Introduction by Nancy Nason Guss
Last weekend was amazing. My writing group, Land O' Lakes Writers, hosted its first retreat: Writing in the Woods. It was held at Dayspring in Parrish, FL. What a beautiful place! The staff are welcoming and so accommodating. They catered to our varying food needs, and the rooms were clean and comfortable.
Ira Pincus, one of our members, provided us with writing meditations, yoga to stretch the body and open the mind, and some great ideas for establishing writing as part of our daily routines. I have asked him to share some of these with my readers. This first one is called Morning Pages, and I must share that although I have been writing as part of my devotional reading and meditations, I never gave myself guidelines; I just wrote, or not, as the Spirit guided me. Morning Pages requires more commitment than that, and I began my own version of this the day after Ira presented it. I have enjoyed including it in my morning routine ever since. Thank you, Ira, for your wit and wisdom.
For the entire article, download free from my Welcome page.
Connecting to Creation Through Artistic Expression
Part 1 The Morning Pages
by Ira Pincus
As a writer, nothing in the past year has had more impact on my life creatively and spiritually than the practice of The Morning Pages and The Artist Date. It was a treasure map to my truth. Even though I wasn’t sure what that truth was at that point, the pages revealed it to me over time.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
It is impossible to explain the Morning Pages and the Artist Date without first introducing The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. This book was a game changer for me. My only regret is that I didn’t stick to this practice when I first bought it more than twenty years ago!
In short, The Artist’s Way is an owner’s manual to reconnecting, spiritually and directly, to that long-repressed creative self. I think the wisdom in the practices described in her book, combined with an open mind and some real discipline, can be applied to anyone wanting to connect with the creativity within. This is not only for artists and creative types, I see this book at a practical tool for anyone wanting to realign and orient themselves to their life’s purpose.
The two main exercises she outlines are great ways to shed years of conditioning, expectations and false pursuits. This is about the first, Morning Pages.
The Morning Pages
The process of the morning pages is simple. Before feet hit the floor in the morning (and before looking at the phone), write three pages of longhand, strictly stream-of-consciousness. There is no wrong way to do the morning pages. Simply moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind is the idea. Nothing is too petty, silly, weird or stupid to be included. These pages are not intended to ever be read as Cameron points out in her book. That would be counterproductive and could tend to make us censor ourselves and ultimately compromise the point of the exercise, thereby diminishing the connection. Here are the general guidelines:
1. Nothing is mandatory. Cameron lays out norms, giving the exercise some structure and allowing for personalization. Wake up; grab a notebook and pen and begin writing. Resist the temptation to look at your phone, iPad or computer right away.
2. Three pages of longhand writing, on paper, with a pen or pencil. No keyboards, iPads, voice memo recorders, or other devices to speed up your writing or thinking process.
3. Write these pages every single day!
(Spiritual Sidebar: Look, I know it’s difficult to incorporate a new morning routine, most of us are working stiffs and some of us are simply night owls. Many of my peers and friends are teachers, and in order for them to incorporate Morning Pages into their morning regimens, they would have to wake up at 4:00 am every day. I understand this. I found it impossible, at first, to allocate the extra 30 to 40 minutes every single morning, so I did my pages when I could, at first, at various times of the day. Who cares if they are ‘evening pages’, that’s fine. It’s only a name. If the pages are getting written daily, that’s the point! The habit will develop and adjustments made along the way. My friend David has been practicing the pages right before going to bed at night, and I could certainly see a similar benefit. Freewriting before bed can be meditative and cleansing). Morning pages work best when they are:
Stream-of-consciousness: Cameron states the writing must be ‘stream of consciousness’, or “freewriting.” In Cameron‘s words, “Three pages of whatever crosses your mind - that’s all there is to it.
Freewriting: Do not worry about grammar, structure, spelling or punctuation. Freewriting means do not lift the pen from the page.
Other fun ideas:
Own It: Make the pages your own. Doodle, write in different directions, structure it any way you want, it’s your world to create.
No Sharing: Do not share your pages with anyone.
Together Time: Make the Morning Pages a family activity! Modify this exercise as a great activity to do along with children and grandchildren.
To Reread or Not to Reread: Julia Cameron describes that morning pages are not written with the intention of being read again. In fact, she suggests destroying them periodically - maybe every six months or a year. From other practitioners of Morning Pages, I have heard that rereading them to look for specific writing patterns, themes or connections also has great benefit. Do whatever works.
Special Pen and Pad: Keep a notebook and pen right next to your nightstand and try it for a month.(I keep a coffee mug with a bunch of pens in it)At the very least, there will be a hundred pages of writing to consider! I promise that something significant will arise from that alone.
The way I get the most benefit from my morning pages is that I wake up and I get my coffee first. I then let the dog out, turn on some meditative music, return to bed and begin writing. This way, I have no interruptions while I write. No interlopers, as Cameron puts it. I also make it a point not to look at my phone at all. No social media, no email, no news, nothing during this important time.
For me, it has become quite the ritual and a in a real way, a deep morning meditation that helps me set my intentions for the day and organize my thoughts. In these waking moments of the morning, I really do connect. When I write every single day, before anything else, I feel better about myself - simple as that.
I gave the Morning Pages a sincere try for thirty days and worked it into a routine that has changed my life. Seeing others in my writing group begin to have similar successes in finding their voices through this practice provides me with a feeling that can only be described as sacred and fulfilling. For Nancy’s purposes, I will lovingly call that “connecting.”
In part two of this series, I will detail The Artist Date. Another practice from The Artist’s Way.
The universe wants this for us.
Cameron, Julia. The Artist's Way. Penguin Random House. New York, 1992.
For more information on Morning Pages, download the entire article from the link on Nancy's Welcome page.
Ira Pincus is a former public high-school English teacher who has survived the combat zone of hormone-driven and technology-dependent teenagers and lived to tell about it. A free-spirited child of the seventies, he hasn’t written anything you’ve heard of, unless of course you were a student in one of his classes. His work has been praised by fifteen year-olds throughout Central Florida - upon threat of failure - and has won him numerous free ice cream sandwiches from the lunch ladies. Nominated for “teacher of the month” and “teacher of the year” many times, he has never won. He lives in Tampa with his black labrador Angie.