It’s so easy to wake up with a million things on your mind and often those things creep into the rest of your day - often for the worse. When you've got a lot on or you need headspace to be creative in your day, then the wellbeing journaling practise of morning pages could be the answer to clearing your head. It certainly was for our co-founder, Stefanie, who swears by it for productivity, clarity and calm in her life.
Want to hear more? Of course you do.
It is a morning journaling exercise. But it is so much more than that. Created by artist, writer and teacher Julia Cameron, a well-respected thought-leader for creativity, it is 3 pages of stream of consciousness journaling done first thing in the morning, every morning. Wake up and start writing down anything that comes out of your head. Write in full sentences with no goal and no need to ever read back over them. And see what happens.
Cameron wrote The Artist's Way, a book/course/way of life that has millions of loyal followers including a whole host of renowned writers in their own right. And morning pages are a key part of this process. Elizabeth Gilbert has famously stated that there would have been no ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ without ‘The Artist’s Way.’
Masterclass.com celebrates morning pages in the following way: “Writing in a journal is an act of self-expression that is done periodically to record feelings and inspire ideas. Morning pages serve a deeper purpose. This type of journaling is a cathartic, ritualistic writing process that clears your mind, builds confidence, and creates a path for greater creativity.”
A key component is that they are designed to be private. No-one ever needs to go back into them ever again. Destroy them if you want. It doesn't matter. It’s the act of clearing your mind and starting your day that is the goal - not whatever comes out on the page.
There are a few (but no one is checking up on you!) Write longhand (in full sentences). This helps you to clear your mind as opposed to writing your to do list. Write the full 3 pages. It takes about 30minutes, but it’s worth it. Do it first thing in the morning - before you have time to get interrupted or distracted whilst still living with the thoughts you wake up with in your mind.
Anyone! It is designed for creative people who need to clear their minds to get creative, but anyone looking for calm, focus and clarity will benefit. Some will enjoy it more than others. As a writer I find it very enjoyable.
I started this practice years ago after learning about it on a blog. I was working alone from home for myself and I found it really helped me to deal with the occasional overwhelm that comes with having your own business. I also found it was something for me to do for me, before I got into what others wanted me to do that day. This is what I get from my morning page practice:
This practice made me an early riser. I so looked forward to waking up each morning and would even set my alarm early before 7am workouts because I wanted to do my morning pages before the day began. As many early risers know, the best thing about doing something first thing in the morning, be it exercising or tackling a difficult chore, is that you don't have time to talk yourself out of it or get interrupted or distracted.
The practice really helps me to deal with the occasional overwhelm that comes from working online and for yourself. I used to find myself being unfocused if I didn't do it. Which is why I recently picked this up again, because I have a full time job, a busy home life and a business, plus a couple of volunteer positions and an attempt at a social life. And what have I found recently? I cannot believe I forgot how much morning pages help me. I don't want to stop them again now.
Oh my, I’ve ranted in my morning pages. I’ve asked myself questions. I've solved problems (multiple times) I’ve come up with ideas (some of my best in fact). I have written to do lists (which I then just note down separately once my three pages are up). Many have claimed the practice results in less anxiety. I have certainly felt a sense of calm, but I’m not here to dole out mental health treatment suggestions. I’ll leave that to our friends at Mind. For me, I feel it helps me to process emotions - particularly stress, anger and overwhelm (yes, I’m human). I feel calmer after having emptied my head. I work through issues quickly and efficiently. I go deeper than I would if I tried to talk or think it out. It's like venting but with a purpose. Because you feel a sense of achievement. Because you are maintaining your habit.
I have to write more about that final point. I actually wrote these this morning in my morning pages when struggling on page two and realising I couldn't publish an article on morning pages if I didn't complete mine that morning. And this is what came out. I’m breaking the rules here and sharing with you what I wrote in those final 10 minutes this morning:
There is something magical about that third page. I don't know if it’s the feeling of achievement? Pushing through when it would be easier to stop. Maybe it's because you empty your head in the first two, so the 3rd page breaks into your creativity. It’s a feeling of positivity, like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds. And I end the session more uplifted and ready for the day. I don’t know how that actually works, but it must be a stamina thing. Like running a long distance race and you break through a barrier where the euphoria kicks in. I guess I can liken that to the feelings I had at the 41km mark when I ran a marathon. I was tired. I started walking. I started crying. 'Hissy fit' is probably an accurate term. I didn't want to finish. I had to be dragged to start jogging again - totally against my will - for the next kilometre. Then suddenly with the final straight stretching ahead of me, I needed it to be done. I got a burst of energy and sprinted the final 200m. Much to the surprise of all around me. It was mind over matter. And I see my third page of morning pages like that most days. I just need it done, but I know how I'll feel at the end and that's enough for me to break through and go to three. And it’s often drivel that comes out, but sometimes I create magic.