Rethinking My Morning Pages

morning pagesScribble, scribble – my morning pages

I’ve posted a few times recently about being stressed—and often not even knowing I’m stressed until I manifest physical symptoms. So I’ve been working on ways to help me deal with my stress.

Doing Julia Cameron’s morning pages is one of the things I’ve turned back to. The idea of the morning pages comes from Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way; the idea is to handwrite three pages of stream of conscious writing every morning, words which you will never go back to reread (so it’s nothing like a journal).

I’ve had great success in the past with morning pages, in terms of commitment—I did them for about an eight year period, during which I very rarely missed a day. I never reread any of them, either. I just kept them all in a stack, and when we moved to the city several years ago, I spent half a day putting all those pages through the shredder. (Not that I really had to. I could have just recycled them as-is. The picture above is a sample of one of my pages, and as you can see, it’s a scribbly mess.)

And I’m finding now they work really well for me when I’m stressed. Just the act of dumping all the things that are stressing me out—sometimes things I’m not even aware of until the words show up on the page—seems to provide the kind of relief I need. My day usually brightens up from there, and I feel lighter.

But I don’t feel the need to go to my morning pages all the time. I have mornings when I’m feeling inspired and motivated, which for me signals the start of a really great day. And I’ noticed something—on those days I put off doing my morning pages, and have to drag myself to do them. And then when I’m done, the inspired, motivated feeling is gone.

I say I “noticed” this, but what really happened was this: yesterday, while doing my morning pages (which I really needed, as I had a lot to unload), this observation spilled out as well. It took me by surprise, but when I examined it, I realized it was true.

The thing is, I did the morning pages for eight years. They felt magical to me. But the bottom line is, I never got anywhere closer to my dreams during the time I did them. In fact, I backtracked. I did hardly any writing at all. Those were my “lost” years when it came to writing, except I felt really productive, because hey, at least I was doing my three pages of stream of conscious, braindump it on the page writing every day.

Based on my past experience, I think I’ve figured out what works best for me. The morning pages are great for helping me let go of the stressors in my life. But it seems they also help me let go of inspiration and motivation, too. So I’m going to use them when I need them. And even though I don’t always know when I’m stressed, when I wake up in the mornings I can always feel if it’s going to be an inspired day, or if I’m feeling ho hum.

Those ho hum feelings? A sign that I’m stressed. And when it comes to blasting away those stressors, the morning pages are second to none.

Have you ever tried doing morning pages? How did they work for you?

7 thoughts on “Rethinking My Morning Pages

  1. Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll)

    Cool insight! I’ve also had the experience of realizing that journaling and writing are two different things with two different purposes. When I confuse journaling for writing, I don’t write — I only journal. And, years go by…

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  2. Athira

    I love the idea of morning pages. I have never done them or heard about them but I can see how they can be very therapeutic. I wonder if they work better at morning or at night – you can pretty much have very opposite viewpoints during these two times.

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  3. Heidenkind

    I did morning pages while reading Cameron’s book, and I went back and read them after. I could tell how much sleep I’d had based on how messy the handwriting was. :) Also, on the days I was really depressed, the pages were actually really funny, which taught me that I’m more optimistic and resilient than I thought.

    But since I finished Cameron’s book I haven’t done morning pages, no. I did find them useful, but I’m not much of a morning person, and asking me to wake up 20 minutes earlier than necessary just to do morning pages is like asking an owl to go jogging at noon.

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  4. Beth F

    Interesting observations — I don’t keep any sort of journal at all. I’ve tried, but I realize it’s just not who I am. I keep thinking I want to keep a journal, diary, writing notes … but since it never sticks, I guess it’s just not something I’m driven to do.

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  5. Ti

    I am going to try something one of the pastors at my church mentioned, a gratitude journal. Really, it’s just a nice book used to document things you are grateful for but in list form. No thought goes into it really. Grateful for… a long weekend, healthy kids, a sweet little pup. Stuff like that. He said that he’s been doing it for a long time and now he’s trained himself to always see the good. I need that!! I tend to first harp on the bad and then I see the good but sometimes it’s days later or months later. I don’t consider myself a negative person but sometimes my first reaction is negativity. I think this will help. I have all these leather journals on a shelf that I bought whenever they caught my eye so now I am going to pull one out and use it for this purpose. We’ll see what happens.

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  6. Bree @ The Things We Read

    I love that you have discovered so much about yourself through this exercise. I did morning pages years ago and they really helped me through some troubling times. When I’m happy though, I never feel like writing them. Like you, I want to work on something productive.

    Reply

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