When it comes to my morning, a mindfulness practice I can’t live without is writing in my Morning Pages. I’ve talked about it ad nauseum at this point, but what I’ve noticed from many conversations is that there is a still a bit of a lack of clarity of what Morning Pages actually are and the purpose that they serve.
What are Morning Pages?
Julia Cameron wrote about the practice of Morning Pages in her book, The Artist’s Way. She describes it as “the bedrock tool of a creative recovery.” Put simply, Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing done first thing in the morning.
This is the time I brain-dump any thoughts, ideas, worries, or grudges swimming around in my brain. In getting them onto the page, I free up more of my mind for the creative thinking I want to do throughout the rest of the day.
How I Write Morning Pages
Every single day.
When it comes to what I use, I like to order the perfect bound journals from Amazon. I switch up the designs every time I need a new one so I can keep it interesting for that season of life. I love these because I can label the spines according to what period of time the page entries are from, in case I ever want to look back on them. I know—this makes it sound like the words are going to be super profound and groundbreaking for someone to read in the future. They’re definitely not.
When I sit down to write, the goal is to get all the yuck off my brain and onto paper so it will leave me my mind in a better state of being. I need the best state of mind possible to do my more important work. With that being the case, I write everything from how I wish I got better sleep the night before, a silly tiff I had with my husband that I’m holding a grudge about, the way I feel about how Lucy slept the night before, something I’m worrying about in my business, and absolutely anything else that’s sitting on my brain. It all goes onto the page.
I don’t think about what I’m writing. I write what I’m thinking.
It sounds really simple and uneventful, and the action itself… kind of is. Keep in mind: you’re doing something small (and sometimes slightly annoying) that will ultimately give way for more productive and exciting mental development. Isn’t it worth it?
The Purpose of Morning Pages
In no way, shape, or form should Morning Pages be your best work. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: it’s making way for your best work. I’ve seen so many of questions and comments from people who are struggling with what to write. But that’s the thing: you don’t decide what to write. You don’t strategize what to write.
You simply write.
You have to trust that the process becoming a habit is going to open new doors for you in a creative capacity. It could happen the same day, sure. But it will definitely happen over a period of time. You never know when a breakthrough may strike.
In order for Morning Pages to be effective, you must learn to address your feelings and your thoughts for what they are. They just are. They don’t decide when or why or how you execute on your aspirations in life — you do. You just need to compartmentalize them so they are separate from your creative work (or at least separate enough that you can identify the difference).
There’s no one better to explain this than Julia herself, so I recommend checking out her video on Morning Pages. She touches on the fact that no, Morning Pages are not artful and eloquent. They’re whiny. They’re petty and grumpy. They’re whatever you happen to be in that morning. She describes it as “meeting your shadow, and taking it out for a cup of coffee.”
It’s okay for you to be whiny, petty or grumpy during this process. That’s what its for! And when you think about the fact that you’re allowing yourself to be whiny, petty and grumpy instead of pushing it down, you’ll start to see the benefit. Yes, I’m going to be grumpy. But I’m going to be grumpy right here on these pages so that grumpy gets the time and attention it deserves.
And then I’m moving on.
Tony Robbins talks about something similar when he speaks about living in a ‘beautiful state’. A productive mindset, an overflow of gratitude and creativity. It sounds fantastic, right? I want to always be in a beautiful state. But… that’s impossible. So he brings attention to the ‘suffering state’ that pops up: the grumpiness, pettiness, whining. The stuff you tend to see spilling out in Morning Pages. He recommends giving that space 90 seconds to happen, and making an agreement with yourself to move on when those 90 seconds are up.
When you’re writing your Morning Pages, you’re giving yourself WAY more time than 90 seconds. When I first started doing morning pages it took me 30 minutes to fill 3 pages! But over time, I got better at just letting my thoughts flow. Letting them be and moving them to the page, so I can move on with my day when the practice is done.
Morning Pages FAQ
Is it a diary or some kind of visualization for future projects?
