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.