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Morning Pages: the beginning

I have a daily practice of three longhand pages done first thing on awakening, hence, “Morning Pages.” The pages clear my head and prioritize my day. I think of them as a form of meditation. There is no wrong way to do the pages. You simply keep your hand moving across the page, not pausing to take what I call “mental cigarette breaks.” It is as though you are sending the universe a telegram: “this is what I like, this is what I don’t like...” Implicit in this, “please help me.” If the pages are meditation, they are also a potent form of prayer.

When I began writing morning pages, I needed prayer. I had washed up in the tiny mountain town of Taos, New Mexico, having gone there to sort out my brilliant career. I had written a movie for John Voigt, and its reception had gone from “brilliant” to radio silence. Discouraged, I had rented a little adobe house at the end of a little dirt road. It was lonely there, and I took up the practice of morning pages to keep myself company. Every day, before my daughter woke up, I would rise and go to the long pine table that faced a large window that held a view of Taos Mountain. Faithfully, I would record the mountain’s mood: foggy, clear scattered clouds near the summit...

“What should I do about my movie?” I would daily ask the pages.

The answer would come back, “Do nothing about your movie. Just write.”
And so I would write, about nothing in particular, just daily meanderings. Three
daily pages gave me a sense of purpose. It was a manageable amount. The first page and a half were easy. The second page and a half, harder, contained paydirt: hunches, intuition, insights.

One morning, after I finished my pages, I was startled to have a character stroll into view. The character was a woman named Johnny, a plain-air painter who executed a magnificent painting at the end of my pen. Johnny wasn’t a movie character. She was — and this startled me— the lead character for a novel. The opening scene rushed through my hand. My mind played catch up. “You don’t have to write movies, you can write books.” The onslaught of freedom was heady. I was no longer trapped as a screenwriter. I was liberated, set free. I owed my freedom to the morning pages. They had opened an unsuspected door. I was grateful to them, and so I kept my daily practice of pages in tact, writing my three pages before turning my hand to Johnny and her adventures.

Somewhat arbitrarily, I wrote three pages of novel daily. The pages mounted up with insulting speed. Ninety pages in a month, twice that in two months, three months was a novella’s worth, four months verged on a novel.

I wrote from summer into fall. Johnny painted the changing foliage. When winter came, she set down her paintbrush. She had fallen in love. Happy, she began painting still lives: a basket of apples, a pair of pears. If Johnny was happy, her newly found lover served as a muse. I myself was lonely. No lover hovered close at hand. I found myself missing my New York life, chock full of people and opportunities. One grey morning when the mountain was blocked from view, I wrote “The End.” Later that same day, I packed my car for the long drive back to Greenwich Village. I took my newly minted novel with me.

 

 


9 Comments on "Morning Pages: the beginning"

  1. Donnna Ambler says:

    Your reminders about the value of morning pages are very timely for me – I want to undo the confusion and stuckness I’m feeling and listen to my intuition for my direction . Hank you for reminding me. Donna 💕

  2. Thank you!
    Mitakuye Oyasin!

  3. After attending Julia’s Sept 2017 workshop in beautiful Sedonna, I devoted myself to morning pahes as never before in my 3 page a day efforts since finding the Artist’s way in the 1990’s. The trajectory of my life has once again changed and I owe it to putting morning pages as my first priority along with weekly artist dates.

    Congratulations to all who use these tools as your life will benefit greatly as has mine.

    Best regards,
    Christine

  4. Lynn Cohen says:

    Morning pages, shall again be my routine. Now I need to fit in my artist dates, two years ago I went through ARTIST WAY and I couldn’t seem to do these but this time I shall.

  5. Wow, thank you for sharing this! I am starting Week 1 this week and on my 2nd day of morning pages. I was always writing, but it has never been a solid daily practice with a clear intention. Never did I fully acknowledge my censor and the damage it was doing. I love that each work starts off with the word, Recovering. That is what I”m doing! I’m recovering my creativity back and something inside me has shifted. Thank you so much! I really hope to one day meet you and take a workshop in person!

  6. I’ve been writing Morning Pages for so many years under the influence of The Artists Way that it’s hard to disentangle its effects on my life from how my life would have been without it. I am certain though that it has shaped my life in innumerable ways and for the better. The practice is helpful both when I am going through challenging experiences/feelings and when things are going well. I tend to write the pages on the computer to whatever length I like. Whatever way you do it, I strongly recommend it.

  7. Dear Julia
    I have a 16months old baby at home and look after him alone during week as my husband travels. I love the idea of the pages but my baby wakes up any time between 5 and 7am and it’s not possible to do it first thing. When he naps at lunch or evening I could or should I just stick to weekend when my husband is at home and I can do at least 2 out of 7 days. Please help me to make the decision as I am eager to start but somehow I can’t decide …once he gets older and sleeps better I am sure I can just don’t want to delay the wonderful process

  8. Dear Julia,
    My daughter bought The Artist’s Way for my husban last Christmas. I began reading it in January, 2017 and have now finished Vein of Gold, as well. I miss your tasks! It looks as though some have reread The Artist’s Way, so perhaps I’ll do that. I want to say “Thank you.” I can’t describe all the ways this process has helped me. I have ten children and rarely took time for myself. I’ve written a full-length motion picture screenplay, a Children’s book and have several wirking ideas for books and screenplays. It matters not if any are ever published or produced. I’m expressing “me,” having fun and enjoying the time. There are only six children at home now, I am a nurse educator part-time, and we’re selling our beautiful farm. Life moves on. It’s freeing and scary, but I read recently, “The unknown is where all the opportunities are.” Thanks again, and may God continue to greatly bless you.
    Suzy

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