how your morning pages may become a sacred space

When I joined The Listening Room this past spring, one of the first things the group creators Jason and Michael encouraged us to do was to start Morning Pages.

What are Morning Pages? Simply writing on pages first thing in the morning for the simple purpose of getting the cobwebs out. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, describes them this way:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages–they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page and then do three more pages tomorrow.

She mentions they should be called Mourning Pages, because in many ways they are “a farewell to life as you knew it and an introduction to life as it’s going to be.”

morning pages

As a writer, I respect the concept of Morning Pages.

The only problem is, I can’t get over the sense that in doing them I’m wasting valuable writing time.

This is both revealing and sad for me to admit.

Because what it implies is that the only kind of work that has value is the kind other people can see, the kind I can put to some kind of practical use.

But I need the morning page. I need the quiet discipline of writing to clear out the dark corners, to face the minutiae of my thoughts, to lay down distraction before I begin my day.

I bought a journal designated for Morning Pages but I often reach for it to jot down action lists. I have to fight to keep it from becoming my To-Do notebook and instead allow it to exist as my To-Be notebook.

If prayer is a deep breath in, the Morning Page is a cleansing breath out.

This book is only for day-launching. I struggle to be consistent with these pages, but they are becoming a sacred space to set aside the planing mentality and simply face what is – no matter how scary, ordinary, or ridiculous it may seem.

Maybe you need that kind of space, too.

I wrote here about The Listening Room and the last time we met together. The creators of the group are friends of mine – Jason Windsor, who also produced two of my book trailers, and Michael Van Patter, the director of worship arts at our church. 

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  1. says

    This is a great tip. Having three children, including a set of twins, I can understand how this exercise could stir feelings of needing to be busy working on something else before my time runs out. However, I can also see the benefits.
    Love it!

  2. says

    I LOVE Julia Cameron but I have never once done Morning Pages – like you, I can’t get over the fact that that writing won’t ever be used for something “purposeful.” Love your distinction between the “to-do” list and the “to-be” notebook.

    • says

      Thanks, Michelle. I have to keep reminding myself “This is just for writing whatever comes to mind, not for being useful.” It helps to think of it that way – a to-be book.

  3. says

    I read The Right to Write while on vacation and a new journal to do this Emily and I’m now a believer. Like you it seemed like using time I could be producing but actually the practice helps me be more productive. I don’t always do 3 pages as she suggests, I just write.

  4. Kendra says

    Great idea! Thanks for sharing. I end up making to-do lists and emailing friends in the mornings, which tries to serve the same purpose but doesn’t. I look forward to implementing this!

  5. says

    “I can’t get over the sense that in doing them I’m wasting valuable writing time.”

    Me too. Even though when I wrote the Morning Pages, I was in a better mood and frankly often a better person all day.

    I think the biggest challenge for me is making the book a book I take everywhere, regardless, and write in first thing every morning, regardless. It’s easy to let not writing those pages be the place where I get the extra fifteen or thirty minutes of sleep when I’m traveling, have landed in yet another new environment/ situation/ jam packed schedule. And easier to see these as situations I can manage and work around and ~write through~ when I’m typing them out here publicly…. Thank you.

    • says

      I understand what you mean about those few minutes actually helping your mood and your day. I wish I could always remember that before I start to get me motivated!

  6. says

    Thanks for the reminder! I did morning pages what seems like a trillion years ago after reading the book. Not sure when or why I stopped. Totally forgot about it.

  7. Rebecca says

    Morning pages have become such a way of life for me that if I skip too many days in a row, I can really see a difference in how I handle my days . . . I begin to react to life instead of responding to it. My morning pages are anything and everything and I love how you described your journal as your ‘to be’ book.

  8. says

    This is such a good reminder. This week, while on vacation, I spent some time journaling for the first time in a long time. It’s so important for me to remember that writing is not all about everyone else always, but also about what God does in me through it, and how He speaks so that only I need to hear. Thank you for sharing!

