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Monday, September 30, 2013

Guest Post: The Gift of Morning Pages

  Annette Gendler

Recently, I've written about doing the Morning Pages exercise, then had a post with responses from people who have done them. Today, Annette Gendler is my Guest Blogger with her thoughts on doing Morning Pages. Well worth a read. She just may inspire you to give this exercise a try. Read what she has to say:

For 30-45 minutes every weekday morning, I am free. I can write whatever I want. I started writing Morning Pages in earnest this past April upon reading of Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write. I had heard of Morning Pages before, but I had resisted doing them because I feared writing three pages in the morning of “whatever came to my mind” would take away from working on whatever project I was pursuing. Instead, the opposite is true. While Morning Pages do “take away” most of my writing time before the household wakes up, they have proven to me one of the axioms of the creative process: the more you write, the more you write.

Morning Pages ensure that I write. Even if that’s all I write in a day, I have written. I have processed my life through writing. I find this concept of “authoring” my own life immensely attractive and grounding. I spend so much time writing for others; why not spend some time writing for me? Morning Pages allow me to reflect where and how I am at that moment. They are an exercise in self-awareness. When I close my Morning Pages book, I find it reassuring to know that the next morning I will open it again. My hand will once again move over the page; I will be leaving my mark, if only to myself.

Writing this much by hand is a new experience for me, who up until April only wrote grocery lists and notes to self by hand. Suddenly, by writing Morning Pages by hand as Julia Cameron insists, I am manifesting myself. Only I have this particular handwriting. In it I see myself, and that is anchoring.

Have Morning Pages benefitted my writing? Yes, I think so. My writing has become more fluid, easier to execute. My main goal as a literary nonfiction writer is to capture a feeling in words, and by being more in touch with my own feelings through writing about them, writing an essay is somehow less daunting.

Have I had more ideas because of Morning Pages? I’m not sure, but I certainly have followed through on more of them. Morning Pages keep me in the creative flow. My pages feature bubbles with ideas for new essays, to-do lists, or plans to rewrite old pieces. I revisit those bubbles, and they help me keep track.

Has my writing life improved since I started doing Morning Pages? At the beginning of this year, I set myself the goal of one publication per month, and so far that has been easier than I thought it would be. Not only have I managed to publish one piece per month, I’m actually slightly ahead of that goal.

Mainly, however, Morning Pages are a gift to me. When I don’t get to do them for a few mornings, I get antsy. Despite all the benefits listed above, the main one is that, every morning when I close my Morning Pages book, I feel good for having done them. I have written myself through some struggles or annoyances to a better place. I write in a rather large, narrowly lined book, so two full pages have become my norm. I have found that even if I don’t feel like it, I have to plow through the first page to get to a different spot on the second page. Somewhere on the second page, the junk gets left behind and some insight will emerge, however small, that I wasn’t aware of before. I always end up in a better place after writing my two pages.

Annette Gendler is a nonfiction writer. She has completed a memoir about an impossible love that succeeded; an excerpt, “Giving Up Christmas,” was published in December 2012 in Tablet Magazine,another excerpt, “‘Trown Out’ of the Family Home” appeared in the Wall Street Journal. She regularly writes for the Washington Independent Review of Books, and her work has appeared in literary magazines such as Bellevue Literary ReviewNatural Bridge, Under the Sun, and South Loop Review. Annette has twice been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and was the 2013 Peter Taylor Nonfiction Fellow at the Kenyon Writers Workshop. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and has been teaching memoir writing at StoryStudio Chicago since 2006. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three children.


  1. Love this article! I've heard of doing this before and wondered if it worked. Glad to know it does!

    1. Jessica, it really does if you give it the "time of day!"

  2. Nancy, thanks for hosting me and for asking me about my Morning Pages habit. It forced me to finally put my love for them into words.

    1. The best part of your Guest Blog today, Annette, is that I wrote my first Morning Pages today. And I surprised myself at a couple things I wrote about. Interesting exercise already!

    2. See what I'm saying? It's really more than an exercise, it's really a practice and I think it only bears fruit if you stick with it. Like so many other things!

  3. I have been amiss, but you are right on all counts and so... I'll start again! This is why we need to read other writer's blogs and read guest posts...we need to be nudged every now and then.

    Thanks for the nudge!