I have a confession. One that may be wildly unpopular, but here it is: I hate morning pages.
If you spend any time online in creative spaces, you’re likely to stumble on at least one blog post talking about the miracle of morning pages. They help cure creative blocks, jumpstart your writing and clear your mind. They’ve changed lives! Which is fantastic. Any tool that helps people open up to creativity is incredibly valuable. And they work for a lot of people. Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way introduced the concept 25 years ago and has amassed a devoted following consisting of everyday creatives and celebrities alike. Elizabeth Gilbert has said that without that book, there would be no Eat, Pray, Love and she’s written her own book on the creative process. The proof abounds. And yet…
Maybe it’s because I’m a night writer (which sounds really cool when I say it that way) or because I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. But despite several tries and many good intentions, I cannot get into morning pages. It sounds so simple: wake up, and before you do anything else, write in a notebook until you fill three pages. It doesn’t have to be creative writing or even cohesive in anyway. You could spend two of your three pages complaining about how you don’t know what to write and morning pages are stupid and it would still count. The goal isn’t “good” or productive writing, it’s to siphon off the crap floating around in your brain so you can access the juicy stuff underneath. The reason for doing it in the morning is so that your conscious, controlling mind doesn’t hijack the process. No getting distracted by to do lists or telling yourself a story, just word vomit onto three pages and move on with your day.
So what happened when I tried morning pages? Kind of nothing, actually. As in, I would wake up, sit down with my notebook, start writing and then realize ten minutes later that I’d been staring off into space thinking about absolutely nothing. It was a wonderful way to clear my head and if I’d been trying to meditate or teach myself to sleep with my eyes open, it would have been a job well done. But words on pages? Not so much.
By contrast, I have for nearly my entire life, written at night. Scribbled journal entries, fragments of stories, dream journals, notes to friends. When the sky darkens, my brain releases its hold on critical thinking and just let’s go, leaving space for uncontrolled words to pour out. Which is exactly what “morning pages” are supposed to do. But for some reason, I keep coming across the advice to write first thing in the morning. Do not check Instagram, do not make coffee, do not pass go. Wake up, pick up pen, write. It’s like the people who say that first thing in the morning is the best time to exercise. For everyone. Oh, you did your 10 mile run at 6pm instead of 6AM? Loser. You’re totally doing it wrong, you know.
This, of course, is nonsense. Just like any one-size-fits-all advice. I will never be part of the morning pages fan club. But damn do I love me some night writing. Ultimately, it comes down to what works for you. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of that. So consider this your reminder: you do you, morning, noon, or night.