  9. says

    Wow, Emily, this is the 3rd consecutive day I have heard word of/been encouraged to use/read about others who use The Morning Pages. I was asked to volunteer some time this past Thursday, working with at-risk teens in the art of musical theater and singing…a job I used to do regularly and miss greatly! While there, by “chance,” I met Cherie, one of the head writers for “Cheers” and the story writer for “Sister Act, The Musical.” (Don’t think I didn’t notice that my original time on Wednesday had been changed to Thursday…I know this was Him putting Cherie and me together.) We had the most wonderful talk after the rehearsal. She told me all about morning pages (also, “Old Friend From Far Away,” Natalie Goldberg & “The Writer’s Journey,” Chris Voglers) – I started them yesterday! Thank you for being an unknowing conduit for Him to me once again. I think this may be the start of a new journey for me. (And kind of “mourning” it, but excited too!) Good luck on yours…

  10. says

    I’ve never called it “morning pages”, but I guess it functions as such. I write in a spiral notebook nearly everyday, usually in the morning. I just pour out my heart as an ongoing conversation between the Lord and me. Sometimes it’s pages of gunk (messy feelings, worries, etc.) Sometimes it’s an overflowing river of praise. Sometimes it’s a list of concerns. Sometimes it’s a list of things for which I’m grateful. Most times, it’s a mix. It’s essential for me and is such an encouragement as I look back over the entries.

    Deb Weaver

  11. says

    Sounds like a great idea, Emily, but, like you, I’m afraid mine would turn into the “to-do” not the “to-be.” And, truthfully, I’m not good with writing in the mornings; I need time to wake up and spend time in quiet prayer.
    Great post!

    • Margaret Carey says

      I felt the same as you….Loved it when I had time to journal and get everything out before God but then I started to go into prayer which is certainly a great start top the day….I found that Iw as missing my jornal ( or morning pages as I now like to call it) because as I journalled I poured out my heart to God in a way I found difficult to verbalise to Him ….and…the bonus….I find myself writting scripture that comes to mind or words that just can’t come from my mind and find it is God’s response to me…I always feel uplifted after doing it and will seriously get back to it now….. I know you love your prayer time but use the writting as a form of prayer or response….

  12. says

    I’ve never heard of this concept but I like it. My poor brain is so cluttered and cob-webby all the time, I’m thinking I also need evening pages. And noonday pages.

    I write in a journal but not every day. And as you mentioned, sometimes I wonder if it’s a waste of time. But I’m realizing that there are things we need to capture in real time that are not for public consumption and that keeps me coming back to my journal.

  13. says

    Oh, yes…thank you for this great reminder! I used to do morning pages. I love Julia Cameron’s books. I don’t know how I fell out of the habit, but I did. I did find this practice to be very useful.

  14. says

    I love this idea. L. L. Barkatt first introduced stream-of-consciousness journaling to me through her book God in the Yard. It’s revolutionized not only the way I journal but the way I write everything. Stream of consciousness writing seems to bring me back to the present moment and allows me to embrace the process without being worried about the product. This practice seems like the perfect way to usher in the writers’ day. Thanks for sharing. <3

  15. Suzanne says

    I’ve been doing morning pages for 642 days in a row. I discovered a site called “750 Words.” It’s based on the idea of morning pages, 250 words being approximately one page. I know Julia Cameron says morning pages should be handwritten, but that never worked for me. Typing does. And so does keeping track of my streak.

    It wasn’t until I met with a spiritual director five months ago, and we were talking about my prayer life and spiritual practices, that I realized my 750 words is my spiritual practice. Now I start every morning with “Dear God” and write whatever is on my mind. Even if I have to get up at 4am in the morning, my 750 words, my morning prayer, is the first thing I do.

    • says

      I too have struggled with the writing vs. typing thing. I found the same website (750 words) and started typing them this summer with much more success. Do you just keep them on a word document in your computer? Part of me still struggles with the sense I’m doing something wrong (I’m such a rule follower at heart :))

      • Suzanne says

        I’ve just left them on the 750 words site. I’ve never gone back and looked at them again, although that might be interesting. I thought about whether typing was “cheating” (I’m a rule follower, too), but I figured typing them was better than not doing anything, and if I were to stick with handwriting them, I would never do them. I don’t see it as part of my writing. I see it as clearing out the gunk in my head and praying.

