Want clarity? Grab a pen.

keep clearMorning pages are as close to a “silver bullet” as I’ve ever encountered. If you want clarity, grab a pen. First thing every morning, for three pages.

Originally outlined by creativity guru Julia Cameron in the The Artist’s Way, morning pages are given pride of place in the opening of her more recent book, The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart. I’ve been doing morning pages for nearly 20 years. When I picked up Vein of Gold this summer, I was reminded why I cannot live without them.

Mornings Pages will center you, steady you, empower you, enlighten you. They will comfort you, console you, stimulate you, intrigue you, challenge, irritate, and activate you. (Julia Cameron)

The directions for morning pages are silly-simple: First thing every morning, write three pages with pen on paper.  Write down whatever pops into your mind.

It’s a kind of brain-drain. Before I start my day, I capture and purge whatever internal flotsam and jetsam threaten to keep me clogged. Distractions are tamed, so I can spend my day focusing on what matters most. My morning pages are pretty mundane. Rarely sublime, oftentimes ridiculous, even petty on occasion.

If you want to live your days with more focus and creativity, start your own morning pages notebook. (I used to purchase elaborate, hand-made Italian leather journals. Now, I grab a composition book at Wal-Mart. If I’m feeling particularly frisky, I’ll buy one with a brightly-colored cover.)

As you begin, keep in mind what NOT to bother with:

1.  Speed doesn’t matter. “We are after a process that will allow for depth and distance, not just speed,” counsels Cameron. “Writing by machine may accumulate pages, but I am not sure if those pages accumulate enough depth. In the end, the pages are better when they are made by hand.”

2.  Grammar doesn’t matter. As Cameron emphasizes, morning pages are not literary material. They are artifacts: the “pottery shards” of your life.

3.  Re-reading doesn’t matter. The point is the writing, not the reading. Wait a while, if you absolutely must read them. And then read them only for recurring themes, not for Nobel-worthy turns of phrase. Personally, I never re-read my morning pages. I toss the notebooks in the recycle bin as soon as they’re filled.

(For more about morning pages: “Build a Writing Practice”)

3 Responses to Want clarity? Grab a pen.

  1. Sarah September 10, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Ann, I LOVE this idea. I’ve toyed with the journal thing my whole life, but unfortunately, I’m very consistent about being inconsistent. Character flaw? However, the idea of a brain cleanse in the morning is totally appealing to me. I shall try to pull this into a routine. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ann Daly September 10, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Sarah, morning pages are one place I don’t have to think about being consistent. It just happens! And when it doesn’t, I get grumpy, I realize i’ve skipped my morning pages, and head right back to them. Really lovely to meet you last night. You’re a very quick blogger!

    • Sarah September 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      Oh, I’m quick. When inspiration is ripe for the writing, I do it!