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Morning Pages: why by hand?

In the era of iPads and new technology at every turn, I am asked even more frequently if people really  need to do their Morning Pages by hand.

In short, the answer is yes.

When we write by hand, we connect to ourselves. We may get speed and distance when we type, but we get a truer connection--to ourselves and our deepest thoughts-- when we actually put pen to page.

Think of writing Morning Pages on the computer as if you are driving 80 miles an hour. "Oh-- wait, was that my exit?" we exclaim, glancing back over our shoulder at the destination we have blown past. When we write by hand, it is more like we are driving 60 miles an hour. "Here comes my exit," we say, well before we get to it. "Look, there's even a gas station there. And what beautiful foliage..." In other words, we notice ourselves and our surroundings. And in doing this, the paradox is that we are ultimately more effective-- and, yes, efficient-- throughout our day.

I was once on a panel with four well-known writers. When the issue of using technology came up, we found that each one of us wrote our books by hand in the first draft, even though we all had very nice computers on which we might go faster. We all felt that our first draft seemed "further along" when we worked this way. Right now I am writing a novel, and I am again writing the first draft by hand. Writing by hand, I give my characters time to speak. Writing by hand, I connect securely to what I am creating.

Whether you choose to work on your current writing project on the computer or by putting pen to page, I urge you to write your Morning Pages by hand, now more than ever. The act of slowing down brings us to real and surprising clarity, offering insights we would have otherwise missed.


31 Comments on "Morning Pages: why by hand?"

  1. As always, it’s great to get those reminders as to what makes Morning Pages effective. I never thought about writing Morning Pages with a computer… that thought scares me! Haha. Writing Morning Pages by hand just feels too good to ever stop. Thanks!

  2. I actually can’t write by hand for that long of time because I have arthritis in my hands and it’s too painful to write for very long. So I use the computer. đŸ™‚

  3. This post is a good course correction; thanks, Julia. I’ll admit I’ve been doing Morning Pages on computer. Why did I stray? Two reasons. First, 15 years of Morning Pages by hand is a lot of notebooks and lot of dead trees. Second, there’s a privacy issue: if I got hit by a meteor, my survivors could easily access some VERY private and intimate thoughts in those notebooks. Still, the pen pros outweigh the computer cons, as you point out, so paper shall reappear.

  4. iPad apps like Upad and Noteshelf are a great way of bridging the gap between hand-writing and technology as they allow one to write by hand/stylus pen and then keep a handy PDF version for your personal records.

  5. Iris Ztarr says:

    I Love writing my morning pages by hand. I go back to bed with a cup of tea and it’s a real luxury to do it that way, it would be a totally different experience to haul my computer to bed and try to dream along with the writing, it just wouldn’t work.

  6. Writing by hand centres me. The process works and I don’t want to mess with that.

  7. Profile photo of David Pasieka

    I’m a bit torn on this, I must admit. I have fine motor issues which are likely a manifestation of Spacial Disgraphia, so penmanship and writing by hand are always torturous for me. I do see the value in the pen-to-page connection. But it makes it difficult to keep motivated to do my morning pages on a regular basis when the actual physical act of writing on paper is so time consuming and difficult.

  8. I have been doing informal morning pages instinctively for a long time, before reading the Artist’s Way, but I’ve been doing them in a password-protected iPad app. I have been hesitant to use pen and paper too, even though I love the tactile feel of it, and I recognize the sensory right brain connection difference that Julia mentions. I am left-handed, and the ink always smears…And while I have found that I love the iPad app Paper (53), which allows drawing and writing with a stylus… it’s still not pen and paper, still not searchable, and not password protected, like Chronicle…so…being that I believe that handwriting is the best way to achieve the purpose, I will try pen and paper. The scariest thing for me is the privacy issue, again. lock and key, I guess!

  9. chi_learner says:

    I had a block doing them by hand. I had someone read my pages and use that information against me, manipulate me with my fears. I realize that she could not have found the words to approach me without reading the pages.

    When I would write, I could not be honest it was the fear of that happening again. I now got over this by writing them on paper, and tearing them and throwing them away right after I write them. Better I not have the history, but that i get them out there.

  10. Profile photo of Catherine Meyers

    Julie,
    I have always written, especially morning pages long hand. There is something very positive that happens neurologically to our brains. I think it is real brain exercise. Writing long hand morning pages enables us to connect with the creative learning process effectively.
    There is evidence writing long hand improves memory and can act as a preventative measure against Alzheimer disease.
    I have to tell you I was first introduced to The Artist Way, many years back by an artist/art therapist friend. It changed my life, enabling me to accomplish so many goals and to fulfill dreams I never thought I could achieve.
    At thirty I became a welder, became an Equestrian Coach, at fourty, a belly dancer/teacher at fifty, and graduated with my Bachelor of Fine art Degree at fifty eight. I am aiming for my Masters of Fine Art at sixty years of age, in 2014.
    I wanted to share this, so others can see I am living proof of the empowering change that can happen with the principles of The Artist Way, and the daily practice of morning pages.

    Thank you for all you do Julie.

    Catherine – Friend of Bill and Lois W. and Dr. Bob

    • Cristina Segovia says:

      Thank you for this!!!! Amazing things you have accomplished. I myself am 30, and am just starting to read The Artists Way. I too hope to accomplish so many endeavours as you have.

