I usually mention the idea of ‘morning pages’ in writing workshops because I think a regular writing practice is a really good thing for authors and I know a lot of writers who love doing them, either on the long term or for a few weeks to help them get unstuck when they feel blocked.
I’ve personally never used ‘morning pages’ because my daily practice is my dream journal so I was interested to read ‘Morning pages may not be the artist’s way’ by Maria C McCarthy. She and several commenters suggest that ‘morning pages’ can easily turn into an outpouring of ‘negative and angry stuff’ going over and over the same concerns day after day.
Her criticism of the book that made the idea popular ‘The Artist’s Way’ is that the author, Julia Cameron, offers it as the solution for every writer. My problem with that book is that I don’t think it acknowledges the earlier bestseller, ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande, which describes exactly the same practice, but that’s a separate issue.
Maria McCarthy suggests adapting the ‘morning pages’ idea by not making it totally free, but rather focusing it around a topic. Specifically, she talks about John Siddique’s idea of free writing around the ideas in Stephen R Covey’s ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.’
I sometimes suggest using writing prompts which are self-generated for daily writing and I think this also circumvents the grinding wheels of our discontents, shifting the focus to images and themes that interest us.
Having read that for some people completely free writing may turn into a sump of misery, I may be including a health warning next time I discuss the idea of ‘morning pages’ with a group.
Related posts – ‘Daily pages vs dreams’ , ‘Do you have a daily practice’ and ‘What are the best writing prompts for daily practice?’
Have you ever tried writing ‘morning pages’? Or do you have a different daily practice you could recommend?
3 thoughts on “Not everyone loves ‘morning pages’”
Really interesting question here around the morning pages. I’ve been doing them for years too, and I also keep a dream journal.
Two things I noticed – 1, is that yes, a lot of negativity comes out, but I’m pretty sure Cameron mentions that, and suggests that you get sick of hearing yourself whine about the same stuff all the time and so you begin to do something about it. I’ve found this to be true. Also, 2, as someone who is devoted to the dream journal, the morning pages have become kind of an extension of the dream journal, so over the years I’ve done less and less whining, and more just working out the dreams from the night, turning their themes and symbols over in my pages.
I also stopped counting how many pages I do – some days there’s a lot, some days there’s a little.
But I would not consider morning pages to be serious practice for a writer – there is no crafting, no searching for a style or the right voice for the story or anything that are the serious pursuits of the writer. It’s just an unlocking / unblocking technique, methinks.
Love the idea of journaling around the ideas and prompts in a book that one is interested in! Gonna try that….
Thanks for this post! Very stimulating.
Hi Katalina – thank-you for commenting. I seem to remember Cameron warning that mps could become negative too, now you mention it. I see what you mean about them not being a ‘serious practice for a writer’ too, although keeping the creative juices flowing seems a key pursuit for an author, the energy that powers the more crafted writing. For me the dream journal is perfect – as you say, it’s a continuous supply of themes and symbols that engage my interest – a real treasure trove.