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Recently, I added a new element to my morning routine that has changed the way I show up in the world. In fact, this simple trick helps me stay focused, centered and clear on my goals. It also helps me sort through my emotions, so I can move forward with intention and manifest the results I want to see at the end of the day.
I’ve noticed how it changes my day — and my performance. So without further adieu, let’s talk about Morning Pages.
What Are Morning Pages?
Author Julia Cameron first came up with the practice of Morning Pages in her highly influential book, “The Artist’s Way.” Since then, this creative practice has taken the world by storm, helping people find clarity, healing and focus through writing.
In fact, thought leaders of all kinds have attributed many benefits to the act of writing Morning Pages. Tim Ferriss called Morning Pages “the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found.” Jeff Bullas starts his day with at least 5-10 minutes of this powerful journaling method, and performer Julianne Hough invited her social media following to join her in a Morning Pages challenge because the practice has made such a difference in her life.
Whether you’re going through a tough season or simply trying to bring more peace to your day, Morning Pages are an excellent way to focus, process and set intentions for the day, without too much structure or time.
How Do Morning Pages Work?
So how does the practice of Morning Pages work? The idea is to start each morning with a private writing practice and see what comes out — that’s it. While Cameron’s original practice has a bit more structure to it, she also states that there’s no wrong way to approach them, either.
If you’re a Morning Pages purist, however, there are a few basic guidelines to follow:
- Don’t stop until you fill three pages in a standard 8.5 x 11 in. journal.
- Write whatever comes to your mind. The goal is a stream-of-consciousness style of writing that invites you to write with no destination in mind — and see where it takes you.
- Write first thing in the morning, as soon as you wake up. The idea here is to tap into the subconscious part of your mind that takes over during sleep and hangs around in the balance as you fully wake up.
- Keep your pages private. In order to let your subconscious run wild on the page, you want to create a safe space for writing, knowing that it won’t ever be read by another pair of eyes. If you do want to share excerpts later, recopy them into another journal to keep your Morning Pages journal truly sacred in your mind’s eye.
- Do them consistently every day. This is where the real magic happens. The more this becomes a second-nature habit, the more easily you’ll access your deeper consciousness.
What Do I Write?
Surprisingly, this is the one question you don’t want to answer, simply because that would be defeating the purpose of the Morning Pages process. In fact, try to put this question out of your mind when you’re writing.
If you are having trouble getting the words out, however, there are a few things you can do it to help them along.
1. Create intentional cues.
Studies show that, in order to create a lasting habit, you want to start with the same actions and cues as you build momentum for that habit.
For example, if your desired habit is to journal before you even get out of bed in the morning, then your cues might include setting a pen and notebook on your nightstand each night, and writing a prompt at the top of the page. If you prefer to journal with your morning cup of coffee, set your journal and notebook next to your coffee pot, and clean up your favorite spot at the table each night before you go to bed. Set the scene, so your habits are visible, attractive and easy to act upon.
You can even build a feel-good routine around your journaling habit. If you want to journal from bed, for example, you might do the same three stretches to wake up, take three deep breaths, put your glasses on, adjust your pillow and start writing. By practicing the same specific cues and rituals, you’re signaling to your mind that a rewarding process is about to begin. Soon, it will feel as automatic as the sense of motivation that comes when your ritual is finished.
2. Go inward.
There will likely be times when you don’t have anything to say, and the words aren’t flowing freely out of your pen. In these moments, rather than searching for inspiration or thinking of things you “should” be writing about, take a minute to go inward.
You can do this by getting into a comfortable, seated position with your spine upright. Try to align your head over your heart and your heart over your hips. Then close your eyes and imagine traveling into the spiritual center of your body, whatever that might look like to you. Stay there, focus on your breath, and let the quiet envelope you.
Sit in that moment until you feel connected — to your breath, your heart, your center, the world around you — whatever. The goal is just to feel the inner you. Then open your eyes and write about how that experience felt, as well as what came up for you.
3. Start with gratitude.
If you’re really struggling with finding the words, and the flow just isn’t coming to you, don’t worry. That’s completely normal. Just find a conscious place to start until the subconscious takes over.
And gratitude is always a good place to start. Start by freewriting about the five things you’re most grateful for in that moment. But after you write down each thing you’re grateful for, make sure to include a few sentences about why. This puts some meaning behind your gratitude list, so you can begin to see what matters to you most. Hint: It may not be what you expect.
The Unexpected Benefits Of Morning Pages
So by now, you’re probably wondering: What will the Morning Pages actually do for me?
Well, the benefits of this practice are as unique as the pages we create. But there are a few benefits that we all typically experience as we pour our souls onto the page with regularity. To help us learn about those universal benefits, let’s look at some excerpts straight from Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way.”
1. They help you take stock of your emotions, fear and motivations on a daily basis.
“When people ask, ‘Why do we write morning pages?’ I joke, ‘To get to the other side,’” says Julia Cameron. “They think I am kidding, but I’m not. Morning pages do get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, our negativity, of our moods … Pages clarify our yearnings. They keep an eye on our goals. … If we are drifting, the pages will point that out. They will point the way True North. Each morning, as we face the page, we meet ourselves.”
2. They help you find your innermost beliefs, so you can create from a place of freedom and clarity.
“The pages may seem dull to you, even pointless, but they are not. Remember that they are not intended to be ‘art.’ They pave the way for art. Each page you write is a small manifesto. You are declaring your freedom — freedom from your Censor, freedom from negativity in any quarter … Morning pages may hold insights and intuitions that startle you.”
3. They help you find and communicate with your higher self.
“It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power. Although I used them for many years before I realized this, the pages are a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self.”