  11. Profile photo of David W. Perkins

    I worked through The Artist’s Way in 1999-2000 and began Morning Pages in February 1999. I’ve averaged five days a week since, and the fruits have been immeasurable. And, I agree–writing by hand in a bound notebook with fountain pen–slows down the racing mind, rests the spirit, adds aesthetics of sight, sound, feel, and smell to the writing process.

  12. Profile photo of Margot Genger

    I quit writing in 1995. Figured everything I wrote was a trick and every new poem was the same old poem. Now I’d like to get unblocked and writing morning pages by hand rings true. For twenty years, I would put pen to paper and wait to see what happened. I love that in reading The Artist’s Way, Julia has chosen the same words and phrases to name my issues that I had used all those years ago to describe my writing and myself as a writer.

  13. I’m afraid the only time i don’t write on the computer is when i’m in cafes … and i’m after a Mac Air to rectify that! However reading this has got me thinking .. maybe i’ll give it a go. Thanks!

  14. Gerard Tretton says:

    I just burn the morning pages each day. That takes care of the privacy concerns.

  15. The truth hurts sometimes but it is what it is. I can not read my own handwriting for me the computers word processor with the multiple fonts and build in spell checking has been a god send. Also I like the fact that I can compose my thoughts and reorganize them in a more coherent fashion, I think makes me a better writer. Perhaps I have missed the point on the morning pages, I have just finished the first chapter of the Artists Way. I was trying to find the difference between journaling and morning pages and spotted this post on handwriting versus typing into a word processor. I am sure more will be revealed as I go along. Cheers 2U

  16. I have done both by hand and on a computer. Being the ADD / ADHD person that I am, I never really get much from the Hand Written page. I forget where I am and get bored so quickly. Since switching to Keyboard Writing (and I write it into Evernote) I actually feel fuller and more conncected to my thoughts. For those who worry about privacy and still want to write, just use Penultimate and a pen for the table (many have a shap point like a real pen) and if you use Evernote / Penultimate to save it all into… it will text recognize your handwriting and you can search your notes later. But it’s all private from anyone (including evernote) if you lose the passwords.

  17. I just can’t do it by hand… I literally hate writing by my own hand but understand the point completely. I may give it a go, but have been setting a 20 minute timer every day for more than a month and letting it flow from my fingertips to the screen. I have written more in the last month than the last 10 years combined.

    I have even started a novel that goes beyond my morning pages.

  18. I have a chronic injury with my right hand. My wrist ached the entire day after the Morning pages. So I either learn to write with my left hand or type. Sometimes you gotta work with what you got. I would assume typing is better than not doing them at all.

  19. weiwei says:

    I still very much write by hand. The main difference btw the digital age has wrought is that my handwriting’s become completely indeciphable. But I still value the processs

  20. I have been doing morning pages for a little while and have done every day for nearly a week now, as part of my drive to become more disciplined about being a writer, and get my book written. I have always preferred to write at the computer, and have used the excuse that my hands hurt and my writing is shocking after 3 lines when I write by hand. But I started to realise that my internal editor and inner critic would always show up like Statler and Waldorf to tell me that what i was writing was irrelevant, no use to anyone, and anyway, who was I to think I could write, so I would be left paralysed – so many great blog post ideas and book chapter have died horribly this way. My brother told me about morning pages, and I decided to try it, It took a few efforts for me to want to do the full 3 pages, but slowly noticed that the pain in my hand wasn’t happening so soon, and my writing was getting more legible the more I practice. I now have my notepad by, or sometimes in, my bed and write everymorning. I love this technique and am delighted to be learning that I can write by hand so easily!

  21. Hi,
    Thanks for the article,
    I juste discovered it today, and actually this is similar for something I’ve been doing for more than 10 years now, (I’m turning 28 now) and I’ve been thinking many times on what to do with all these notes afterwards ? It’s really a huge mass, I’ve tried to organize or gather it all but it’s really a lot and I don’t think it’s useful now I just class them by the topic when I have the time but I’d be curious what you (or the people that read this website) do with this. And if there is a way to make something with it ?

  22. I think I am going to strike a balance. I will write by hand, but will copy into my computer. And then I’ll burn those suckers.

  23. Yes, I would advocate for writing Morning Pages as slowly as humanly possible, actually. I’ve always hated handwriting, probably because I have a tendency to write tensely and messily, way too many words per line, all crammed in together like commuters on a Japanese subway. Now I’m making a concerted effort to write as slowly and as smoothly, and with as real a sense of “roundness” as possible. Essentially as “freely” as possible. To make it more meditative and more validating. Fewer words per line, enjoy each word. No rush, not being tested or judged. Just finding out how I see things, what my vision is for my life.

  24. And oh yeah, use as thick a ball-point as possible, ideally 1.6, no harsh emaciated thin-ass points. The whole thing should flow as much as possible.

  25. J. Cyril says:

    I understand the idea behind handwriting morning pages. I really love writing longhand. Unfortunately, I have a chronic condition that severely limits my handwriting. I did begin doing morning pages in a notebook, but it caused far too much pain and aggravation. After several days, I had to switch to doing it on my Macbook. I do love writing longhand. I miss it. I am constantly looking for ways to write without pain, so maybe one day I can return to doing my morning pages by hand. Until then, I hope you’ll forgive me for breaking the rules a bit.

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