How to Write to Change Your Life


Have you ever stumbled on an idea that (when put into practice) had the power to completely transform your life?

For me, the concept of "Morning Pages" was one of those life-changing discoveries.

At the time that I discovered the practice of writing Morning Pages, I had not been writing or journalling for close to 12 years. I hadn't written much more during that time than my daily "To Do" lists, a smattering of yearly goals, the occasional reflection on where my life was at, and some work and personal emails and letters.

I may not have been writing much, but I was reading. A lot!

On this particular day, I left our local library with my usual armful of books. One of these was a book called The Artist's Way, written by Julia Cameron.

The practice of writing Morning Pages is the very first tool that Julia teaches in The Artist's Way as a way of connecting with our authentic selves and unlocking our inner artist or creative self.

The idea is to write three A4, or letter-size, handwritten pages each morning. The writing on these pages should be "stream-of-consciousness" writing,  meaning that it should be continuous, written just as the thoughts come to you, without conscious thought about the words that are flowing onto the page.

There's no need for fancy notebooks or pens when you're writing Morning Pages.  A large spiral-bound notebook and any pen that you can find in the early hours of the day should be sufficient.

What are the benefits of writing Morning Pages?

  • Starting the day with a "brain dump" will clear your mind to focus on other things. Whether it's the small distracting thoughts that can take our attention or bigger, more challenging issues that can at times hijack our thoughts, Morning Pages allow us to "dump" all the "stuff", making way for more constructive and creative thinking.
  • "Stream-of-Consciousness" writing provides an opportunity for our subconscious ideas to surface. Writing Morning Pages, there is no necessity to pay attention to grammar, spelling or sentence structure. There is no need to consider an audience, as this writing is private. There should be no need to censor your thoughts or your written words. You may be surprised as you write this way, by the ideas that come unexpectedly, and the solutions to problems that you were unaware were hiding just beneath the surface.
  • Writing daily helps to highlight negative patterns and emotional triggers that recur in our lives. When you make daily writing a habit, you may begin to notice negative patterns that show up regularly. It can help to look back at your writing and identify the events and triggers surrounding these patterns. Remember, the first step to overcoming our destructive habits is self-awareness, and daily writing will certainly help to develop this.
  • Writing Morning Pages allows us to dream and to find our direction. Just as our subconscious ideas, solutions to problems and negative patterns will show up in our writing, so too will our dreams. Our daily writing will provide opportunity for our dreams to surface. It is a safe place to explore what it is that we may really hope to achieve, and to reflect on how we may pursue the dreams that we discover are truly important to us.

But can writing Morning Pages really change my life?

When I read about Morning Pages that day in Julia Cameron's book, I had no idea that my life was about to change.

I put aside the book, picked up a pen and notebook, and started to write. It's three years later now, and I'm still writing. Almost every day.

In my previous post, I wrote that I have many goals that have not been achieved in the last five years.

The pages I have written over the past few years however, and the notebooks I have filled, are testament to those things that I have achieved in that time:

  • While I didn't reach the weight goal I had set for myself, I have been able to lose 14kg (30lb). More importantly however, is the changes I have made to a far healthier diet and lifestyle. My writing is a record of the lessons in health that I have learned along the way, and of what works (and what doesn't) with regards to my diet and weight loss efforts.
  • My online bookshop is currently a work-in-progress, but it is a work-in-progress. It's not just a long-forgotten dream. I credit this to the fact that my writing has allowed me to explore and develop the ideas I have had and to find the belief and confidence in myself necessary to pursue the dream.
  • I have found that having a positive outlet to express negative emotions such as anger, stress and anxiety helps me to deal more quickly and move on from those feelings without getting "stuck" in a negative place.
  • I have become so much happier, more aware of those moments and experiences in life that bring me joy, inspire me and fill me at times with awe and wonder.

What if I don't have time to write 3 pages each morning?

Can I be really honest with you?  

If I wrote 3 letter-sized, A4 pages each morning it would take me an hour and a half. Having been writing (almost) daily for three years now, I know that each page takes me half an hour - twenty minutes if the house is quiet and I write quickly.

I did try, on that very first day, to write the words as quickly as I thought them. The result was an illegible, unintelligible mess.

Being a perfectionist, I couldn't do it. And so I chose to write, and to think, just a bit slower. Still I envy other women who are able to write their Morning Pages in much less time.

I write just two pages each day. Which takes me the best part of an hour. On busy days, I write just one page, or occasionally skip the writing altogether. On weekends, if there's time, I love to write 3 pages.

