Creative Journaling Toolkit – What to Journal About: Morning pages

The morning pages are what Julia Cameron describes as ‘a pivotal tool in creative recovery’ in her book The Artist’s Way.

Simply put, the morning pages are ‘three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness’ and also as a ‘brain dump’.

I prefer the term ‘brain dump’.

Morning pages are not supposed to sound smart, or have any particular purpose or direction except to empty your mind of all the chatter and nonsense in there. Just basically write down whatever comes to mind and keep your hand moving.

Morning pages are powerful because they force us to confront ourselves and what isn’t working in our life.

Cameron says, ‘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-of solutions’.

I can testify to this: after wanting to start my own creative business for years, it wasn’t until I started a regular journaling practice that I confronted the discrepancy between what I said I wanted and how I was living.

Cameron goes on to say that ‘anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within.’

In my journal I’ve found courage and connected with my purpose and my soul’s wisdom, and this powerful inner connection has allowed me – or rather, compelled me – to create the life I really longed for.

I do a sort of version of the morning pages. I say a sort of version because I don’t strictly follow the rule of keeping your hand moving at all times. I often pause to think or reflect, ponder, reconsider, then keep writing. Some days I write two pages, some days six. This is what works best for me.

I write about whatever is on my mind.

Often I am repetitive, complaining about something for days on end, or I’m listing the things I’m grateful for, or why I’m happy. It can be as simple as moaning about the things I have to do that day that I would rather avoid, or as profound as stumbling upon some sudden insight about myself. Sometimes I reflect on dreams I’ve had, or on what the day may have in store. Sometimes I start talking about one thing and end up somewhere else altogether.

I think morning pages work best when you make them work for you. Take Cameron’s guidelines and alter them as you need.

You might choose to write for an allotted amount of time, rather than a set page limit. If so, you should write for whatever amount of time works for you – you might find that 10 minutes is enough, or that you need an hour. It may be different from day to day. Be flexible as you need. I think it’s important to respect how we are feeling at the time, rather than striving for some arbitrary time/page goal.

You might prefer to write last thing at night, rather than first thing in the morning. Better that you do it every night than only some mornings. Find a time that works for you and stick to it.

Some days you might struggle to say much. Other days you might be able to keep writing for hours. It doesn’t matter – the important thing is to just sit down and write whatever is on your mind.

But here’s the thing: ‘morning pages are nonnegotiable’, according to Cameron.

You might not want to say much, but you show up anyway. Cameron says, ‘we have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write. We don’t.’

So show up every day, meet your own writing goal, write whatever is on your mind, and I guarantee your life will look different in a month.

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