Having trouble writing? Whether you’re staring down the blank page, unable to start your next project or stuck in the murky middle of a novel that is so not going as you planned, it can be paralyzing. And once you start to listen to that seed of self-doubt, you can get stuck pretty quick.
I’ve had a few dark-month-of-the-soul experiences. Hell, we all have—and any writer who says otherwise is tempting the universe.
In the last post I shared a little bit about that stuck feeling and tricks to overcome it. But one of my favorite ways to overcome writers’ block is through morning pages, a tool from The Artist’s Way.
I don’t do morning pages any longer, but I did them daily when I was working through the Artist’s Way after writer’s block, a health crisis, depression, and getting married (no wonder I couldn’t write with all that shit going on).
What are Morning Pages?
Morning pages are three handwritten pages, which you write in the morning, first thing. That’s not how everyone does them but it’s their intended incantation.
Morning pages are written by hand because it forces you to go slower, which forces your brain to confront those automatic narratives you tell yourself about how you feel, or why you feel that way.
Morning pages don’t need to be good. The goal is to write what comes through and trust that you’re getting down what you need to get down in those three pages, even if what comes out is “I don’t know how to write a book” or “I don’t know how to write this book” or “I don’t even know what to say.”
It’s totally cool if you write nothing but “I don’t know what to say” for three full pages.
Eventually something interesting will pop up. You will surprise yourself. You’ll follow a thread and uncover a story you never knew was holding you back. Or an idea you have to follow.
Why Do Morning Pages Work?
I was skeptical when I started doing morning pages that it could change things for me, but I did it because when you’re desperate you’ll try anything. But it worked to not only get me back on track with writing my novel, but push through some realizations that ultimately made my life better.
On a technical level, morning pages work by giving you a dumping ground for mental clutter. You put down your thoughts and on some level stop worrying about them. You clear out the mind, so there’s more space and less anxiety.
Just by creating this space, you make room for the muse to come back. You’ll stop having repetitive thoughts about how you need to take your dog to the groomer or pay the cable bill. You’ll be able to recognize ideas instead of losing them in the clutter of your mind.
You also prove to yourself that you can sit down and write three pages every day. If you can do morning pages, you can work on your novel. Or your poem. Or your script. You no longer have permission to use that old excuse about being stuck.
Your morning pages will show you things you’ve been ignoring as well as things you never thought of. This can lead to all sorts of breakthroughs in your personal and creative life, from finally getting the courage to make a change to seeing yourself and your work from a new perspective. If you feel like you’ve plateaued in your writing or lost confidence in your work, this can help you recenter yourself and grow from a safe place.
Don’t be afraid to list all those critical thoughts that are holding you back. Give your inner critic room to rip on how you’re never going to make it, then when she’s spent, open up your work in progress and write.
It’s good to get to know that voice outside of your writing time so you can recognize it when it pops up—and remember that you don’t need to listen. Your inner critic is full of shit.
Patterns emerge when you do morning pages every day. By reviewing what you’ve written once a month, you can see where negative thinking is holding you back or track the development of a potential novel idea.
In my case, filling up a notebook of morning pages helped me face fears, find closure on a toxic friendship, make peace with the crazy year I’d had, and move forward.
I’m not a huge morning person, and I resisted the idea of getting up and doing morning pages over coffee. Why push back the productive part of my day by 30 minutes for this supposed life-changing habit? Yet I did it anyway, I was that desperate for change.
I’d recommend you do morning pages first thing, even if it’s against your routine. Otherwise, you wake up and fall back on those habits that aren’t serving you, and by the time you sit down to write the pages, you’re reacting to another day of events rather than providing a safe place for your questions and intentions. If you want to make change, rather than journal about what’s happened, you need to do them in the morning.