The name sounds so beautiful, doesn’t it? Morning Pages. But don’t get caught up in expectations for yourself! When we talk about a diary entry, we’re usually referring to the practice of documenting your life. You write what happened that day and how you feel about it. In Morning Pages, however, there’s no agenda. There’s no recommended format. You simply write what is moving through your mind, no matter what it is.
How do I motivate myself to actually do the writing?
It always takes some motivation to create a habit, and this one will take some time to develop. It takes time to start to see the benefits and feel the change in your mindset, and that’s okay.
If you’re not motivated to start writing, maybe you’re not seeing what’s possible from the process. What do you want for yourself creatively? Do you want to be a writer? A YouTuber? A podcaster? Maybe something else, like a craft maker or a gardener? These are all creative outlets that need you to be able to see the world in a more beautiful way. Once you get all the gunk out of your mind, you’ll start opening the door to that beautiful mindset you need.
Do I have to do it first thing in the morning?
If you want to be as productive as possible throughout the day, you need to get the things out of your brain that are holding you back ASAP. Sure, it can be done at anytime of the day — you can clear your head whenever you want. But if you want to spend the largest portion of your day in a better headspace, try writing first thing.
What if I have nothing to say?
Picture this: you roll out of bed. You grab some coffee and sit down at the table with the journal you bought specifically for this moment. You pick up your pen and you write the date and time. You write your first sentence: ‘I am feeling so anxious right now.’
Maybe you identify with that sentence. Maybe you have a feeling, and you haven’t been able to put words to it. You don’t have to figure those feelings out, you just have to put them on the page. Maybe you’re anxious because you feel like you have nothing to say. If those are the thoughts in your head, right them down. There will always be something in your mind, you just have to turn it into words on the page. Allow them to have their space there. And if you still don’t know what to say, write it: ‘I don’t know what to say.’
And guess what? You fill three pages with it. It sounds counterproductive, but what’s bothering you right now is that you don’t know what to write in your Morning Pages. So get that out! And tomorrow when you sit down with your coffee and your journal again, maybe you’ll have a few more things on your mind. Control the controllable, and write.
What if I can’t get to 3 pages?
If you don’t have enough thoughts floating through your head to fill 3 pages, you should probably try meditation. I bet it would be amazing.
But seriously, I promise you can fill 3 pages. Thoughts you write down will inspire new thoughts. You just have to start writing and see what reveals itself in your mind. It will happen.
Can I rant?
YES. Of course. Please do.
You don’t have to make positivity the main focus of your Morning Pages in order to feel more positive later in the day. If you need to rant, get it out! Leave it all in your pages so it doesn’t bubble up later on. We’re human. We worry, we complain, and we rant. Let it have the space it needs!
It takes too long!
In the beginning, it does take time. You often spent time over-analyzing and trying to think of what to write, and that’s okay. But over time, the process will get smoother for you. You won’t struggle with what to write, because you’ll get into the habit of connecting to your thoughts. They’ll almost start to write themselves.
But if you gave 30 minutes to all the crap that’s on your brain right now, and that 30 minutes could save you 12 whole hours of being distractive and unproductive…wouldn’t you do it?
If you really think it takes too long, maybe its not for you. That’s okay! Just because its in my routine does NOT mean it has to be in yours. Evaluate what’s really working for you and what isn’t. Your morning is for the things YOU want. But if you can get past the time, and the hand cramping, and the moments of boredom, you’ll reach that creative breakthrough you’ve been working towards.
Are Morning Pages confidential?
Even though this isn’t a diary, sometimes it can feel like one. You’re getting out all the thoughts and feelings that stress you out or distract you, and sometimes they can even be about other people. Maybe the people closest to you. Maybe there’s something going on in your life you don’t want others to know about. Or maybe you just want your pages to be yours.
Luckily, I trust the only other human in my home (my husband) and he trusts me. I have a safe space for my journals and my time, and I don’t have someone intruding on it. If you need to talk to your loved ones about having private time to journal, go ahead. But don’t let the fear or paranoia be the thing that holds you back from writing. If it makes you feel better, find a hiding place. Get a lock and key. The benefits are too great to be missed out on because of what others may or may not stumble upon.
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QOTD: What was your biggest breakthrough when it comes to the Morning Pages practice?