Some days I run out of things to write. Other days I wish I didn't have to stop.

I only realized recently though, when I came across Mark Levy's book, "Accidental Genius" , and the idea of "freewriting", that I've been doing my Morning Pages all wrong.

I write neatly. I use grammar. And sentence structure. And occasionally I write as if someone may one day read my notebooks.

My writing is not strictly the "stream-of-consciousness" writing that Julia prescribes. Sorry Julia!

The truth is, any daily journalling habit will change your life.

Maybe I'm not exactly writing Morning Pages. Maybe I'm just "journalling" - in the morning.

Does it matter?

Regardless of what I decide to call it, my daily writing habit has had such a powerful transformative effect on my life that I hope you might be inspired to try it for yourself.

Pouring my heart onto paper each morning has helped me to gain clarity and to focus on those things that are important to me.

My writing has helped me to continue moving positively through life, with an emphasis on becoming more aware of who I am and of the creativity and gifts I have that long to be expressed.

My writing is a daily reminder of all that brings me joy and inspiration.

What about you? Will "Morning Pages" change your life too?

Whether you're an accomplished writer, an aspiring writer, or a "To Do List" writer or none of the above, if making daily personal writing a habit is not something that you're already doing, why not give it a try?

You don't need to strictly follow Julia Cameron's formula for Morning Pages. Although I'd really recommend at least trying the "stream-of-consciousness" writing and seeing if that's a writing style that works for you.

If not though, any regular journalling habit, even a less-than-daily habit, will still benefit you enormously.

At the very least, you're likely to learn some things about yourself along the way.

Or you may, like me, look back before long and wonder how you ever started your day without a pen in your hand and a blank page waiting to be filled.


I look forward to hearing your story! You can share your thoughts and your own journalling or Morning Pages experiences by clicking on "comments" at the top of this post.

Photo courtesy of ynsle at stock.xchng


25 thoughts on “How to Write to Change Your Life

  1. Great post Brigid! I don’t do morning pages strictly by Julia Cameron’s rules, but I do my own version of a ‘writing dump’ as often as I can. It is a great way to clear the mind and get the juices flowing. Cheers!

    1. Thanks Dave! Your version of a ‘writing dump’ may be similar to the ‘freewriting’ I discovered in Mark Levy’s book last month. I had several goes at that, also with great results. Not sure about you, but I was happy to try that on the computer, rather than with pen and paper. I could write a lot quicker that way!

  2. Hi Brigid, I love doing morning pages as well. I have been reading “The Artist’s Way” this year, and it has had a great impact on my life. I have taken writing workshops and taught writing in my former profession as a teacher, but this was really the only daily writing that has worked for me. It allows you to get all those varied thoughts down on paper, which allows you to focus and prioritize. It also it where many of my blog posts originate. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Hi Cathy. That’s great to hear that you do morning pages too! I didn’t end up getting right through the book back then , but also loved the idea of ‘creative excursions’ and the 20 minute morning walk (not sure if that’s in “The Artist’s Way” or “Vein of Gold” – or both!), which I do a couple of days a week. It’s the walk, rather than the morning pages, that seems to help me most with the blog post ideas. I just need to start carrying a notebook with me, because I too often forget those ideas by the time I’m back home!

  3. Hey Brigid,
    Thanks for writing this post! I started reading that book about a month ago. Read the first chapter, thought about the concept of morning pages, liked it, but hadn’t quite gotten it rolling yet.

    I think I’ll get back to it. Maybe we can compare how it’s working out.


    1. Thanks Neal. They’re so worth at least trying! I have the occasional day here and there that for whatever reason I don’t get to write, and I really miss it. It’s a fantastic way to start the day.
      I look forward to hearing how you go if you do give the morning pages a try.

  4. Brigid, thank you so much for that thoughtful post, I really found it inspiring. I am reading it first thing after breakfast BEFORE I start my journaling. That is the problem I have, I often get caught up up what I want to do in the day and skip the journaling. There is something inside me that seems to resist doing it, I don’t know what it is. I am sitting with it and working on it and I will get there. Daily journaling is a fabulous thing to do, but you need to do it…

    1. Hi Graham. Thanks for finding the post inspiring, and for sharing your experience of journalling! My morning pages are the very first thing that I do each morning. I would very likely get caught up too if I waited until after other things to get started, and end up not writing at all. I don’t have any resistance at all though, and really enjoy the writing (most days). I did worry when I first started that if I missed a day, I’d stop doing them altogether. But I’ve found that I can miss a day or two occasionally if I really need to and I always come back to writing. I think I’m lucky that I love the habit so much!

