Most of the time, when we sit down to write, we write with the expectation that we'll eventually use some or most of the words that we produce.
But what if you wrote without any intention of ever showing your words to the world? What if you wrote as a meditative exercise to help you clear your mind and tap into your creative potential?
That's precisely what Julia Cameron recommends. Cameron is a poet, screenwriter, creativity coach, and author of 40 books, including The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, which has become a classic among creative professionals.
In her book, she introduces what she calls "morning pages", a daily writing ritual that can help you sort through tough issues you might be tackling in your personal or professional life, tap into your creative potential, and become a happier person.
"Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness", she writes.
It's an exercise that requires no technology beyond a few sheets of paper and a pen or pencil. In fact, Cameron strongly advises against using a computer to write morning pages.
In addition to writing by hand, she also suggests:
Write as soon as you wake.
Cameron recommends writing morning pages as early as possible, soon after you wake-up. Does this mean putting your morning cup of coffee on hold? No need for that, she advises: "As a coffee lover myself, I wouldn't want to get in the way of your favorite pick-me-up."
Just keep writing.
Write whatever comes to mind, however trivial it might seem. Just keep writing until you've filled three 8-1/2 by 11-inch pages. (I try to fill three pages in a blue Moleskin notebook -- not exactly the size of paper that Julia recommends, but it feels right for me.)
Don't write to publish.
Don't write with the expectation that you'll use the material in a piece that you plan to publish. Write for yourself, and write without the inhibiting editorial voice in your head -- the "Censor", Cameron calls it -- that tells you to cut this or that out of your writing.
"The morning pages are not supposed to sound smart -- although sometimes they might. Most times they won't, and nobody will ever know except you."
(Small confession here: While I don't write morning pages with the intention of ever publishing them, I have on at least one or two occasions felt compelled to edit and publish what I jotted down in my morning pages as blog posts.)
Don't show your morning pages to anyone.
My young daughter knows about my morning pages routine, and she has often expressed a strong desire to take a peek at what's inside my notebook. But this is one area that's completely out of reach to her and other people dear to me.
Cameron strongly advises to keep your morning pages entirely to yourself: "Nobody is allowed to read your morning pages except you. And you shouldn't even read them yourself for the first eight weeks or so. Just write three pages, and stick them into an envelope. Or write three pages in a spiral notebook and don't leaf back through. Just write three pages...and write three more pages the next day."
"Morning pages," Cameron writes, "clear the psychic debris standing between us and the day ahead. Done consistently, they will alter the trajectory of our lives."