Last week I mentioned that Morning Pages are my mental clutter clearing tool of choice. If you’re wondering what Morning Pages are, Morning Pages (MPs) are a daily practice from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”: three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.
I first encountered The Artist’s Way and MPs while I was traveling around India. Near the end of my 12 month trip, a fellow traveller in Mahabalipuram introduced me to the book and I fell in love with the practice of writing my MPs. I have never actually finished the whole book (I never got past week six), but doing MPs is something that stuck and I have been doing them on and off for over 7 years now. There are times when I don’t do them for a while and I notice I’m not feeling as focused or as balanced, so I always start again.
Here’s why I love them and you should too:
It’s not real writing.
Nobody is going to read it, not even you if you don’t want to, so it doesn’t matter if it’s not good or you misspell words or your grammar just doesn’t make sense. In fact, Julia recommends you don’t read what you wrote until at least 12 weeks have passed. The goal of MPs is simply to let go of any thoughts that may stand in the way of thinking clearly and expressing yourself creatively.
Clear your mind.
Writing your doubts and fears and insecurities down help will help you to move beyond them. Once you get them out of your head and onto the paper, they stop holding power over you. Any negative feeling you might have will feel a lot less strong once you write it down.
Get clarity on what you want to get out of this day and plan your day ahead while writing your MPs. Jot down everything you need to do, from groceries to errands to laundryto people you need to contact. Writing them down means they don’t take up any mental energy anymore and you can easily transfer them to my to do list for the day.
Acts as your compass.
Sometimes the same topic will show up often in a short period of time. Writing about the same stuff over and over again shows you exactly where you need to take action. MPs can act like a compass: if you want to be going north, but you’ve been heading south for a while, you need to turn around now! You may need to start doing something or stop doing something.
Go below the surface.
There are days that you simply have no idea what to write about and you want to just skip it. Those are the days that it’s most important to write. It’s an invitation to go below the surface and to go deeper. One thing that always works for me is to simply write “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write” until something comes up. Often it’s something trivial and once I’ve written it down, I follow it up with “Ok, what else?” until seemingly out of nowhere I start writing about something that I wasn’t even aware of yet. Keep digging and you will get to the stuff below the surface.
Be open to inspiration.
MPs are not meant to be creative or artful at all, but they can be. You’re not consciously brainstorming per se, but you’re relaxed and open to inspiration and the most wonderful ideas can come up. I’ve written poems and whole blog posts while writing my MPs without even planning to.
I don’t often read back what I wrote, but sometimes when I’m cleaning out my bookshelves or moving country, I happen upon my notebooks full of MPs from years ago and I leaf through them. They bear witness to what I’ve gone through in my life, the good, the bad and the ugly. They tell about my hopes and dreams, my disappointments, my resilience and my courage. They remind me of things that I may have long forgotten, but that shed light on a current situation.
What about you? Do you write MPs or a journal in some form? What do you get out of it?