Frequently Asked Questions on The Artists Way
Welcome, this is the FAQ for my online guide to The Artists Way. To join in sign up HERE.
Do I really need to write my Morning Pages every day?
Yes. It's a bit like fitness. You'll benefit the most if you do your exercises (or in this case, morning pages), every day, but you won't fail the course or be cast into the shadows if you forget or don't feel like it occasionally. In fact, that's a good thing. The morning pages ARE valuable, but for us, as we try and filter out all the reasons that block us from being creative as new participants of TAW, it's more important to recognise the feelings and issues that crop up that prevent us from doing our morning pages then to do our morning pages perfectly. Julia herself says you CAN’T do your morning pages perfectly. So yes, write your morning pages every day, but if you don't, it’s FAR more important you explore WHY... Are you too tired? Can you improve your sleep habits? Were you distracted? Who or what did that and why aren't they respecting your time alone? The times you don't write your morning pages and the reasons you give for not doing them are just as important as when you do them. We are hunting for blocks that stop you from creating. You may feel like you’re doing something wrong, or you’re not doing the course right, but actually, you are evacuating valuable insights into what’s holding you back as an artist and will progress creatively far quicker as a result.
Do I need to write them in the morning?
Yes. When you first do The Artists Way I recommend doing the morning pages exactly when you’re supposed to. If it’s inconvenient, even better. Morning pages are not meant to be convenient. This chunk of your day has suddenly been invaded by Morning Pages and they are going to get in your way and annoy you and stress you out and push all your buttons because, at first, their purpose is to help us identify how we choose to spend our time. If you can’t find 30 minutes to yourself to write 3 pages of nonsense, how are you going to allow yourself to find the time to create artistic masterpieces? That’s not meant to frighten you, it's a wake up call. It is a very clever, very important training tool that forces you to ‘make something’ every day, no matter what. The other reason why they’re done in the morning is that it prepares us for the day. Because we’ve already done something creative, even though it was probably complete nonsense, we are free for our brains to start thinking up interesting ideas for the rest of the day.
Some people also ask if they can do them in the evening, or an extra lot in the evening. I actually did this for a while when I found TAW particularly difficult and it was very soothing. I would have a stressful day and then purge an extra page or two in the evening to help me relax. But after a while I noticed too much inward thinking was making me feel worse so I restrained myself to just the 3 pages each day and I was able to get everything out in that one session and then the rest of the day was spent finding solutions to my problems rather than just living in my head. So by all means, write it out, but keep it in check. You need to be moving forward rather than brooding.
Do I need to hand write them?
Julia is clear in this, both in the TAW and other books she’s written. They do need to be written in long hand. She refers to the act of writing morning pages as a kind of meditation and the physical act of writing encourages that. Of course there will be some of you that can’t hand write for very good reasons and of course alternative methods are appropriate, but for the rest of us, even if its inconvenient and you’d rather dictate them in the car on your way to work, nope, that won’t cut it. Give your notebook and your pen just 30 minutes of your attention and let the writing flow through your hands. You’ll find it quite cathartic ranting away by hand rather than using all caps on a computer, I promise, I know, I’ve tried. And it doesn’t matter if your handwriting is illegible. Or if there’s spelling mistakes either. Really. It’s not important.
How long should it take me?
At the back of my edition of The Artists Way this question is answered but I’m going to give my own experience of how long things take. For me, writing 3 pages of Morning Pages each day can take around 45 minutes and I’m not a particularly slow writer. I think it’s because I like to make a moment of it. I get a cup of coffee before my children are awake and I get back into bed and I write them there before I’ve even got dressed. Sometimes I do them somewhere more interesting like outside in the summer as the sun rises or I’ll snuggle up on the sofa with a blanket and a candle lit. It really depends on my mood.
My Artists dates can last from 1 hour to a whole day. Sometimes I might even have more then one a week.
Other tasks in the book can easily be completed within a few minutes as long as you focus and set aside to do them. Most just require a quiet moment to think. Others require time for collecting materials or research. I find that my worksheets provide a useful guide on how much of your time is required because you can see what you need to fill in and do, right in front of you. Some weeks are very uneventful. Others have a lot of to fill in.
What happens if I can't think of anything to write in my Morning Pages?
