Creativity

Journal spotlight: Morning pages journal

What are morning pages?

Basically, they are three pages written by hand first thing each morning. They are simply stream-of-consciousness and can be repetitive, whiny, complaining – there are no rules for the content, simply that you get out whatever is in your head onto the page, without stopping, for three pages. Another way of looking at them is as a ‘brain dump’ to get everything out of your mind. It is the junk in our mind that blocks us creatively, which is why the pages work well as a tool for creative recovery.

Julia Cameron – author of The Artist’s Way – says that morning pages are not negotiable:

Never skip or skimp on morning pages. Your mood doesn’t matter… We have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write. We don’t.

Some people swear by morning pages and won’t start the day without them. Others have tried many times to get into the habit, but can’t quite find their morning pages groove.

One of the other guidelines that Cameron recommends for the morning pages is to not reread them, at least not for a while – in fact, some people throw them out. This emphasises how they are intended as an exercise in emptying the mind of junk (something we would throw out) rather than gathering memories or recording our lives (something we would keep). Cameron describes morning pages as the following:

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.

However, some believe that morning pages can hold wisdom in them, if we want to go back over them at some point. This makes sense. After writing them for a period of time – such as three months, say – if we look back over them then some things will become quite apparent: things we continuously complain about but never do anything about, patterns and habits that are not serving us, ideas for creative projects, areas in which we have grown, etc. Used in this way, the morning pages are not only a tool for creative recovery, but also a tool for personal growth.

Some people might not keep a separate journal for their morning pages – in fact, they might do their morning pages and journaling in the one notebook (and yes, morning pages and journaling are two different things). This is what I do, because I don’t strictly follow the morning pages ‘rules’ and I want to keep what I’ve written.

For those that are consistent with their morning pages, I can see how doing them in a cheap school exercise or composition notebook would make sense, because you would go through them pretty quickly. If you are using a beautiful journal for writing morning pages, you might find yourself trying to keep your writing neat, tidy and possibly even censoring parts of what you are saying, so as not so ruin your nice journal with whining or negative thoughts. In that sense, the morning pages won’t work nearly as well.

If you’re new to morning pages, I would recommend getting a cheap notebook to use. Make sure it is not something precious. You are going to be writing quickly, you are going to be writing about any and everything – sometimes it won’t even make sense. You are going to end up repeating yourself and probably complaining. But that’s ok – in fact, that’s good, because that is the whole point of the morning pages – to get that out of your head. It’s better on the page than in your head. Cameron says,

There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing… Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid or too weird to be included.

And after all this, you might be wondering why even go to the trouble of writing three pages each morning? Besides unblocking your creative energy as mentioned above, morning pages have two other, very powerful outcomes:

  1. You will start to get sick of hearing yourself complain about the things you don’t like in your life, and this will lead you to take action. As 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.’
  2. You will connect with your own inner wisdom and intuition, which can guide you in any area of your life: ‘Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within.’

Do you write morning pages? Or would you like to start? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

What Inspires Me

Wild inspiration

Sometimes I like to share the wonderful things I stumble across online. Here’s what I’ve loved lately.

I can’t get enough of Mary Ann Moss’s journals. This flip through is ewild nzspecially gorgeous.

This is such a good idea!

A reminder of the power of creativity.

It’s been two weeks since I began my year of journaling dangerously, so reading about others who’ve journaled for a year is inspiring.

Akiyo explains why writing morning pages won’t always make you feel good, but are still worthwhile

Or if you’re not a morning person, or don’t like morning pages, what about night notes?

Creativity

Journaling vs. morning pages – what’s the difference?

 

I’ve kept a journal sporadically for twenty years and written morning pages on and off in the past.

Throughout my teens I wrote about crushes, friendships and fights, my biggest dreams for the future. In my early twenties I wrote about my disappointment with the real world, my struggle to meet ‘the one’ and how much I wanted my life to be different.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned my journal could be so much more than simply a place to pour my heart out. It could be used to transform and change my life dramatically, and that’s how I’ve been using it ever since. My goal with a year of journaling dangerously is to really focus this powerful tool into creating an even better life for myself.

