I’ve been resisting writing morning pages for years. I’m a productivity junkie, and I’ll try just about anything for the sake of my art. Anything, that is, except morning pages.
My disgust with the practice started a long time ago. When I first started writing, I heard fellow writers talking about morning pages with an almost religious fervor. I dismissed it with an eye roll. Then, the keynote speaker at a conference I attended contributed his success as a writer to them. I scoffed. These people were crazy. They were deluding themselves.
But just this June, I found out that Monica Byrne also used morning pages. Byrne was one of my favorite new writers. As far as I could tell, she was not crazy. Nor was she deluding herself—she’d just published a fantastic first novel. I grudgingly decided that I’d give morning pages a try, just to prove all these people wrong.
Morning pages are supposed to be simple: three pages of stream of consciousness, handwritten, on actual paper. As the name implies, they’re meant to be written first thing in the morning. The idea originated from a book called "The Artist’s Way" by Julia Cameron, although I’ll confess I didn’t read the book before I started. (Honestly, I’m not sure many people do. The practice seems to be so common that it’s apparently picked up via osmosis).
Morning pages are also supposed to magically change your life. Writers swear by them. So do entrepreneurs and creatives of all types. Although they’re often vague as to the how, these three little pages are supposed to increase creativity and productivity. I was not convinced.
I wrote my first set of morning pages on why I didn’t want to do them and why I thought they were a terrible idea. I was worried they’d take too much time—most people schedule 45 minutes to an hour to write them every day. I was worried that thinking in stream of consciousness would trigger my OCD’s obsessive, repetitive thoughts. Heck, I was annoyed at how much more ink and paper I’d be using on a daily basis, and the extra strain on my hand.
But the more I wrote, the more I realized that was complete bullshit—and I had to admit it to myself on paper. Eventually I found myself writing: “I can’t imagine doing all that work for something that isn’t productive. Nobody else is going to see it. Nobody else is going to read it or get value from it. I’m not freaking Anais Nin here. But really, can you imagine? Three whole pages every day? Just thrown away?”
I remember writing those words down and then stopping. I think I even said “Oh” aloud. I was being such a workaholic that I wasn’t willing to invest in myself or my art—all I wanted were results. And I was so afraid that I had been rationalizing.
Needless to say, I gave morning pages another try. And another. By the end of the week, I was hooked.
Maybe it’s just how my brain is wired. Maybe I’m not very consciously in touch with my feelings or my thought processes, but it is now a rare morning that doesn’t include some level of self-discovery.
I would have kept doing them daily for that result alone. But all those things that people said about them were right. I may have been “using up” an hour of my morning every day, but I found myself writing far more than on days were I didn’t write morning pages first. I found they were good for more than writing too; I had more clarity before shoots, and found myself modeling better because of it.
I have some theories as to why. I think morning pages get me into a flow state. I think they give me a sense of accomplishment first thing, and therefore some forward momentum. And I think they’re just fucking magic.
I’ve been writing morning pages nearly every day now since June. And besides creating a collection of new ideas (many of which have appeared in blog posts), I’ve learned a few things about the process.
That whole bit about needing to do them first thing in the morning? Total crock. I write them before I do my other creative work for the day, but that’s about it. Sometimes I even want to think through something, so I write a set late at night just for the express purpose of figuring stuff out.
And I also learned that maybe I shouldn’t listen to past Kat on what I could find useful. I just might be wrong.
I know I don’t frequently share essays about specific techniques, and I rarely speak solely about my writing. But morning pages turned out to be useful enough that I had to share. So if you’re looking for something that could boost your productivity and change your life and all that cliché stuff, give them a try. I’ve officially joined the cult—maybe you will too.