Books influence me. One mentioned ‘Morning pages.’ This simple habit of ‘Morning Pages’ has influenced me more than anything else. Let me tell you what this is all about. Writing Morning Pages is an activity that has had a tremendous impact on my creativity, and it will have on yours too.
It all began when a friend presented me the book ‘The Artists’ Way’ authored by Julia Cameron. She advises readers to write three pages every day. Three pages! Simple!! It does not matter what you write. You can write anything. You can write it as a diary, you can write your thoughts, or you can write what you like and do not like. Whining is also okay. It does not have to be creative. You do not have to write an essay. And you can tear off the three pages after you finish. Write absolutely anything but remember the rule: three pages! You must fill up three pages. The volume is specified. Listen to Julia Cameron here on Morning Pages.
This is what her website says: “The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages. 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.”
The suggestion sounds strange at the first reading. When she says ‘just put three pages of anything on the page’ do you think it will do wonders to you? Believe me, it does! I am speaking from my experience.
I was quite sceptical when I began writing morning pages. Because the book is so well written and persuasive, I said to myself – Let me give this a try. I got up early in the morning, usually at 5 am [you can do this as and when you get up if you are not an early riser] I made my tea and picked up a notebook and pen. I have been writing these for three or perhaps four years. What is my experience?
I begin writing anything that came to my mind. Often I feel that I am not writing – the pen takes over; it writes. What I mean is this, I often do not know what will come out of my pen. I often begin by writing an experience, but then what comes out is often surprisingly beautiful or insightful. The pen takes over. The process is amazing. What gets written is often an onlooker’s or a dispassionate view of the experience. You feel as if you are looking at someone else’s experience. When that happens, the objectivity surprises me.
I remember Mundakopanishad’s teaching. It says ‘Two birds, inseparable companions, dwell upon one and the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other one looks on without eating.’ One author uses this imagery as a simile to point out that these are two minds – one which experiences an event and the other which looks at it dispassionately and derives meaning. Sakshi Bhav. Osho says ‘Inside, sakshi-bhav awakens the witness, outside it brings equanimity.’ And that precisely has been my experience. Call it meditation. Or introspection.
Do I write negative things? No. Never. However, some people seem do. But my experience is that negative thoughts and write ups do not flow out of my pen in the morning. [I won’t say that about writing later in the day!] I have often wondered why so? My only explanation is that mind [my mind certainly] flushes out negative thoughts during my sleep. Will this happen to you? It may not. But even if it does, coming out on paper certainly takes the sting out.
I have a habit of writing good expressions when I read a book. To cite an example, I noted ‘Relationships preserve positive illusions about one another’ on the last page of my notebook. Last pages are good for this purpose. I am often surprised to see such phrases flowing out on paper. How does this happen? Surely the brain works at a different and deeper level, and secretly. It is such a pleasant surprise to see its evidence.
Sometimes while writing morning pages, you remember a forgotten item on your to-do list, sometimes you plan an activity better, more creatively. Writing morning pages regularly has delivered another benefit to me: it has improved lucidity.
There is one article which somewhat weakly points out ‘The Case Against Morning Pages’. It is one of those journalistic exercise which desires to get attention of the reader by writing something against the experience of people. Nevertheless, I am mentioning it here to give you that alternate view.
As Julia Cameron says ‘the point isn’t to produce good writing. The point is to take all the worries and frustrations and random thoughts that are gunking up your brain and get them out of your head and onto the page, so your creativity can ﬂow freely the rest of the day. If you want to be a creative person, writing every day is the best thing you can possibly do.’
Just do it!
Vivek S Patwardhan