Tag Archives: daily pages

Not everyone loves ‘morning pages’

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.

Two great writing books that recommend morning pages
Two great writing books that recommend morning pages

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? 

What are the best writing prompts for daily practice?

The idea for this post was suggested to me by a comment about a previous article ‘Do you have a daily practice?’ 

lyndart wrote, ‘I have difficulty giving myself permission to let those creative juices flow… Any suggestion for a topic?’


You can use any random word such as ‘trees’ or ‘motor-bikes’ or ‘dinner-time’ for a writing prompt, and there are many sites which offer a fresh suggestion every day. I do this myself for warm-ups with groups, giving a random word and asking them to write freely about it, keeping the pen moving on the paper even if at times they find themselves writing things like, ‘I have absolutely nothing else to say on this topic, I don’t know why I’m doing this,’ until their mind finds its way back to the theme.

But the very best prompts for daily practice are the ones you come up with for yourself because, like dream images, whatever emerges spontaneously from your own relaxed mind will have emotional resonance and personal significance for you right now, whether it’s immediately obvious or not.

To find images which are active in you at the moment, sit comfortably with your notepad or laptop, close your eyes and take a few slow, steady breaths. Clear your mind. 

Think of an object – the first thing that comes to you. Don’t censor or try to find something ‘better.’ Write for five minutes, stream-of-consciousness, without pausing. Change direction when one stream runs out, allowing yourself to go where your thoughts take you, even if you stray from your starting-out point.

If you prefer, you can write a list of the first five things you think of, then choose one from your list to write about. You can write for ten or fifteen or even twenty minutes in this way if that’s your daily practice.

I love… my garden

Another way of finding prompts that have particular resonance for you is beginning with a phrase such as ‘I remember’ or ‘I wish’ or ‘I love’ or ‘I hate’ because these will take you immediately into areas that you care about.

I often use this kind of prompt in workshops, especially about childhood, which is the living root of every life. I give a topic such as ‘my mother’s kitchen’ or ‘my childhood bedroom.’ I’ve written about this on the wonderful girlsheartbooks blog, ‘What was your favourite toy when you were little?’ 

The key with daily writing practice, as with all creative endeavours, is pleasure. Writing about themes and topics which have personal resonance is always pleasurable and over time, it will deepen your understanding of yourself as a writer.

Have you got any suggestions for good writing prompts? Please share!

Do you have a daily practice?

Many of the best books on writing, and pretty much every book on dreaming, recommend establishing a daily practice.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, both propose the idea of ‘morning pages’ – setting aside half an hour first thing in the morning to write stream-of-consciousness, before your mind gets distracted by the mundane  concerns of the day.

The wonderful Writing down the Bones, by Nathalie Goldberg, develops this idea, comparing writing with Buddhist meditation practice.

The daily practice approach focuses on the process of writing rather than the products. It’s not instead of your books and stories, but as well; it’s the seed-bed from which your finished creative pieces grow. 

In the same way, writing down any dreams and dream fragments you remember upon waking isn’t just about big dreams and insights – it’s about deepening your awareness of the continuous dream-life that runs parallel with your life in the dayworld.

As with morning pages, you have to set aside value judgements and simply write, whatever comes, because that’s how you find and develop the authentic writer or dreamer that you are.

Betty Edwards, in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, says it doesn’t make any difference what you do – the point of any daily practice is the experience of ‘flow.’ Knitting, jogging and gardening are all a form of meditation, as are writing and other creative activities.

Anything in which you are able to lose yourself and the world, will change and enrich your life, and doing it every day makes this out-of-time experience part of you; it grounds you in something bigger than yourself.

Do you have a daily practice? What are its benefits in your life?

Daily pages vs dreams

A few of my lovely dream diaries
A few of my lovely dream diaries

One of my favourite books about writing is Dorothea Brande’s ‘Becoming a writer.’ It was published in the 1930’s and is still in print, which attests to just how good it is.

Brande says we should treat our writer self as two people, the creative, playful child and the business-like, grown-up critic. We should develop and nurture both sides of our writer self, and teach them to work in harmony.

She refers to the creative side as the unconscious, and suggests one way of opening to it through the practice of daily pages, an idea which later formed the core of another writing bestseller, ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron.

The concept of daily pages is that you write stream-of-consciousness for twenty minutes a day, ideally first thing in the morning before the concerns of the day have a chance to intrude. You keep the pen moving on the paper, even if all you can think of is along the lines of, ‘I don’t want to do this, I can’t think of anything to say, it’s a bit rainy outside…’

One effect of this is to help you let go of the idea you have to wait for inspiration before you can write anything – you can write your way in. Another is that you learn to allow unconscious products to emerge when the mind is relaxed and receptive.

Many of my writing friends have found writing daily pages really useful, but it didn’t really do anything for me. It occurred to me that the reason why was because I already wrote first thing in the morning, recording my dreams, and rather than my conscious mind idling and allowing random stuff to come up, I had been fully immersed in this amazing inner world. So, unlike daily pages, my dream diary was full of interesting incidents and images.

Check out my ‘Tips’ page for information about how to start recalling and recording your dreams