Journaling has been around for centuries. The glimpse into what your past self was thinking allows insight into you change over the years. But it takes commitment and discipline to regularly write until a habit is formed and it becomes a part of your routine. But is it a productive use of your time and what is the benefit of doing it? Especially when you’ve a constant stream of distraction at your fingertips from your phone, with a delicious brain-hit of dopamine.
In The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Morning Pages are a process where you write 3 pages of continual conscious thoughts by hand, every morning. By hand because typing them will censor you (the backspace key to erase mistakes is too tempting). 3 pages because it takes time to all the small niggling thoughts out the way. In the morning because your thoughts are still fresh and you haven’t got a full day of events to sift through. Julia Cameron says “I like to think of them as windshield wipers, swiping away anything that stands between you and a clear view of your day.” So what then do you write? “Three pages of whatever crosses your mind – that’s all there is to it. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write, ‘I can’t think of anything to write…’ Do this until you have filled three pages. Do anything until you have filled three pages.”
Once you’ve wiped clean, out pops the silent dreams and hidden ideas your subconscious holds. That’s when your gold is discovered. The process teaches your brain to stop overthinking and let your creative brain meander.
“Never skip or skimp on morning pages. Your mood doesn’t matter. The rotten thing your censor says doesn’t matter. We have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write. We don’t. Morning pages will teach you that your mood doesn’t really matter. Some of the best creative work gets done on the days when you feel that everything you’re doing is just plain junk. The morning pages will teach you to stop judging and just let yourself write.” – Julia Cameron
The morning pages process is a kind of active meditation – you get still, turn inward and practice doing the process on a regular basis. You can’t help but become more in tune to the silent whispers of your heart.
“It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power… the pages are a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self… It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-solutions.” – Julia Cameron.
If you repeatedly write about a love of music, you may become more aware of a desire to have more music in your life. Perhaps you start by listening to more music. A few weeks later you impulsively buy a 2nd hand instrument and suddenly you’re learning to play some notes. But it’s not a sudden decision, it was there all along beneath the surface, you just needed a few nudges to unearth it. Morning pages allows you to uncover those hidden desires and bring them to the surface – if you’ll allow them.
If 3 pages every day feels too overwhelming, start smaller: Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes (or however long you have space for). Sit with a pen and paper and write as quickly as possible without stopping until the timer goes off. Don’t think about what you’re writing, if it’s rubbish or not – just write! Get into the practice of doing this and build up to the 3 pages if you can.
“I give a lot of five-minute exercises when I teach, because I think writing for just five minutes forces you to get out of your own way and lets you off the hook for writing something brilliant. Five minutes – no pausing, no stopping… sometimes you need to let yourself go off into uncharted territory.” – Barbara Abercrombiein A Year of Writing Dangerously
The more resistant you are to morning pages, the more important it is for you try them. Ask yourself why you feel so resistant? What are you afraid of uncovering? Be open to the process so you can revealing some of your own hidden thoughts and gold.