The Magic of Morning Pages by Susan Eaton Mendenhall

Journals Susan M fFirst thing in the morning. Three pages in long hand. Everyday. These are the basic guidelines of a writing practice called Morning Pages developed by Julia Cameron. Years ago I discovered Julia through her book, The Artist’s Way. I felt stuck in my life and her process of writing to break through creative blocks renewed me with hope. Perhaps this practice could give me direction.

Morning Pages are not about being brilliant or artful or even making sense. It’s just putting words on paper as they come into consciousness. Julia Cameron makes a case that writing in long hand slows us down, allowing us to connect with ourselves. It’s tactile and keeps us in the moment. I was all in. My life felt like a box of puzzle pieces without the cover photo. I wanted clarity. How well I remember the first few weeks of Morning Pages. They were arduous. My stream of consciousness went something like “This probably won’t work. Three pages? What will I say? How can this dribble produce anything helpful?” In spite of the frustration, I kept on. First thing in the morning, three pages in long hand, every day. I wrote and hoped for a miracle, an insight, a reason to continue.

I now know and trust the power of this practice. In those pages of seemingly random thoughts, my frustrations and fears, joys and dreams show up. The stuckness in my life begins to break up and move out. Frequently a solution to a nagging question, a new perspective, or a creative idea arrives in the midst of what seems like the noisy chatter of words falling onto the page. This is what makes me continue day after day. As a runner, I discovered that after forty minutes, my most creative thinking kicked in. Some call this the runner’s high. I can experience this same creative state in Morning Pages. By the end of page three, my sense of well-being is usually in a better place then when I started.

While this practice certainly has its benefits, it can be so easy NOT to write. Here are the specific conditions that help me show up on paper.

Tools: The journal must be appealing otherwise I won’t use it. Sometimes it speaks to my intentions or simply makes me happy. The 8.5 X 11.5 size provides the much needed space for those rambling thoughts. In trying smaller sizes, I notice that I feel cramped and confined. I prefer a journal to open flat. When this condition is not met, I find I dislike writing on the left-hand side. That means half the writing is not pleasurable.

The choice of which writing instrument to use is important. With thoughts quickly flying, I want my pen to easily catch and place the words onto the page. That happens using the Uni-Ball Signa #207. So specific, you ask? Give this pen a try! The ink simply skates onto the page. I am so done with pens that drag on paper.

Attire: Attire for Morning Pages is remaining in my pajamas. If I get dressed before writing, I find all those first thoughts have changed like the weather. I have moved into the tasks of the day and other priorities. Writing in pajamas right out of bed (or even in the comfort of bed) insures that words find their way onto the page.

Setting: I have a writing desk in my bedroom which helps to make this practice work for me. In warm weather I will write at a table on our side porch where I hear the sounds of nature and our village waking up. Both these places inspire and hold the intention for me to write. Both writing surfaces are free of clutter so that I am always greeted by a clean space. Nothing needs to be moved to make room for my journal. Coffee with a splash of cream is required for the words to start flowing. Frequently I light a candle as a way of honoring the process and inviting any wisdom or enlightenment that may come to me.

What does it feel like when you finish writing those three pages of long hand? Like you have had a full body workout! Glad you did it and usually more focused about your plans for the day, how to handle a situation, or a first step into a long held procrastination. Your emotional storage unit, filled with the clutter of your mind, has been sorted.  I’ll be writing in the morning. Want to join me?

Jazz 3




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One thought on “The Magic of Morning Pages by Susan Eaton Mendenhall

  1. Hi Susan,

    Great article. I would also recommend morning pages to anyone, and I have. I met both you and Julie because of the morning pages that brought my bookstore to life.

    Nice seeing you here!

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