  16. Ro elliott says

    I have done this for years…I love the name I can now call it…the saying….pens have eyes… many times I can’t seem to pull my disjointed thoughts together….I start writing and I am always amazed how clear my thoughts become…how light a burden becomes…and peace that is found ….thanks for this beautiful encouragement….it spurs me on.

  17. says

    A hand sliding right, the ink flowing from the pen, on paper specifically chosen for the recording so that the mind might spill empty each morning leaving room to then receive. You know, yes, that Julia came to be faith, to belief in this way? That is the best part about the history of Morning Pages.

  18. says

    This is the sort of practice, though I’ve never heard it formally named before, that I know I need to do EVERY DAY, but can’t seem to get myself to do… Sad, really…

  19. says

    I have been asked why I spend so much time blogging when I could be praying or why am I writing when I could be in silence. All true, and yet, it is the writing in the morning that centers me and where God speaks. They have become all of one thing.

    I remember doing the morning pages, a long time ago, they were a good exercise in getting my mind to paper. Every word written, in the end, has a way and a weight. ib

  20. Hlumisa says

    ………I have to fight to keep it from becoming my To-Do notebook and instead allow it to exist as my To-Be notebook…
    wow!!// I like that …It’s got to be my TO BE note book. (That’s what it really means, TO DO less and BE more)

    If prayer is a deep breath in, the Morning Page is a cleansing breath out… mhhhhh, Thank you!

  21. says

    This is a YES for me…why hadn’t I ever thought of it? But I’m afraid it might become one more thing to get balled up over whether I’m doing it “right” or not. Good grief! Lol

  22. says

    Recently I read on a news page about a giant blob of fat that was extracted from the sewer system in London (I think). Sometimes that’s how my mind feels in the morning. I love the idea of Morning Pages. Since I’ve been writing on my blog more I have written less in my journal. But the things I write in my journal would never be written on my blog. And I suppose they’re stuck in my mind like a big blob of fat. Thanks for this great idea and for your honesty about how you use it.

  23. Carolyn W says

    I had an amazing English teacher my junior year of high school, and he had us do something similar every morning. We started our school day by writing nonstop for about 5 minutes. For him, it wasn’t about filling 3 pages, but about the constant flow of writing. That was almost 20 years ago (ahem) and it never occurred to me to try it now, at home. Thanks for the suggestion (and for bringing back good memories!).

  24. says

    Oh I do love this post! I’m so glad that I found your blog. I have started to do this once a week, but perhaps I need to start doing it daily. It helps so much to just clear my head and put all of my concerns out on a page. My mind usually is traveling in thirty different directions at once and writing it all out forces me to think in one direction and makes me feel so much better.

    Love this idea!

  25. says

    I’ve been struggling with writing first thing and stumbled across this cleaning out my inbox today. The early morning fog has been so frustrating this makes perfect sense.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  26. says

    Such a joy to read this. I was just contemplating getting back to morning pages. I found old notebooks as I cleaned out my nightstand drawer recently. I stopped this practice when I started blogging. What was I thinking?
    (I just noticed you posted this last year. I saw the link via Twitter this morning. Hmmm. Divine Providence? :) ) Thanks for the reminder!

  27. says

    I started The Artist’s Way last summer and was consistent for several months with my morning pages. It was really helpful in my prayer life as well as my writing, and as I struggle more with what I want to write these days, I am so pleased to be reminded of something that really helped me! Thank you for this post Emily, I hope it will give me a kick in the right direction and help me to return to something so helpful and sacred.

  28. says

    I started the morning pages late December and am currently in week three of The Artist’s Way. It has helped to remind me of my ‘writerness’ when I have to spend my day doing professional ‘fundraisingness’…

    Your book ‘A million little ways’ is making a great companion to the course 😀

  29. says

    Great post.

    I know exactly what you mean when you say that you feel like you’re wasting writing time. It really could be used to create something you’ll later publish.

    But we all need this little morning exercise to start the day in the most positive way possible and with an alert mind.

    And to make the best of both worlds, we can always come back to old morning pages when we don’t know what to write about and use it as a starting point. Or we can even publish excerpts, or share them in an online journal.
    It can still help people, inspire them to do the same and put their dreams and fears in writing too.

    Thanks for sharing that.


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