Morning pages are the brain child of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. The best way to do them is as soon after you rise as possible. Your inner critics are still groggy then, so it's easier to get around them first thing in the morning. I keep my journal next to the bed, so that I can write them before I even officially get up. At first, it took around 20-30 minutes to complete the morning pages each day. Once I got used to doing them, 10 minutes per day was all it took to reach mental, emotional and inspirational health by the power of my own pen! The trick is to keep your hand moving and write 3 pages as fast as you can. If you don't know what to write, then just write: “I don't know what to write...” over and over until your brain gets bored with that and decides to say something interesting. Morning pages are also known as “the brain drain,” so feel free to be as negative as you need to be. You are draining all the negative chatter out of your mind before you begin your creative projects. This way, you are able to create with clarity, without petty annoyances holding you back from full expression.
I'm not saying that morning pages will solve all your problems and issues in one session, but if you keep complaining about the same things day after day, you are more likely to do something to change your situation. If nothing else, the pages relieve a bit of the pressure, because they invite you to speak your mind fully and freely.
After they are written, morning pages can be kept or thrown away. I used to destroy mine, but now I write them in my journals, along with all the other parts of my life. I turn my journal and write the morning pages sideways to differentiate them from the other pages of my journal. Sometimes I re-read them, but often I don't. (It's usually just a bunch of whining and complaining!)
On the subject of emotions: I am a firm believer that all feelings should be fully felt so they can be let go. The morning pages really help me to do that quickly, efficiently, and without dragging anyone else into it! When feelings aren't expressed, they can come out in weird ways that hurt people. I think this happens when we judge or ignore our feelings, or put ourselves down for having them. Denying your feelings can not only make you sick, but it damages your relationship with yourself. If you had a friend who came to you and said “I feel really sad and depressed about my situation,” would you ignore your friend, or tell your friend “That's just silly. Buck up and get over it.” We wouldn't speak to a friend that way, yet we speak to ourselves that way in our minds whenever an uncomfortable feeling arises that we don't want to deal with. The morning pages help us to become more intimate with ourselves and accepting of our emotional triggers. Ultimately, this helps us to become more patient and understanding with everyone around us. We come to realize how fragile and innocent we all really are.
I first discovered the morning pages about a year after my husband died, when I was at my most fragile and vulnerable. I was back in Michigan living with my dad, and not at all happy about it. In fact, I was as unhappy as I had ever been in my life. (so much so, that I wanted to end my life) All seemed lost, and I was completely hopeless. I took myself to the emergency room one day, because I was seriously thinking of ending it all. They set me up with a counselor, and her first assignment for me was the morning pages. (She didn't call them morning pages, or mention The Artist's Way, however.) I was surprised at the time by how fast and well they worked. I pulled out of my downward spiral in no time. Although I kept seeing the counselor for awhile, what I loved was how the morning pages helped me to be my own counselor and solve my own problems.
I was re-introduced to morning pages a few years later by my best friend, Sonya. She'd been going through a dark-night-of-the-soul herself, and told me that the pages and The Artist's Way book were really helping her a lot. She sent me a copy of the book because she knew I would would love it, and she was right! I began doing morning pages again at that point. Now it's been over 15 years that I have been doing morning pages. They are a part of the fabric of my life. They keep me sane and reasonable, because all of my insane and unreasonable thoughts get left there upon the page.
The Artist's Way is so much more than just morning pages. It is an entire creativity course in 12 chapters. Some people do a chapter a week, and some like to take more time. I have done the entire course 3 times on my own, and now I am doing it with an online group. Each time I do it, I get something different from the experience. Like a fine wine, it just gets richer and more complex. Other than the Bible, this book has changed my life more than any other, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
PS: Current word count = 10,220!