Artful Advice

Julia Cameron on using pen and paper to unlock creativity

How handwriting Morning Pages can spark inspiration and help you prioritise creative projects.

Julia Cameron’s bestselling book The Artist’s Way has been inspiring people to live more creative lives for two decades. Her much-loved guide prompts readers to embark on a spiritual journey and reconnect with their innate creative power.

Containing both practical activities and uplifting musings on creativity, Julia recommends two core practices – Morning Pages and Artist Dates. Writing Morning Pages is a daily habit – filling three blank pages with whatever occupies your mind, while Artist Dates encourage you to spend time alone doing something you enjoy. Using pen and paper for Morning Pages allows you to clear your mind of clutter and and create freely.

To celebrate the release of her new memoir, Floor Sample, we spoke to Julia about her practice of penning Morning Pages and how anyone can access their creativity.

PLEASE CHANGE ME

You recommend writing by hand to do Morning Pages. What do you like about using pen and paper?
I find that writing by hand yields a handmade life. There is a direct connection between heart and hand.

How would you define creativity today, and has your understanding of creativity changed over time?
I would say that creativity is a spiritual spark common to us all. Over the years, I have come to think that creativity is a God-given gift. Divine in origin, human in expression.

How has your creative practice changed your life on a personal level?
My creative practice is a daily routine that prioritises my days and leads me forward. My Morning Pages start the day and point me in productive directions.

From your experience teaching and living as an artist, what is the most common block that prevents creativity?
believe that a fear of appearing foolish is the primary block people encounter.

How can the process of writing Morning Pages change your life and your ability to live creatively?
Morning Pages prioritise the day — they lead to creative breakthroughs.

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to take action towards being creative – whether that’s writing Morning Pages, setting goals or anything else?
At the risk of sounding like a fanatic, I would recommend the practice of Morning Pages as a potent tool for self discovery.

What’s a favourite artist date that you’ve taken yourself on? Why?
My favorite artist’s date is a visit to a pet store where they have a large bunny named “George.” Visiting with George lifts my spirits.

After writing your Morning Pages, what does your daily routine look like?
I write my Morning Pages and then I walk 35 minutes on a treadmill. After that, I’m ready to tackle the day’s writing project.

A few of the tasks set in The Artist’s Way involve writing letters. Why is letter writing important?
When we write a letter, we access our heart.

What would a line from a letter to yourself say today?
Dear Little One, keep up your creative practice. It has served you well.

What motivated you to write your memoir, Floor Sample?
I had an impulse to sort through my life and discover what events held special importance.

What has been your most challenging creative project? How did you complete it?
I believe that my most challenging creative project is always the project at hand. I depend on Morning Pages to encourage me in my work.

You recommend writing lists in a lot of chapters of The Artist’s Way. What do you find therapeutic about list making?
I find that lists give me a sense of my own priorities.

Saying affirmations are a key part of your process. What are your current favourites, or affirmations you always return to?
I am powerfully creative and my powers are God-given.

You recommend playfulness and returning to what we loved as a child to combat creative block. Why is this important?
One of the biggest blocks to creativity is taking oneself too seriously. I find that playfulness is a powerful antidote.

You’ve described the way you receive “marching orders” – or as you also call them “strong internal directives” about your life’s direction or decision-making. Can you tell us what’s next for you?
I can’t tell you what’s next for me, because I am currently waiting to receive my “marching orders.” They may point me in many different directions — lately poetry has been dominant.

Feeling inspired to start the practice of writing morning pages? Find an uplifting notebook you’ll want to use everyday, and pens and pencils that will let your words flow. For more from Julia Cameron, check out her latest release, Floor Sample: A Creative Memoir.