burning morning pages

I have a new friend, Alex, who lives in Berlin. We met through a Barbara Sher connection (she wrote the remarkable book Wishcraft), which gave us initial common ground, but then we discovered that we’re both writers. I love talking with Alex because of his willingness to share about his inner life and to join me in pondering the mystery and art of writing.

During a recent call, Alex told me about burning his Morning Pages.

Doing Morning Pages is a foundational practice from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. They are “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.” They clear the cobwebs, prepare the ground, loosen writing muscles, and inform us about ourselves.

This kind of writing doesn’t have to be limited to mornings or to a specific number of pages. I fill many journal pages every month, but I had never thought of burning what I write. The idea intrigued me so I decided to try it.

I went in with the cocky assumption that since I’m already so honest with myself, so used to sharing “the truth” on my journal pages, so willing to look at the hard stuff and deal with it, writing with the intent to burn the pages afterwards wouldn’t make a difference.

Oh, how very wrong we can be.

My first intend-to-burn writing session went on for well more than three pages, exposed deep levels of new truths, required many tissues, and led to revelations of such importance that I gave myself over to them instead of working that morning. Holy.

By the time I was done, I no longer needed to burn the pages. I may yet burn them, as I’m not sure I want whoever inherits my journals to find out quite that much about my inner life on those topics, but they contain some juicy morsels worth extracting for further investigation.

Most significantly, by the time I stopped writing, my perspectives about the extremely difficult issues I’d been confronting, knowing I would burn the pages, had shifted hugely away from shame and stuckness toward self-acceptance and self-love. Amazing.

In my second intend-to-burn writing session, I wanted to follow up on some of the gnarly, alarming issues that came rushing up in the first session. On a whim, I sought the solace of our friendly neighbourhood graveyard.

Listen, I cannot recommend this highly enough. Take your journal to a graveyard (an excellent place to cry in public), find a bench with a bit of privacy, and write pages you will burn. Invite your truest self to sit beside you for a spell. Write your heart out among the patient headstones. Let sorrow or shame or regrets or dreams you fear admitting flow up and out. The fresh air will do them good.

With intense earnestness, I tell you that since I began writing to burn, my life has made a drastic turn toward alignment. The way I most want my life to look, in my secret heart of hearts, is suddenly and actually rushing toward me as though we are lovers reunited in a field of wildflowers. Yes, it’s exactly that wonderful and sappy and tearfully joy-filled.

What, exactly, has changed? Before writing with the intent of burning the pages afterwards (whether I ended up burning them or not), the actions I saw to take regarding my toughest issues were mist-shrouded, minimal, and uncompelling. The actions I now see to take are brilliantly lit seven-league leaps of conviction.

Right action has become a jump off a cliff into the hand of god.


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14 comments to burning morning pages

  • You Phoenix, you! Grace, this post… this flame-provoking, shadow-friendly post changes… everything. Because of it, I’m inspired to go deeper, and truer, than ever before. You’re masterful. XO

    • Watch out world! When Erika Harris, one of the deepest-seeing, bravest people I know goes deeper and truer than ever before, we’re in for some real feats of magic. Thank you, for your comment and your feats.

  • Just the thought of doing this brings tears and DEEP emotion. Thank you, Grace. You are a gifted being, my friend.

    • Often, I feel as though I am told what to write in these articles. I’m glad it makes a connection with you, Adela, and thank you for letting me know. I like being connected with you.

  • Kimberly Stromgren

    Hello dear Grace! I owe you a letter, but I had to quickly say here, that this post is genius. Tears are flowing as I read it, so I clearly need this exercise. Keep the wisdom coming–we all need you!!


    • I love that you tell me when tears are flowing. It feels so good, doesn’t it? Thank you and please take good care of yourself. I wish you many happy hours of writing. xo

  • Writing to burn! What a wonderful way to let deep truths out.

  • Melissa Frykman-Thieme

    OH my. “Right action has become a jump off a cliff into the hand of God.”
    That is just right. Just right.
    I can see you wiggling in God’s hand, kind of like the lady in the hand of the giant ape in that horror movie, only this movie is full of joy. Right? You are wiggling with joy! YOu have been caught by the divine! How much better can it get?

    Thank you for my first glimpse of today. What a great way to start.
    Pen at attention, paper straight and waiting, now ready set GO—–

    • I can so picture you, Melissa, your bright eyes a-shining, the pen flying, your gorgeous mind taking you on wondrous adventures. Thank you for your comment and your connection. It means a lot to me. xo

  • Katie

    Wow, Grace. Fascinating. You are an inspiration!

  • Very intriguing, Grace. I’ve been a morning pages writer for almost 10 years, but haven’t tried this approach. I do love visiting graveyards and will be pondering the idea of writing to burn. I’m delighted for your newfound freedom! xoxo

    • Thank you on all counts, Kayce. I would love to know if you try any of these things and how they work for you. The same goes for any of you leaving comments here or reading this article.

  • Jackie

    Very timely read! I am in Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way also, finishing week one even though I began writing Morning Pages for 10 plus days. What a book, I’d rather being doing it in a group than just myself, she writes so well and thought of not sharing her material read in there takes away from my experience a little bit. Grace, I live next to a beautiful cemetery, burning morning pages might just be something I do and will let you know it goes. I have a different history with cemeteries, as a I was a child whom was a granddaughter of a grave digger. This past year I actually just found an article that my grandfather had won the Midwest gravedigger’s award back in early 1900’s., my grandmother, alive and well, going to be 96y/o on New Year’s Eve. I spent much time on the grounds of a cometary. I am encouraged to hear about your burning ritual of morning pages, my yellow Manila envelope is getting quite full, the book does not reccomend you re-read at all maybe after week 8 of morning pages. Loved reading this, Jackie

    • How exciting that you’re doing that book, Jackie! It’s a winner, for sure. I hope it goes really well for you. There are groups that do the book together. Have you looked around in your area? Or you could start one :) … That’s interesting about your grandfather and your history with cemeteries. It could make writing in a cemetery full of insights somehow. Thank you for leaving a comment.