Morning pages are one of my favorite practices that I’ve carried over from 2015. I discovered this practice last year through Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I really enjoyed the book and it had a spiritual aspect that I definitely wasn’t expecting, but the intensity that it required with all of the prompts and weekly artist meetings with myself just wasn’t something I could prioritize at the time. That being said, morning pages are introduced in the beginning of the book and come highly highly encouraged by Julie if you plan on succeeding creatively.
While this “self-help” style book is meant to reduce creative block, Julie is very straightforward in letting the readers know that the purpose of the morning pages is to clear your mind. Though it may sound counter-intuitive to write when you’re “blocked”, she suggests that you write three pages on loose-leaf style paper, first-thing in the morning. When each page is complete, she suggests sliding them into a large envelope without looking back at them, at least for a few months.
When I first started, I followed Julie’s tips closely although I did use a composition notebook because I didn’t want to have loose sheets of paper running around my house. Similarly, I often write before I get out of bed so this made it easier because of the hard surface of the notebook cover. I didn’t use any specific pen and often allowed my handwriting to be atrocious. The first couple days, I would write until I couldn’t think of ANYTHING else and then I would fill up the rest of the pages with “I have nothing else to write about” over and over again. If you’re thinking, “what a waste of time”, then you’ve read my mind because that was exactly what I was thinking. As I navigated the first week of pages, writing all three quickly got easier and I began to allow myself to include bullet style journaling (more information on bullet journaling here and here) within those pages as well. I would then transfer those important to-do items and lists over to a different notebook before closing up the book for the day.
Here’s the deal. Sometimes these pages are super prolific and wonderful and sometimes they are bogus, but every time I feel relieved that they are done and ready to start the day. It’s like all of the swirling thoughts get dumped out and I have room for new (and often more productive) ones. I don’t even force myself to write all three pages anymore, because I often know what it feels like when I’m done and ready to move on with my day. I haven’t graduated to a nice notebook because, chances are, I’m going to throw this one away. Anything even remotely interesting has been transferred somewhere else.
How to make morning pages work for you:
Find a time that works. It’s clear by the title that the intention for this practice is for it to be done first thing in the morning before you do anything else. While this is ideal, I don’t think it’s realistic for everyone. Lately, I can hardly roll over to check the time in bed without Chloe (our dog) hopping up to let me know that – regardless of what the clock says – it’s time to eat and go outside. In my opinion shooting for the same time every day is a win. In the past, I’ve found that having a journaling routine directly before bed helps to alleviate the buzz of thoughts before falling asleep. Regardless, I think that this is something that needs to be done when it’s most convenient for you, otherwise you won’t do it.
Make them handwritten. This is a must. I originally thought that writing would be tedious and annoying and sometimes it is, but for the most part it’s worth it to have no distractions.
Don’t stop. At first it may feel silly but if you can’t think of anything just write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over until you think of something. I promise it will come. The subject doesn’t matter and neither does your grammar or spelling. Just write.
Have a system. Whether it’s a pen and loose-leaf paper that you keep in a folder or a journal that you keep next to your bed, try to keep it consistent. This doesn’t have to be anything special, but I think having all of the junk in one journal will help the creative process everywhere else. Pro tip: spoil yourself and use a fountain pen or nice paper! I’ve found I lose the nicer things a heck of a lot less.
Get comfy. This really gets to the heart of cultivating a good routine. If you’re in a hurry and uncomfortable, you won’t want to continue the process. It will undoubtedly be miserable and just make matters worse! Pro tip: have a specific spot where you go to write like a desk or comfy chair by a window and enjoy a cup of coffee as you write it out.
You’re worth it. Above anything else, what I’ve found from doing these morning pages is that just the practice of having this outlet and making time for myself is a form of self care that is so worth it. It helps me start my day on a good foot and only takes fifteen minutes.
Go ahead and give it a shot. What are you waiting for? It doesn’t have to be great, it just simply has to be.