How to Rescue Yourself from Creative Captivity with Morning Pages


portrait of the cat as a writer

I’ve been trapped in the house for about three weeks while recovering from a serious bout of pneumonia. It’s a terrible feeling not to be able to take a full breath; I sympathize with those who deal with respiratory problems on a regular basis. I did, however, enjoy watching Keeper Hubby, Artist Daughter and Poet Son run the household; they were impressive at keeping the juice flowing and the soup hot. After the fever and codeine cough medicine haze lifted, I got back to the business of domestic management, pushing myself too quickly (but they NEED me, right?). A relapse continued my forced confinement and put a dent in my quest to explore different places to write. I couldn’t even go out in my backyard, thanks to a series of ozone alert days full of respiratory-distressed air that settled on the city. That usually doesn’t happen here until August. My captivity started me thinking about other ways to kick-start my creativity.

This week I began writing Morning Pages again.

Morning Pages, if you haven’t heard of the term, is an activity promoted by author and artist Julia Cameron in her classic book The Artist’s Way. First thing in the morning, before you do anything else, write three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing, also called freewriting. Author Natalie Goldberg touts this type of mind-freeing activity in Writing Down the Bones, another well-known book in writers’ circles. The concept is to free your mind from the cluttered thinking (read: monkey mind) that tries to smother the creative ideas lurking in your gray matter.

When I first read about Morning Pages, I was enthusiastic, anything for more creativity. But Perfectionist Me, my alpha alter ego, started protesting. You must make sense! Fix that grammar! It has to be three pages! Now you’re behind, so write six pages! When I would miss a day, I felt guilty about it. After more spurts and fits, I gave up. Perfectionism and guilt seem to be common partners-in-crime with procrastination. I’m ready to let go of the excuses and be my most creative me. What to do? Risk it all and be imperfect.

breaking the perfection rules

As if there is any chance of ever attaining perfection. Perfectionism really boils down to fear. Fear of failure. But the condundrum is if you don’t start, you are destined to fail for certain. Without risk, there is no success. Conclusion: Do It Afraid. 

Our imperfections, bumps, lumps and scars make us our unique selves with a unique voice to share, in whatever shape that voice comes in. Embracing our selves, our gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses can take a lifetime.

Ah, the ramblings of an amateur psychoanalyst. Note to self: try to avoid that.

Back to Morning Pages…

Interested in learning more, or getting back into a journaling mode to boost your creative side?

Check out Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way free online creativity workshop here.

It’s freeing to have a daily brain dump, so I’ll keep doing Morning Pages. If I miss a day, so what? Judging myself takes too much energy I could be using to, say, watch talking cat videos. I think of it as cerebral respiratory therapy. And I need all the therapy I can get. Help your brain breathe, the fresh air feels good!

Question: Do you journal on a regular basis? Do you feel it helps your writing/creativity?

10 thoughts on “How to Rescue Yourself from Creative Captivity with Morning Pages

  1. Oh, Kirstin, Your blog is wonderful! Loved the darling cat picture, hated that you were sick (but am impressed with your extraordinary family). I haven’t done Morning Pages for years. Probably I should start again. Remember, write quickly without much thought. (I loved that instruction from Julia Cameron.

    Hope your health keeps improving.
    AND: You’re such a wonderful writer.
    Hugs,
    Jackie

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  2. Hi Kristin,
    Thanks so much for the link to my blog post! I love to hear about other people’s experiences of writing Morning Pages, and it’s great that you’ve rediscovered them during your recent confinement.
    Like you, I had a serious battle with perfectionism to begin with. I had a huge fear (obsession!!) in the beginning that if I missed a day, that would be it, I’d lose momentum and never get back to writing. Luckily, that never happened, and three years later I still have that writing habit – at least most days.
    I look forward to reading more of your blog, and wish you all the best with your Morning Pages!
    Brigid

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  3. Thank you for stopping by, Brigid. I loved the post on your blog about changing your life with writing. It was so inspiring, and I think people don’t give enough attention to the little healthy habits they can establish that can turn their circumstances around. Habits are too confining, people often think, but for me, if I can get past the perfectionism, they are the very things that free me up to be the best me I can. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

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  4. Another thing that Julia Cameron said was to feed your inner child. I love this advice and fed mine yesterday by shopping and buying a summer jacket that is way out of the norm for me. It’s a blaze of large floral stuff, and normally I wouldn’t even have tried it on. But I decided that was what my inner child might like, and guess what? the jacket looked good on me. It will work well with slacks for church or with jeans for casual-smart.
    Hugs,
    Jackie

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    • Awesome! I bet you look beautiful in it, but you always look beautiful! I agree, feeding your inner child is good advice. I think there are so many people who struggle within themselves, because they were taught, usually by examples in childhood, to not color outside the lines, so to speak. They limit their own choices and work hard to do all the expected things, and float along in the average status quo of life. Or, by familial examples or childhood trauma were taught to ‘grow up’, not do normal child-like things in childhood and that so many activitities and mindsets were silly, lazy or ‘not what WE do’. I wonder how much of that mindset keeps people’s creativity from reaching its full potential? Fun, and delighting in child-like pleasures, is good for the soul, especially the creative soul, I think. Sometimes, as a wise woman I know says “you need to eat the cookie and buy the shoes”! Thanks for the comment, Jackie.

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