One of the most important parts of the basic tools section is where Julia answers this question- if you can’t think of anything to write LITERALLY JUST WRITE ‘I can’t think of anything to write’ over and over and over. I know, that sounds boring as hell right? But the content of the Morning Pages isn’t really important. The physical act of writing IS. You could write the alphabet over and over if you get really stuck, and I bet by the third run through you’ll have something pop in your head that you can really write about. I’ve done it. I’ve only managed to write ‘I can’t think of anything to write’ about six times before something else came into my head. Please remember this and try it. You don’t need to plan anything or have a theme or focus on creative ideas or anything like that. You literally just purge the meaningless chatter that flows through your brain onto the page. It’s ugly and has very little upfront value and can be boring and even upsetting… but let’s get it on the page rather than have it floating around in our heads distracting us from being creative.
What size pages?
You’ll need an A4 notebook or page. That’s letter size, or 8” x 11”. Nothing smaller. If you don’t have that size, see how long it takes you to write one A4 page, multiply that time by 3 and then write for that length of time in your chosen book.
If you have twangs of guilt that you’re consciously or unconsciously writing very slowly or writing huge letters to avoid doing your morning pages, don’t worry about what Julia would think, just ask YOURSELF why YOU are doing that and ensure you’re confronting your pages head on. Cutting corners only lets you down.
What do you do with morning pages after you've written them?
Keep them private. Later on we go through the morning pages to review what we’ve been writing about. After the course some people keep them, but personally, I destroy mine in a burning ceremony. Do what feels right to you.
I have privacy concerns...
Privacy is of huge importance during TAW. Mainly because if you’re doing your MPs correctly there will be a lot of deeply vulnerable thoughts, ranting, paranoia, honesty and maybe even craziness which will leave you feeling creatively violated if your morning pages are intentionally or accidentally made public. True, people shouldn’t invade your privacy, but mistakes happen. Life happens. Guard your morning pages jealously.
Should I share my Morning Pages with others?
Nope, nope, nope. They are for your eyes only. See above. Later on, once you’ve reread them, you may want to share themes that come up in your morning pages to a trusting, understanding audience, but never ever hand your book over to someone else to read. It’s YOURS. It’s about showing respect for your own privacy and secret head space.
Should I reread what I've written?
Not immediately. We learn how to reread our morning pages later on but as you’re writing them do not reread, check for spelling, remind yourself what you’ve written etc. Just keep going.
I'm a visual artist/dancer/musician, how will writing help me?
I am a visual artist. I paint and draw. For a long time I wondered if maybe I should use that time in the morning to work in my sketchbook or something more ‘arty’ instead, but nope. Words are a universal creative skill all creatives share. Letters themselves are drawings, icons, symbols, pictures. Words are sounds. Writing physically captures emotions and actions and movements. Writing is a very clear way for me to express myself without the layers and further complexities and subtext of other creative forms. I don’t have to worry about explaining myself in colour or tone or size. I can just say exactly what I’m thinking and if it’s of any value I can choose to expand on it later. Writing is for all CREATIVES.
I can't find the time because I'm a parent/working/sick/asleep
I first did TAW with a newborn and a 1 year old. I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I remember being horrified at what was expected of me (what do you mean get up 1 hour earlier? I’ve had 3 hours sleep and its 4am!!) but Life is no excuse not to do TAW.
I sometimes wish I’d had the opportunity to do TAW without the limitations of my life, but actually, that’s the point of this course. It’s a lifestyle thing. If you’re not making art because your lifestyle doesn’t have time for it, don’t expect to make art. It’s as simple and as brutal as that. TAW is about tweaking your life so art making becomes a lifestyle, not something you have to squeeze in as a secondary thought. And at first that’s a big, scary, impossible looking challenge. But, if you WANT to make art, you’ll start challenging yourself to make tiny changes and leaps towards creativity. You’ll begin weighing up your options. ‘Can I do this now?’, ‘Maybe if I delegate this?’, ‘I really can’t do that right now in my life and that’s okay’… If you don’t want to make art, and that’s an option, you won’t. You don’t have to. But most people do find a path through if they’re willing to make compromises. Even I did. So if you're sick, exhausted, battling a cranky 2 year old, don't be surprised if TAW doesn't go to plan. But that's okay. Just go with it. I keep saying this but it's important to remember: You don't need to do this perfectly.
I didn't complete my morning pages today, what should I do?