I got the idea for the project from the awesome book, Paris Letters. The author has a ‘year of journaling dangerously’ where she writes morning pages every day for a year. Her life is transformed in unexpected ways.

What I’m doing isn’t strictly morning pages, but I am hoping for the same outcome: a life that looks different in a year’s time. The more I thought about how I wanted my project to look, the more I thought about journaling and morning pages and wondered, what really is the difference?

Morning Pages

The term ‘morning pages’ comes from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. She defines morning pages as: ‘three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness’. Unlike journaling, morning pages have a set of rules:

  • Write every day
  • Write by hand
  • Write first thing in the morning, before doing anything else
  • Write three pages
  • Write whatever comes to mind, without stopping, until you reach three pages (even if that means writing ‘I don’t know what to say’ for three pages)
  • Write whether you feel like it or not
  • Do not reread the morning pages

That’s a lot of rules, but Cameron assures us that doing so will lead to great insights, unblocked creativity, inspiration and a better relationship with ourselves. It’s designed as a sort of ‘brain dump’ – to get all the whiny, petty nonsense out of our brains and onto the page, so we are free to focus on other things.

Journaling

This is a very broad term and cannot be as easily defined as the morning pages. While morning pages are focused entirely on stream-of-consciousness writing, journaling can take many different forms. It’s up to each individual to define what their own journaling practice looks like, but here are some of the most common approaches to journaling.

Types of journaling

  • Written journaling, which can include:
  • Art journaling using some or all of the following:
    • Paint
    • Pencils
    • Pastels
    • Crayons
    • Stamps
    • Collage
    • Inks
    • Writing
    • Photos
  • A combination of any of the above

Journaling is entirely up to the journaler to define. We can journal in the morning, the evening, the middle of the night, or all of these times. We can start and stop, leave a page for days, pause to reflect, and reread as much as we like. Journaling is entirely open to interpretation, and I think the reason for this is that we all have a different purpose for journaling.

The purpose of journaling

The purpose of journaling goes beyond unblocking our creativity, which is the primary goal of morning pages. Journaling can include any and all of the following goals:

  • A form of creative self-expression
  • A way to connect with our inner, wiser selves
  • A way to connect with God
  • A way to process emotions
  • A place to explore goals and dreams for the future
  • A way to keep track of day-to-day appointments, events, goals, etc
  • A place to record favourite quotes, song lyrics, sayings
  • A way to learn more about who we are and what we desire
  • A method for tapping into inner resources such as courage and determination
  • Creating a channel to receive inspiration
  • A place to play with colour, composition, media, language – whatever we like

I’m sure there are many more reasons that people journal that I’ve not covered here. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

The difference

While journaling is very open to interpretation, morning pages come with a set of rules. We could certainly include morning pages as part of our journaling practice, but the same could probably not be said the other way around.

It seems to me that the greatest difference between the two is the rules with the morning pages, and possibly the purpose of each.

What matters, really, is that you find a way of journaling that works for you. If you find the guidelines of morning pages helpful, then do that. If you prefer the freedom to approach the page differently each day, then let yourself do that. The important thing is that you enjoy the process and that it brings some benefit to your life.

I believe that any form of journaling regularly (morning pages included) will bring all kinds of benefits to your life, regardless of what method you choose. Instead of worrying about whether you are doing morning pages ‘right’ or whether you are journaling ‘properly’ – just enjoy it, and keep showing up.

What does journaling mean to you? Do you do morning pages, journaling, or both? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share the posts and links that I’ve most enjoyed. Feel free to share anything that has inspired you this week in the comments below.

nz xmas flower

Loving these gorgeous stamps and going to try carving some of my own

This brilliant post on how to archive your journals – I am so going to do this!

I’ve already signed up for Lifebook 2015, and I’m also thinking about signing up for The Documented Life Project (it’s free!)

This interesting article (based on the work of James Pennebaker) about how writing about the things that upset us can be healing

An interesting perspective on the reasons not to do morning pages

Really loving these tips on how to deal with feeling a bit creatively stuck

>>> From me: I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, spend some time with your loved ones, and take some time out with your journal to reflect on the things you are most grateful for. Try not to let the Christmas madness overwhelm you!

xo