100 Days of Morning Pages
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
Julia Cameron (https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/)
I’ve been journaling semi-regularly for years. On August 21 I sat down at my desk and wrote morning pages for the first time. I missed a couple of days, but after 100 entries, it’s a good time to reflect on the value of the habit for me.
Longhand vs. Typing
I wrote the first couple of months of entries longhand as Julia recommends. This took me about 30 minutes each day. However, after finishing my first notebook (about two months), I decided to try switching to typing for a bit. This goes against her recommendation but is working well for me. It’s an exercise in tradeoffs. When writing longhand, I am slow enough that my internal monologue is almost always ahead of my hand movements. When typing, that isn’t always the case. It’s taken practice to get to the point where I don’t stop typing even when I don’t know what to type next. I resort to asking myself rhetorical questions more often about the fact that I don’t know what to type about next. This would occasionally happen when writing, but much more often when typing. In the time it takes to type out that rhetorical question, a new thread of thought usually appears that I can follow. And since I type so much faster than I write, I’m done in about half the time.
Even when writing in my journal, I would take pictures of each written entry and add them to Evernote. Now I just type directly into Evernote. I’ve done various forms of journaling with varying success for many years. Keeping everything centralized has value to me. When writing longhand, I missed being able to search for some random thought I know that I wrote down sometime in the past couple of weeks.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the switch to typing. Taking only half the time and being able to search makes breaking the recommendation worth it to me.
Clearing My Head
For me, writing morning pages has not helped clear my head to any noticeable extent. It continues to be a jumbled mess. What it does do though is provide a routine to start my day with. Well, it tries to. The problem is that my mornings vary depending on if I’m taking the kids to school that day or not. The real solution here is to adjust my sleep schedule to get up a bit earlier, but I haven’t been willing to do that.
On mornings where I am not responsible for getting the kids ready and to school, the routine does help. I get ready for the day, make my tea, and head to my office. My morning pages often meander into what I want to get done at work for the day, helping to seed my task list. From years of experience, I know that I do my best work when I break problems down into small chunks. Days where my morning pages can transition directly into planning out my day are commonly my most productive.
Morning Pages as Therapy
This was not intended, but my notebook of longhand writing became a source of therapy. A couple of weeks after I started the habit, my dad was (not unexpectedly) diagnosed with terminal cancer. 23 days later he was dead. The journal morphed into a treasured possession containing many of my thoughts as he died in front of me. A couple of entries are filled with stream of consciousness writing for a eulogy. Many of those ideas made it into the one I gave. Events moved fast during those weeks. Having a record of my daily thoughts during that time is incredibly valuable to me.
Even if you’re not going through something that intense, stream of consciousness writing can be very valuable to help work out problems. It can be hard to turn off your filter, something I still struggle with. With regular practice though you can get better. Remember, these thoughts are for you and no one else.
Give It A Shot
Overall, I recommend giving morning pages a try, either written or longhand. Clear out some time at the beginning of each day, grab some tea, and dedicate yourself to the habit for at least thirty days.