  5. Hi Brigid,
    This is awesome!! I’m going to use your blog and share with my work team as I think the ‘writing dump’ would really help us put some work related stressors into perspective for all of us. I also like the tools re procrastination. I’m a definite procrastinator so i need help. I’m a ‘I’m too busy procrastinator’. He he.
    Love the blod. Well done sister-girl.

    1. Hey Cath! Great to see you here at my blog. I’m so glad you love it! You’ll have to let me know how you go using the ‘writing dump’ with the work team. Sounds like a great idea, and I can imagine you could get some really positive results. You’re definitely not the only ‘too busy procrastinator’. If only there were twice as many hours in the day and days in the week, I’d get a whole lot more done – Maybe! Good luck and let me know how you go. Brigid

  6. Hey Brigid! Great Job! I didn’t realise you had gotten so into your writing but I am very glad you are enjoying it and it is helping you! Let me tell you something about procrastination…I bought Julia Cameron’s book, oh what, say about 10 yrs ago…haven’t read it yet!!! Like you I have a lot of things I want to do but can’t decide which to make a start on. My procrastination definitely stems form perfectionism….though I am a bit busy with very little ones at the moment so I will continue to ponder and try to get the things done that I can! Looking forward to hearing more about your writing. Love Kylie x

    1. Hey Kylie! Yep, quietly writing for close to three years now. It’s easier for me to make time now with the kids a bit older now, as they don’t need me to do too much for them in the mornings these days. You do an awesome job of being creative – procrastination or not, busy with the little ones or not – and I’m always inspired by the amazing things you create. If you’ve still got Julia’s book, you’ll probably find that when you do eventually pick it up to read it’s the perfect time for you. There’s a lot of great stuff in there! Thanks for checking out my blog! Brigid x

  7. I am new to the regular habit of writing. I have been reading for the better part of a year more regularly and took the plunge to write more regularly this year. This is a fantastic post to help me with that habit this year. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much! I’m really happy that the post will be of help with your new writing habit. Like you, I have been an avid reader over the last few years, and am just starting to write (aside from the morning pages). Am really enjoying the new adventure. All the best with yours too!

  8. Great post Brigid! Doing morning pages inspired me to write and start my blog. I was always amazed at how answers would ‘come’ to me when writing. The power of morning pages cannot be underestimated.

    1. Thanks Juanita! That’s great to hear that writing morning pages got you started blogging. Do you still write morning pages now that you’re writing so much for the blog? I’m really struggling this week to do either, but am just getting into a completely new routine with the family in the morning which means I don’t have a full hour to write. The only way I can do it is to start getting up at 6am – which I’ll be very happy to do if I can just start getting to bed a bit earlier!

  9. Brigid,
    Julia Cameron is my patron saint, along with Anne Lamotte and her “shitty first drafts.”
    I learned the value of the brain dump years ago when I went back to art school after 15 years of teaching and raising children.
    I got a small blank book and filled it with doodles and images that caught my eye in the newspaper or magazines. I forgot about making art to please anyone else and just fooled around with color and composition. My teacher looked at it and said, “This is a playground for you, and it makes me think there’s hope for you.”
    If anyone ever read my morning pages they’d think I was, well, I hate to think. I’m even afraid to throw the many books I’ve filled–what if the garbage man should read this?
    I’m impressed that you give such time and effort to your morning pages–every effort is worthy!
    thanks for this post.

    1. Hi Barbara,
      I love that you took a blank book and used it in that way to develop your art. What a wonderful story! It’s great to look at your website and see where those doodles and images have led you.
      Your fear of throwing books in the garbage I can completely understand. If anything, a bonfire would be preferable! At the moment I can’t imagine throwing out any of my notebooks, and do refer back to them occasionally still. Having not written for so long until I began the Morning Pages, I’ll be hanging onto these for some time I suspect.
      Thanks for the encouragement. I’m glad you found this post!

  10. Great post, Brigid, I just read your replies and realize that I responded to you a while ago, but I found something new to add.
    Have you ever read Brenda Ueland? I just found a quote from her in my art notebook. She wrote If You Really Want to Write, in which she says, “keep a slovenly headlong impulsive honest diary.”
    I have the slovenly part down.

    1. I love that Barbara! Like you, I think I’ve got the ‘slovenly’ part figured out, at least that’s how it seems at the moment.
      Thanks so much for adding this. I hadn’t heard of Brenda Ueland before, but have just checked out her book on Amazon and it looks like a great book for writers. I might chase up a copy, if I can ever finish the books that I already have waiting to be read!

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