Why Morning Pages Aren’t for Everyone

Posted by Deborah Atherton

Many books for writers, the best known of which may be Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, advocate that you wake up every morning and write. Attack your resistance before it takes hold.  Retrieve the residue of your dreams, and manage a feeling of virtue all day. Write anything, they say – it doesn’t have to be immediately meaningful. Just write.

All well and good, if you are a morning person. But some of us get out of bed with reluctance every day, and do not really become even mildly functional until as late as 4 PM. Some of us are averse by nature to “just writing,” and do not like to set pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, without a larger purpose.  And some of us lead such intensely busy lives that that half hour or hour just isn’t available every morning – be it a demanding boss, hungry children, or a troop of chimpanzees we are studying, we just cannot commit that time.

As Leslie mentioned last week in her post, this advice has generated a lot of guilt in a lot of writers and artists. Leslie and I are both strong believers in rituals for artists, but we also believe that you have to create your own.  There are lots of books that tell you to do other things first thing on rising, with advice ranging from getting on your exercycle to drinking a glass of hot water with lemon – and while I am sure these are all fine things to do, you don’t HAVE to.  Really. Lots of people go to the gym after work, not when they wake up, and they seem to be as healthy as anyone else, if not healthier than most. And you can do this with writing, too.  Write after work. Write before you go to bed.  Write while eating your tuna sandwich at lunch. Write while on hold with the cable company.  (I have done all these things, and can speak to their efficacy.) Or better, do make an appointment with yourself to write regularly. Maybe it will be every Sunday morning, while the rest of the household sleeps. Maybe it will be Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5 to 6 after everyone else has left the office.

But don’t let anyone tell you that waking up at 6 AM and writing is essential to YOUR life as an artist, whatever kind of artist you may be.  Some do – most don’t.  Quite possibly all you want to do in the morning is drink your coffee and read the newspaper or a blog.

Enjoy your coffee.


11 Responses to Why Morning Pages Aren’t for Everyone

  1. Rebecca says:

    Greetings! Oh, How I agree with all your observations and suppositions…and there are some who CAN do “the early” and then must rest in the mid-day and then move on to being fired up later and later in the evening…and my goodness, what about those of us who have LOST the journal and spent days in panic at the information that wasn’t to be shared…and forever hesitate to do so again! Oh well, all is well in our worlds…if only we knew that…and that any expression of most any kind is ultimately good for our souls!
    P.S. gotta love that tuna sandwich…simply inspirational!

    • deborahatherton says:

      I am often actually a morning writer myself, but can’t do it to order. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes I’m out of milk for coffee, and somehow the laundry didn’t get done, and I have a 9 o’clock meeting – and then, forget about it! Perhaps those who wake up at 6 am to do 20 situps and then write their morning pages do not let these issues stop them, but let’s face it, sometimes it is just better to wait until after dinner!

  2. richardsblah says:

    You tell them, lady! I do know some people who are at their best creatively in the mornings, but I am definitely not one of them. I’m a night time artist, for sure. I do all my best writing in the dead of night. In the mornings, I’m good for nothing. I can barely even remember my own name, much less write some magnificent opus.

    I also find it difficult to start writing if I know I don’t have a fair amount of time ahead of me to continue. Less than a couple of hours and I just find myself not bothering. Weird little foible, I guess.

    And I don’t hold with the ‘just write something’ philosophy, either. That way lies madness, and most likely, drivel.

    • deborahatherton says:

      “Just write something” always brings me back to Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” “All work and no play. . .”

    • Brandi says:

      I see the different opinions being voiced here, and can respect them. But- Ms Cameron urges this practice the way she’s outlined it fr some good reason. Those first minutes that we are awake in the morning we are in touch with a different aspect of consciousness that we cannot access at any other time of day. Also, this is part of an actual step by step, week by week program for creative recovery, which requires adjustment, motivation, and most of all commitment. As part of the program, the morning pages are essential. They are NOT about getting up and getting creative first thing in the morning, not about writing anything in particular. I do them even when I’m not actively using the rest of the book, but the whole point is to do them when we have that window of access to this different level of awareness. They aren’t for everyone, but everyone I know that has commited to doing them the way they are suggested have gained from the experience. There is something available when we first wake up, and why not drink coffee with them, and rather than needing someone elses words to start our day, start with our own?

  3. Gemma Hudson says:

    I enjoyed the article – thanks.
    The Artist’s Way is an excellent book and I did try the morning pages for a while. However doing the pages at night clears my
    mind of clutter and helps me to sleep, and when I read them back,
    at the end of the week- I find lots of ideas for my creative writing!

    • deborahatherton says:

      I’m glad you liked it. There’s a whole different post coming at some point about that wonderful moment before you fall asleep and what a great creative opportunity it offers. I’m glad to hear it works so well for you!

  4. I wake up when I do and just go straight to writing my pages, even though I may wake up say at two in the afternoon. It is always morning somewhere in the world.

    • deborahatherton says:

      That’s a creative interpretation of morning!

    • Brandi says:

      Rico! Hello Friend! Absolutely right- it doesn’t matter when you wake up- sometimes I even do nap-pages, lol, it’s just to do it when you wake up, the “morning” is just a broad term to apply to when “normal” people wake up…

      • deborahatherton says:

        Brandi, I LOVE the idea of nap pages. And I think we need to do a whole post on the joys of napping and the ideas we get during and after those lazy afternoon naps, when we are lucky enough to get them!

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