Discover more from Mourning Pages
Night Pages Instead of Morning Pages
The origins of Mourning/Morning Pages
“But I got saved by poetry, and I got saved by the beauty of the world.” -Mary Oliver
Last time: Letter’s We’ll Never Send (a post for paid subscribers, which could be you. Subscribe below so you don’t miss any content. Subscriptions help fuel the creative machine, a.k.a my exhausted brain).
There are so many new readers here (many friends and coworkers and family) that I wanted to pause on all my grief writing for a moment and give a little more context about where Mourning Pages came from.
Plus, I’ve been trying to balance all the talk about loss by reading some really fantastic books (more about that at the end of the post).
How Mourning Pages began as Night Pages
I am a morning writer by necessity (child, full-time job), but I’m always interested in the debate among writers over being an early worm or a night owl. It is well-documented that successful writers such as Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and Ernest Hemingway (among many others) all woke early to write. On the other hand, many other writers stay up late and may benefit from the quiet hours when the rest of the world is asleep.
Enter Julia Cameron, author The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.
Cameron’s very popular book promotes the idea of “Morning Pages,” which she says is essential to creative recovery.
To quote Cameron, “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. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
Cameron calls Morning Pages pivotal and calls on writers to make “immediate use” of this tool. The concept probably makes sense for those who use free-writing or journaling as a tool. Before your brain wakes up entirely, before the coffee has kicked in, you get everything out of your head and onto the paper.
As a dedicated morning writer whose brain doesn’t function well after 8 P.M., I am here to suggest a way for even exhausted early birds to make the most of nighttime writing: Night Pages.
And before my 5 a.m. Writers Club friends worry that I am abandoning them, I assure you that as long as I have a child who wakes before sunrise and a full-time job, I will always be a morning writer at heart.
When I first heard the concept of Morning Pages, I immediately said it wasn’t possible. Not for me. Yes, I wake up obscenely early to write but that time is valuable and shouldn’t be used for writing that no one sees. I write in the morning because my family is still asleep and I’m not yet overloaded with my full-time job and the headlines and everything else going on in the world. 5 A.M. is often the only time I have to write.
If I’m on deadline or just want to finish another scene for my work-in-progress, my morning writing time should be more fruitful and productive than stream of consciousness.
And what about those who need to quiet their brain at night? What if you need clarity and comfort, the chance to clear your thoughts, before bed?
My reaction here was a form of resistance, as Cameron would say. I was resistant to changing my process or trying something that I was certain wouldn’t work for me. Great idea for everyone else, but not for me.
Since my brain is hard to shut down before bed (and in the middle of the night when I inevitably wake up three times), I realized I might benefit from getting my thoughts out at night. The way people look at me when I tell them how early I wake to write, I think Night Pages may have a bigger potential audience.
Though Julia Cameron only speaks about Morning Pages, Night Pages could, in theory, work the same way: three pages of stream of consciousness writing before bed. It doesn’t have to be “good” writing and no one ever has to see it. You can use the time to rant, wonder, and repeat yourself. Sketch ideas or replay the day’s event. Whatever comes out counts when it comes to Night (or Morning) Pages.
Just don’t read through them again and don’t show them to anyone. No judgement, not even a little bit.
It was worth a shot. For all the same reasons Morning Pages work, the concept of Night Pages was worth a try. I’m usually too fatigued from the day to write something new at night, but I could definitely rant and scribble for three pages.
No, it’s not exactly the same as Cameron’s Morning Pages, but why not give it a try?
A week of Night Pages turned into legit Morning Pages (though sometimes I switch back and forth depending on my mood/level of exhaustion). Morning Pages turned into Mourning Pages. And here we are.
I started to notice a common theme of grief and loss coming out in that early morning or late night writing. (I also complained a lot about work, but that’s another subject completely).
Even if you are not a “writer,” I’d like to suggest giving Morning or Night Pages a try. Just write. No, it’s not the same as journaling and yes, you might feel really resistant, but you might find something worthwhile in the act of getting everything out of your head and onto the page.
*Note: This post originally appeared in a different format in the Writing Cooperative.
This is where my Teacher and Bookworm selves come out to play. At the bottom of every new post, I’ll share what I’m currently reading and offer up a writing prompt if you feel so inclined.
Since I already included my writing suggestion (Morning Pages! Night Pages), below is a short list of the books I’m currently reading or the books I finished (and loved) last month.
Best book reads from last month:
Please add the best book you recently read in the Comments Section. The pile on my nightstand is starting to dwindle.