In a culture that has commodified the fruits of creativity to the degree that ours has, it can be easy for us to feel cut off from our inherent creative energy if we are not producing something tangible. In reality, creativity is not a special stream that only some of us can tap into and enjoy. By the very virtue of being alive and human, we have the ability and power to create. In our everyday choices - from preparing a meal to planning our weekend activities - we engage with our imagination and, in the process, we shape and build our lives. This is creativity in its most essential form. You do not have to identify as an artist to enjoy this power.
What artists do have, however, are rituals that honor creativity. This helps them strengthen their commitment to living in communion with the creative spirit. When we decide to dedicate time in our day to creative expression, we open floodgates that let self-knowledge, collective wisdom, and rejuvenating energy rush in to greet us. If we do have artistic goals, it becomes easier to meet them.
One of the most accessible - and highly effective - rituals one can enact to boost creativity is the practice of Morning Pages.
What are Morning Pages?
Morning Pages are a writing practice introduced by “The Godmother of Creativity,” Julia Cameron. Like the name suggests, Morning Pages are written (longhand) first thing in the morning. The only “rule” is that you don’t stop until you write three whole pages.
The most important thing to know about Morning Pages is that there is no wrong way to do them. Cameron writes, “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.”
When you write Morning Pages, you are airing out your mind. These are not carefully planned pages where every word choice matters. These are stream-of-consciousness, whatever-comes-comes pages. You can rant, you can rave; complain or ruminate. “Good” and “Bad” get thrown out the window before you begin.
Cameron created this practice as part of The Artist’s Way, her groundbreaking 12-week program designed to un-block creativity. For followers of the Artist’s Way, Morning Pages do not exist in a vacuum. They are rooted in the larger ethos that actualizing your creativity is a spiritual practice. The point of Morning Pages is not to add another item to your day’s to-do list but to witness your own personal growth take place, right there, on the blank page.
You are already creative
James Navé, a poet, teacher, and storyteller who is a founding member of the performance company Poetry Alive! and also co-founded The Artist's Way Creativity Camp with Cameron emphasizes that, even if we feel blocked, we still have access to creativity.
He tells Chopra.com, “Creativity is always with us. What we're actually talking about, is how do we organize this abundance that we were born with? How do we do something with it that gives us joy, that makes us laugh, and that allows us to play, and at the same time, address serious issues?”
If we are not used to thinking about creativity like this, we may need an extra push of support as we embark on our journey. With 20-years of teaching experience, Navé is able to provide just that. He details the first exercise he facilitates for students when they embark upon the Artist’s Way course.
“I say, I want all of you to take a minute or two. And think of a time in your life when you felt like you succeeded, beyond your wildest dreams, creatively.”
When he says succeed, he isn’t talking about publication credits, awards, or sales.
“The example I offer was when I was in the 10th grade, I organized a surprise birthday for my grandmother.” He says, “When my grandmother walked through the door, all the ladies of the church said surprise, and my grandmother beamed. They ate the cake and unwrapped a few presents and they socialized. That was my creative success. So to this day, I still smile because it was very creative.”
Tips for Practicing Morning Pages
Try Navé's exercise for yourself
Before you begin your Morning Pages journey, find a few quiet moments to yourself. Bring Navé’s prompt to mind. Contemplate his story. Then, bring to mind a story of your own of a time when you felt proud of a creative success. Remember, creativity dwells in some of life’s simplest joys.
If you run into a block with this prompt, Navé suggests focusing on when you first fell in love. Ask yourself, how did I feel? He says, “Now if that is not creativity, what is?”
Completing this exercise will help you remember the creative power you already possess, making Morning Pages feel less intimidating.
Pair your Morning Pages with a walk
Morning Pages is one of the most important tools in the Artist's Way toolbox, but it is not the only one. Navé and Cameron hold that walking is just as important. It can help you further reflect upon what comes up for you in your writing.
Cameron writes, “I find that if you walk, you start to integrate what has occurred to you from the other tools. You might walk out with a problem, but as you walk, you come into a solution. You just get a different perspective. You go out for a walk, maybe see a cat in a window box, and suddenly hear yourself saying “Oh, I could try X.” Walking is very powerful.”
When we enjoy a piece of great music, a work of art, or a transformative book, we feel more connected to our human nature. We feel connected to the artist, whom we may not even know. This is because creativity is a universal force that is made to be shared. We delight in it, together.
As you begin your morning pages practice, you will want to find a creative community of your own to share this spirit with. This may mean asking a friend to join you on this journey. Or, it could mean communing with other Morning Pages practitioners online.
For those seeking community online, Nave recommends The Artist’s Way Group on Facebook, facilitated by photographer and writer Jeremiah Hill.
These tips are an offering, though the journey is entirely your own. You have the creative power to make this ritual yours.