Doing Morning Pages: 24-day kick-start to song-writing

notebook with pages of longhand writing open on a bed
My morning pages notebook: on the Artist’s Way for 24 days

You’ve heard of Julia Cameron’s famous book, The Artist’s Way, of course? No? Some of your friends probably follow this, even if they haven’t told you. Over the years I’ve been rather surprised at the number of writers, artists, film-makers and others who were doing Morning Pages.

The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages. Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages—they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.

Julia Cameron Live

Why? It works, that’s why. But why would I want to do this? I’m not exactly short of ideas and creative projects, but I need to make a rapid switch from my current poetry + editing mode to song-lyric-writing mode. Within three weeks!

You see I’m going to a song-writing retreat in deepest Taranaki soon. For an adventure. For the joy of learning. For peace and nature and mental stimulation far from the internet and my normal life. The tutor is Charlotte Yates—reason enough for me to drop everything and register. (Not you, sorry, it’s full.)

I boldly claim to play 3 chords on the ukulele but I do not play them well. I try and try and they will never sound nice. On the other hand I’ve written lyrics before which have been turned into songs by various musicians, and performed, and I want to understand more about the process. How song lyrics differ from poems (although poems can be sung). And that means writing some new ones from scratch.

As for doing Morning Pages, I’m on a 3-day streak! I’ve already discovered lines that want to be sung. I trust, I don’t question, I’m happily flowing in the early morning spirit of Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way.

If your inner artist wants out, now’s the perfect time to open the door. It’s as easy as pie: find out a little more about how Morning Pages work. All you need is a notebook and a pen.

Guess I’m cheating by setting a time limit. But why not? The artist’s way may be a sacred calling—but Morning Pages are a tool and a versatile one at that. One you can use any way for any purpose. And what you make is good, it’s fine, you cannot fail.

The songwriters retreat is my idea of a happy new year: a delightful, personal, pointless new adventure of the spirit.

But for now, movies and meals with friends and family. First up, Misbehaviour: I’m going shortly with my granddaughter to watch 1970s feminism (my era) on screen. I’m sure we shall both be enlightened, inspired, amused and astonished.

Happy New Year! It’s got to be an improvement on the last one.

19 thoughts on “Doing Morning Pages: 24-day kick-start to song-writing

  1. Joan Craven says:

    Sounds like a plan! Good luck with this next adventure.

  2. Happy New Year to you too Rachel. May 2021 be a healthy, productive, active, and enjoyable year for you.

  3. Song writing… that sounds like fun! I have a few friends who write Morning Pages but I’ve never done them myself. Just the thought of writing three pages in long hand makes my right wrist hurt 🙂

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Ah but my notebook is only A5. I think that’s cheating but too bad 👍

  4. cedar51 says:

    I’ve an acquaintance who has a 750 word limit in a word document – and is really enjoying the process – particularly as you don’t need to go back and read whatever you scribbled (typed). Plus he has set out to be doing it around 5.30am in the morning – so it doesn’t interfere too much with his day, he’s one of those younger go-getters, who has had his overseas business life, rather short tailed during c/19.

    Rachel, if it sets you up for a goal – then why not…

    Maybe I should give it whirl – I know if I was handing a pen/pencil there wouldn’t be any chance of re-reading…and that might be better than this gadget as I know exactly where the back space key is – with my wonky disabled hands – as touch type into this box – I’ve probably done it a dozen times already…automatically, I might add!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Um, I really understand how liberating this limit must be. I like it. I like a 3-page limit for free hand-writing too. (However, 750 words or 3 pages would be an exceptionally short book 🙂 I know old age may do my hands in and I hope I’ll treat that as positively as you do.

  5. Good luck on the lyrics. Let us know how that goes.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks Anne and thanks for your support.

  6. alison41 says:

    In the past I’ve used the Morning Pages technique – it works! so I hope your songbird is set free and flies far. Enjoy your retreat. Best wishes to yo9u and Ursula for a healthy 2021. BTW: where is my favourite on-line feline? I’v e missed both of you9.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    At one rather stuck time in my life I did follow Cameron and found it really freed up my voice. I have never taken up songwriting though my daughter and granddaughter have a knack for it. Then again they can each carry a tune! Me not so much.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Our authentic voice comes through many channel s and it also changes with time,don’t you think? I’m glad you aren’t stuck now.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        I will let you know if songs ever show up.

  8. realruth says:

    I’ve benefitted from doing Morning Pages at several times over the years, but I’ve never been inspired to write a song.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Never say never!

  9. Ruth says:

    This additional comment is because I’m now following instructions properly.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You only had to do that thing once 🙂 Let’s hope it works.

  10. Happy New Year Rachel. I just know you’re going to be inspired plus have great fun and a wondrous time in deepest Taranaki. Looking forward to hearing and /or reading some of the results.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And to you, Kay. You have a habit of causing delight and this will continue in2021. Thus spake the oracle 🙂

      1. I like that oracle. A lot. (Thank you!)