Morning Pages and Artist Dates: What’s in the pot?

I’m connecting morning pages and artist dates visually and sharing 10 key things to remember about them, as I abridge the Basic Tools, alongside ideas for action. What will you try?

Join the discussion: ‘How can atheists traverse The Artist’s Way?’ on Tue, 16 Feb at 17:15 GMT online; just request an invite.

☚ Last week we covered a secular translation of the Basic Principles of The Artist’s Way. Check it out, if you missed it.

Julia has 2 key tools to help folks access their creativity:

  • Morning pages
  • Artist dates

➔ Read what Julia has to say about her Basic Tools, either on her website or in her book. She provides The Basic Tools section of her book as a pdf which you can print out.

My abridgement of these, with expanded notes on the text, with an abridged discussion of its content follows.

Doing your morning pages, you are sending—notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfactions, hopes.

Doing your artist date, you are receiving—opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, (London: Souvenir Press Ltd, 1994), page 18

My impression is that we’re each making stone soup.

large pot of ideas bubbling away, arrows showing morning pages going out and artist dates going in

By doing morning pages we’re clarifying the water, skimming the surface of the scum that rises up when cooking grains or beans, clearing out the unsightly gunk.

By going on artist’s dates we’re adding ingredients to the pot, being playfully generative. We’re paying attention to whatever delightful ingredient we’re contributing at the time, and not end results.

Looking at the text closely helps me explore ways of building habits of creativity. Let’s do that.

Morning pages

➔ Read or listen to what Julia has to say about Morning Pages on her website.

“There is no wrong way to do morning pages.”

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, page 10

As a reader, this reminds me of Shilpa Shah and Jaya Ashmore saying, “You can’t get it wrong; also, you can’t get it right.” when we’re about to meditate. Breathing, moving mindfully, morning pages, they’re all about process over product. Being / doing, experiencing; not output or outcome.

Julia Cameron goes out of her way to reassure non-writers that doing morning pages is not writing. As a writer, I’ve found this helpful because it helps me not to trip over myself. It helps me quiet my censor, and my critic, both when doing my morning pages and when I’m writing.
In a previous article, I wrote about morning pages as a tool that enables good work: “Ignore your inner critic and don’t let your censor hold you back.” And I illustrated that with portraits of my inner critic (Lemongrab from Adventure Time) & my censor (Yellow Diamond from Steven Universe):

Which brings me to: You need to be willing to make bad art. Just like with Morning Pages, bad work is what enables good work. Ignore your inner critic and don’t let your censor hold you back.

Some things I find helpful for doing my morning pages are:

  • Keeping my notebook and pen beside my bed so I can do them first thing, when I’m still bleary-eyed, before I brush my teeth or make tea
  • Writing as fast as I can – I race my censor!
  • Writing to my inner child and using my non-dominant hand to write back

Artist dates

  • Intentional: A block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside
  • Committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist
  • Solo: Just you and your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child
  • Fun, playful, and not something you think you ought to do – “think mischief more than mastery” and “ask yourself, ‘what sounds fun?’ — and then allow yourself to try it.”
  • Novel: It’s an exploration – try something new!

“In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers[…] Your artist needs to be taken out, pampered, and listened to.”

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, page 18-19

➔ Read or listen to what Julia has to say about Artist Dates on her website.

Some of the tasks in The Artist’s Way are great inspiration for artist dates, for example, Week 1: Task 8: Imaginary Lives and Week 2: Task 3: 20 Things You Enjoy.

I find it helpful to gather ideas from multiple sources. Here are some others:

LiLi grinning broadly, holding up a collection of branches, twigs and autumn leaves
“Artist Dates are assigned play.” Julia Cameron

What tips and tricks do you have for your creativity? Have you used these tools? What trips you up? What sustains and nurtures your artist?

Behavioural change for creativity

As a reader, I note that the word ‘habits’ is only used 18 times in the book. I find this interesting, because the whole book is about learning creativity habits and unlearning harmful behaviours that block creative flow.

These tools help me be more creative, and I’m not alone. 

Practising as consistently as possible and having a friend who’s committed to the Artist’s Way have both been invaluable for me. If you have friends who are willing and able to go on the journey with you, great! If not, look for communities of artists locally or online (eg search Meetup or Eventbrite), encourage your friends to get in touch with their creativity, make new friends. Give yourself your best chance.

There are many other tools and techniques I find useful for prolific and sustainable creativity. I’ll probably write about these another time. Let me know if you’re interested.

Rich tomato curry with potato salad, shredded carrots & beetroot, golden rice, and turmeric latte
Remembering, with fondness, moreish meals at Cafe Van Gogh

Join the discussion on Tue, 16 Feb

How can atheists traverse The Artist’s Way?

Join us on Tue, 16 Feb at 17:15 GMT online to explore themes of access and amendments to The Artist’s Way. Request an invite by sending me a message.

Here, we’ve covered the connections between morning pages and artist dates. I’ve shared 10 key points to remember, alongside ideas for action. Next week, I’ll be exploring ways in which atheists might meaningfully engage with artist’s prayers. In the meantime, how will you evade your censor and spend quality time with your artist?

LiLi excitedly grinning into the camera wearing a t-shirt that has an awesome punk duck illustration and the captions 'Queer as Duck' and 'Chuck SJ' on it. The 'a' of 'as' is an anarchy symbol.
Chuck SJ is an incredible multidisciplinary artist whose work you should check out immediately