Morning Pages is a tool promoted by Julie Cameron in her Artist Way book as a daily practice for anyone interested in creativity, not just writers. This guy also describes the practice very well. Basically first thing in the morning, right after waking up, before you get going with the day, while you are still in that in-between mind state, write for 15 minutes in stream of consciousness style. Just whatever comes out. Cameron recommends using pen and paper in a journal. I did the hand journal for about a month and a half, then moved the practice over at 750words.com since I can do it on my smart phone in bed and get some interesting analytics (data nerd alert). I am going back to pen and paper to slow it down again and get away from the distractions inherent in working on a screen.
I have been doing Morning Pages for about three months now. Concrete results from doing morning pages:
1. I produce 3x the writing as before. Basically I believe doing the 15 minutes of work right in the morning in the alpha brain wave stage sets up a creative foundation for the day. I find later when I sit down to write a blog post or something else it comes easier and more clear. Even if the topics are completely different.
2. Greater understanding of the dream world in relation to the real world. Since mp are done in that waking up phase while your dreams are still somewhat present, I have noticed that more of my dreams are making it onto the pages. That brings their content into the conscious. Without mp the dreams were forgotten. There was no mechanism to connect the two worlds. There is a lot of understanding going on in the dream world. Good to get it up to the surface.
3. I have built confidence overall. Basically it is about 15 minute job each day. I can find 15 minutes. If I can find 15 minutes for mp i can find 15 minutes for something else.
4. More creativity in general. Even if you are not a writer, or trying to write, mp is a creative exercise. Often times, solutions to issues reveal themselves in morning pages spontaneously. A motorcycle maintenance solution popped in the other day. As did a stream of good names for a new web site. And a landscaping solution. Creative solutions in diverse areas of my life, nothing to do with writing.
5. More clarity to the day: Doing a brain dump first thing in the morning is kind of like a clean sweep. You can get all the monkey mind thoughts and inner critic out on the page and start new.
Long Hand VS on a device: I did both. Started out long hand, three pages in a note book. It was hard to use my hands that way after such a long time on the keyboard. It felt very slow and I had the desire to want to use some of the writing later, or do analytics on it. So after awhile I moved the practice to 750Words.com. Very good interface, good device support, challenges to keep you on task, merit badges, and some interesting analytics. While I gained the ability to write on more devices, to share the work, and the analytics my nerd desired, I lost some of the soul of the exercise. Writing long hand is slower and that is good. You have to actually slow down your brain to your hand speed. You also don’t have a web browser or other apps there to quickly engage with in diversions that come up during the writing. When I write long hand with the phone and computer off, I begin and end the exercise without distractions 99% of the time within 20 minutes. 750words has a handy analytic of start, stop times and words written over time. Using 750words I have completed the words in less than 20 minutes less than 40 percent of the time. Due to the ease of indulging distractions on a device, my productivity goes way down.
What to write about. Some people structure their writing. Two pages on this, one on that, etc. I have done it with and without structure. What I find is that without structure many times the stream can get stuck and I end up filling up space with mumbo jumbo words. That is especially true on 750words where the word count at the bottom of the screen is menacing you the whole time. If you are sitting there staring at the page, just start writing about staring at the page. And why the exercise is so hard. Then write your to-do list. If you run out of inner critic stuff, or lingering to-do items, start writing about what you are going to do today,. Meetings, people, events, etc. If I get stalled (rarely), I just ask “Today would be so awesome if….” and start again. Never fails.
There are many twists on how to do Morning Pages. Here is exactly how I do it.
I get up (without an alarm so it is a natural time to awake), take a cold shower, dress, make a cup of coffee, then sit down at a desk to write morning pages. Leave your phone in another room. Do NOT sit in the same room as a computer or any electronic device connected to the internet. I write morning pages at a desk because writing by hand in my lap gets uncomfortable after 10 minutes. I write before meditating as I have found the clearing out of MP helps deepen the meditation. I write the pages longhand (not on computer anymore see above) in a notebook that I put aside and never open again. I try to make my only distraction picking up the coffee cup or stretching my fingers.
- Pro tip for the to-do list addicted among us: Put a small sticky note on the desk next to your journal. When something comes up that you want to add to your to-do list, write it down there. DO NOT allow your device with the to-do list app to be there, that rathole enabler will distract you. At the end of the session, transcribe the valuable things from the post it notes to your regular to do system, or simply get them done. This one upgrade has alleviated the major objection my monkey mind had to not having a device within hands reach – all those amazing inspirational to-do items that came up during morning pages. There will be a lot. But this post-it note system ensures they don’t become a rathole of wasted time.
Do every day for 30 days. Contemplate the effect on your life. Continue if positive. Overall, Morning Pages has earned a place in my morning routine due to the clear benefits I have noticed in my life. It is the second best ROI on 20 minutes I have during the day (#1 being meditation).
Normally on Try This exercises, I reference any science I can find behind the exercise. I can’t find any scientific studies on MP. But there are hundreds of positive reviews and testimonials on-line. While I have a proclivity for evidence based solutions, when the evidence is my own experience, I honor that.
Also published on Medium.