn’t really sure about what do when I saw him across the field/ the parking lot/ heard that person talking in the room. So I went that way, walked over.” This keeps the inner editor at bay.

  • Ask yourself questions before you go to bed. The subconscious mind is a powerful machine. If you ask questions the night before, you will have answers the next morning. Because I’ve been working on a memoir, I ask my mind to dig up long-buried childhood memories, then journal them in the morning. But you could probably ask all kinds of other questions and find answers.
  • Use the full time allotted. Keep moving the pen, even if it seems like forever. Sometimes I just write: “Still have 9 more minutes to go. Aauurgh!”
  • Use pen and paper. The physical act of holding a pen and moving it across paper somehow allows me to access my right, creative brain.  I save the computer for more business writing.
  • Buy journals with pretty covers. Beautiful images on journal covers inspire me to pick up the book and write. If simple covers inspire you, use those.

Morning pages are not critical to having a successful freelance writing business. But for me, it’s a great way to pursue my creative dreams as a writer and stay connected to my passion for writing.

How do you use morning pages?

Helen Kaiao Chang is a grateful ghostwriter, editor and journalist, who can be found at www.ghostwriter-needed.com.

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • I wish I could, but I don’t do morning pages because I have to gird myself to go to stupid, pointless, suckish WORK. Also, I’m worthless until I’ve had a large cup of coffee and at least twenty minutes to stare fixedly at Spongebob Squarepants. The colors…
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Why Read ItMy Profile

    • of course, morning pages don’t have to be done in the morning 😉

  • I have been writing morning pages for over 10 years. I love it, and am really ratty when I haven’t done it for a day or so. It lifts the lid on clutter in the mind, and for me this is great, as I’m not a morning person. Morning pages wake me up, sometimes give me good ideas and always keep me calm.

    • That’s how meditation works for me Anna – suspect brain scans would reveal similarities.

  • I used to do morning pages. I found I was waking earlier and earlier to do them, which had unpleasant consequences, and the content was occasionally disturbing. I think they’re useful, though. I just don’t do them any more.

    BTW, “morning pages” originated as “early morning writing” in Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande, 1934. I think she deserves mention, since it was she, not Cameron, who originated the idea, as near as I can tell.

    • I didn’t realize this practice went back to Brande… she’s great. Obviously time for me to re-read her. I don’t do them any more either Jorge… I’d rather write something I expect to publish, but it’s a practice I’d go back to under the right circumstances.

  • I could use this wisdom this week – NaNo started! Great insight, Helen.
    Lori recently posted..Back to the DanceMy Profile

    • you go girl… and you just back from Scotland and then a ton of relatives in house. I’m impressed.

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