I begin writing at 9:15 in the morning, about four hours later than usual, but in every other way I'm right on schedule. Morning Pages don't follow clock time but are synced to when my morning begins. I get out of bed, use the bathroom, come down to the basement nook with coffee, turn the heater on, plug my phone into the speakers, and start the music. I date and number pages one, two, three, take a sip of coffee, and write the first words. I write in no great hurry, just fast enough to keep ideas coming and be surprised.
There's only one audience for these pages; it's me as I write them. I don't share them and rarely look back myself. Sometimes they come out as drafts of pieces (such as these), but that's not the plan. Writing for myself with permission to do whatever with the pages when I'm done encourages me to go deep into places I might not go with someone looking over my shoulder. It shows me that the depths aren't always dark and gives me more courage in public.
Morning Pages have an element of therapy for me. The time is about an hour and I focus on my needs and thoughts as an essayist and poet should. It used to bother me to do therapy instead of producing finished work, but it's not a choice of one or the other. The practice of writing three morning pages fuels my writing even though it seldom leads directly to published pieces.
Like meditation it's a daily practice that I don't believe it would work if it was sporadic. For reasons I can't yet articulate but feel absolutely, I need to do Morning Pages every single day first thing. The effect is cumulative. I no longer need discipline to keep up the practice. My morning wouldn't work without them.
I wrote my first Morning Pages thinking only of those three pages. The next morning I woke curious and wrote three more, again without thought of the next day. This may be why it has worked.
I write on loose pages, used copy paper onto which I have printed lines. There's a bountiful, free supply at my job and I don't want Morning Pages to cost much. I certainly don't want to work in a pretty notebook that discourages writing ugly things. Loose pages can be scanned, stored digitally, and then recycled. I rarely look back and no longer need the trophy stack of pages. I needed that the first year, but no longer.
There are specific things I practice. For a while I focused on commas. I've worked to avoid beginning sentences with "so" which had become a tic. Last year I worked to stop ending sentences in prepositions because it clunked in my ear. Currently, I focus on holding the pen loosely so as not to hurt my shoulder and neck. I'm also working to avoid the lazy "you" that refers to no one in particular. Other things come about by happenstance. I'm writing about a quarter smaller than I was last year in part because I'm writing slower (45 mph instead of 70) and I have more to say. Practice hasn't come close to making perfect, but it surely is growth.
Morning Pages are a way to begin each day alone with words on a page. I go to a secluded place in the house and in my head, follow a routine that bounds and frees me, and I add another day to the practice. It makes me feel writerly first thing and that feeling lingers. It also primes the pump of ideas.
Where do ideas come from? For me, they come from practice, the regular movement of thought from brain to paper. They come from the act of writing words one, two, and three, allowing them to inspire the next dozen, and going on for three pages. Ideas are a byproduct of writing, of being a writer, and of having that practice.
I can't imagine a better way to begin each and every day.