On writing morning pages
Ages and ages ago, I tweeted something along the lines of ‘I’d love to be the sort of person who woke up early to meditate every morning or write morning pages, but sleep just means too much to me right now.’
Friends, I am now that person.
First of all: What are morning pages?
The first person to use the term morning pages was Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. Her idea is that by writing out three full sides of A4 – no more, no less – every morning, you can help foster your creativity and connect to your divinity. Let’s be honest: I don’t know what connecting to your divinity means. It sounds great, but maybe not for me.
But I’d heard so many positive things about morning pages from people who aren’t particularly spiritual, that I wanted to give it a go. I came across this article from Oliver Burkeman that eventually tipped me over the edge.
Three full sides of A4 is A LOT and there was absolutely no way I could commit to writing that much every single morning. But what I could commit to was writing something every morning.
What do you need to write morning pages?
Paper and a pen. I had a journal specifically for writing in, but you don’t necessarily need that. If you never want to see these pages again, you could write on loose-leaf paper and then recycle it (or burn it!) straight afterwards. But I want to be able to refer back to certain sections, so got a journal.
How do I do morning pages?
Every morning, I write a maximum of 3 sides of paper (I think the journals are A5) about whatever is on my mind. Sometimes that’s been big ideas for the five year plan I’ve started working on. Sometimes it’s been working through a conversation or argument I might have had. Sometimes it’s just been writing down what’s happened the day before. And sometimes it’s been writing down fragments of dreams from the night.
Sometimes, if there’s something that strikes me during the day that I’d quite like to write about, I write that down as a question the night before. The idea is that overnight my brain will think about it and come up with some miraculous solution in my sleep. That is yet to happen.
Whatever I write, I try not to edit my thoughts or censor myself and just write whatever comes to mind.
How has it helped me?
It might be overstating things to say that it’s changed my approach to life. What I do know is that it’s really helped me feel more calm.
I have been struggling with anxiety recently as my family has been under a fair amount of stress. Writing about those stresses almost immediately started to make them feel more manageable.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about my future. What type of role do I want to do in 5 years? Where do I want to be living? What relationships do I want to strengthen? What are the steps I need to take to make those things happen? Thoughts about all of those questions get jotted down in the journal.
It’s a great way to set an intention for the day ahead, too. If there’s something that I need to do, I kind of psych myself up for it. Or if I need to remember my word for the year (Patience, FYI), I write about how I could apply it to my day.
How do I find the time?
I work 4 days a week and have two small children. I don’t have a lot of spare time in my life. But I decided to try it out and MAKE time for it for a short time (one week) and see if it was worth carving time out for more long term. It is.
I set my alarm to go off between 6 and 630am (I use the Sleep Cycle app, so it wakes me up when I’m at my lightest point of sleep during that time). Then, depending on what time it goes off, I either get up straight away and write in bed (my ideal) or take the book downstairs with me after I shower.
But let’s be real: most days I’m up before my alarm. My kids these days wake up at some point between 530 and 7:15. If it’s 530, I ignore them as long as possible (sorry, kids), and then they go downstairs with their dad. If it’s after 6:30, I’m downstairs with them writing while Theo watches TV and Beatrice pulls all the toys off the shelves.
It does take a lot longer than I expected to write the three pages – usually around 20 minutes. Sometimes I only have time (or inspiration) to write one page. That’s fine.
Some days I don’t get to do it at all. That kind of sucks, but I can get over it.
The important thing for me is that on the majority of days, I write something down and get stuff out of my head onto paper.
Should you do it?
In a word – yes! After doing it for a couple of months now, I think it’s a pretty powerful tool. It won’t automatically help you solve all your problems, but I do think that it can help you clear your head, feel more purposeful and just think about things a bit differently.
If something has been really bothering you, writing it down lessens its impact somehow. It lets you see solutions that might not otherwise appear jumbled up in your head.
I have really found it to be worth that extra time in the morning.