Get up tomorrow and write 3 pages on why you did that. It’s all good stuff to explore. Just keep going. You don’t need to go back to them. You don’t need to catch up. Just carry on where you left off. In fact, I hope you to miss morning pages and miss your artists dates and I hope you give me every reason and excuse under the sun for why you haven’t done them because this is useful information. These reasons are often also the reasons why you’re not making art right now and when we understand what’s stopping us from committing to ourselves and our creativity we can unpick it and remove it from our lives. I didn’t write mine when I had the flu. I felt like death. That was a really good reason not to be creative and I am completely okay with that. However, if I didn’t go on an Artists Date because I was too busy arguing with a stranger on the internet… that’s NOT a good reason. Learn the difference between when you’re avoiding creativity and when other things are just far more important.
I find my morning pages upsetting. How can I cope?
Firstly, that’s a great sign you’re using the MP’s for what they’re meant for. Congratulations on connecting so deeply with them. But yes, they can be difficult and stir up all sorts of emotions. Don’t give up though. Make sure you’re writing in a space that’s private and comfortable. Make sure you’re not spending too much time writing and you’re only writing 3 pages. Otherwise it can be too intense and too inward thinking. You are meant to be purging, not stewing. If you find yourself dwelling on sad or angry thoughts afterwards try and make your MP time very distinct, with a clear start and finish to help train your mind to switch off. Light a candle and blow it out forcefully at the end. Set a timer. Have a shower afterwards and wash away the bad feelings. Go for a walk or workout afterwards. You might even want to meditate and calm any anxious thoughts. Play some loud music and dance it off. MPs CAN be painful. MPs stirred up a LOT of issues for me that actually needed professional help in the end and I urge students to remain vigilant for signs of depression, anxiety and stress which TAW can reveal. TAW is transformative, and with that occasionally comes times of pain and memories that hurt us. TAW can show you how to use those feelings for creative purposes and how to process them for the good of your art, but The Artist's Way it is NOT a replacement for professional psychotherapy or counselling. Please seek professional help if you require it.
I can’t think of what to do for my artist date!
That’s okay, that’s a common issue. You’ll find that at first you may really struggle to know what to do with yourself but that’s because you’re retraining your mind to be curious. You’ve spent a long time preventing yourself from doing what your mind is curious about so to ask it out of the blue ‘what shall we do next week’ can throw it into stage fright. I recommend making a list. As you go about your day write down any ideas that come to mind. If you find yourself thinking ‘that looks good’ or ‘I’d like to try that’ or ‘I wonder if…’ write it down. It may not be creative. It may be that you feel like watching reruns of your favourite TV show or having a dance, or taking a language class. You have no control over what inspires your creative brain, but you can acknowledge it and keep an ear out for its whispers. I’ve also written a list of ideas that may inspire you HERE. You may find, more often than not, that synchronicity often plays a hand in providing suggestions on how to spend your time.
I don’t believe in God/ The spiritual aspect conflicts with me/my faith
I guess this is the most controversial aspect of the course and as an Apatheist myself, one I’ve personally struggled to find room for, but The Artist's Way is open for all people of all religious, spiritual and nonreligious beliefs. I know it’s a common concern for creatives attempting the course when they discover there’s a strong spiritual backbone to TAW and it can be enough to put people off completely, but this is what I’ve learnt. It’s only for 12 weeks. Most of us can be open minded and curious for that long and play along or give it a go, or tolerate it. Julia also encourages owning and adapting the idea of a creative God to fit into our own religious and spiritual views to make it work for us. There is LOT of freedom in how you define your God. Have a go at least at trying to give your God a name that feels acceptable. I’ve called mine everything from 'Universe' to 'Life' to 'Mind' trying to find the right word. It changes a lot depending on what you need it for. And you are not entering a cult, being brain washed, or anything else sinister. You are simply learning how to have faith in your creativity and that’s a GOOD thing.
No, seriously, the God thing is annoying the hell out of me
If you find the notion of God or the spiritual side of this course that disruptive then I urge you, IGNORE IT, that’s OK. I understand that faith and religion can be a trigger for some people and if it’s not right for you, then just ignore that part. The content and tasks in The Artists Way are useful regardless of whether or not you connect with the spiritual elements in the book, so persevere without acknowledging God regardless. Many have succeeded in cultivating a more creative life without adopting the spiritual aspects of the book.