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Habit Shift: Morning Pages

An open notebook, a cup of coffee, a candle, and a vase with flowers on white bed sheets.

Each year, ever since I was a child, I had the feeling of three fresh starts in the year: one was spring. Longer daylight, the first flowers on the fruit trees in my neighborhood, warmth in the sun, and freshness in the shade always provoked a sense of new beginnings. The other one was the start of the school year. The crispness of September, a shift in the foliage, restart of the busy city life, and buying books and stationery felt like starting anew each year. And then there was the New Year, an official new beginning, marked by society in many ways, one of them in the form of New Year’s resolutions and the prospect of starting anew. There are a few habit shifts I’d like to introduce to my regular daily or weekly routines this year: from more exercise and more time spent in the fresh air to more reading and more creative work. One such, meant to unleash creativity and even improve mental health are the morning pages.  

What Are the Morning Pages?

Morning pages are a stream-of-consciousness type of longhand writing, done first thing in the morning each day, developed by the author Julia Cameron as a method to unleash creativity. Cameron is a playwright, novelist, and a teacher of creative unblocking, best known for her book The Artist's Way, where she gives out methods, tasks, exercises, and worksheets to help anyone (and that is an important premise of her teaching) to unblock creativity.  

How to Write Morning Pages?

The idea is to wake up, and without doing anything else - picking up a phone, reading the news, talking to another person - sit and write three pages by hand of anything that comes to mind. The important thing is to stay persistent: to write every day, no matter the circumstances, and to keep on writing even on days when you feel you don’t have much or anything to say. Remember that this is the stream of consciousness writing, which would also involve writing, “I don’t have anything to say; maybe I should go and brew myself a cup of tea instead,” if you think so. Since this is not a journal, the pages you wrote are not intended for you to read later.  

What Are the Benefits of the Morning Pages?

I wrote the morning pages on and off for certain periods - mostly, as it happens, in spring, surfing on a wave of new energy from nature, more light, color, smell, and sound: chirping, buzzing, rustling. Here is what I thought that the benefits of writing the morning pages were:  

They help with your discipline.

If you manage to establish a routine and then actually stick to it, that is something you should be satisfied with. Sticking to any routine - walking daily, running two times a week, reading a book a month, learning a new language - is already an accomplishment, no matter how good you are at it. Perseverance matters, and it’s what gets things done.

They get you excited for waking up in the morning.

As the opposite of an early bird, I find it easier to wake up in the morning and even look forward to it if a self-care routine is involved. Be it brewing a cup of tea, taking a morning walk, or writing three pages of your thoughts - on paper. A thing that you do every day, which is supposed to ease your mind, is something to look forward to when you go to sleep and hear the first sound of your alarm clock. 

They clear your mind.

Letting the thoughts gathered from the previous day out of your head first thing in the morning is quite liberating. Remember, you are writing down a stream of your consciousness, so anything that is bothering you, hurting you, or weighing you down could and should be spilled out on a piece of paper. It might not solve your problems, but it could make you look at them from a different angle, leaving you more at ease.

They make you create.

You might not consider yourself a creative person, let alone creative in writing, and yet, when you are faced with writing down your thoughts every day, a sort of creativity is unleashed. When did you last write something other than a quick message with a cluster of emojis to substitute your feelings and thoughts? Writing your thoughts down requires elbow grease, resulting in something unique you created.

They make you think.

Imagine how much more cognitive effort it requires to write instead of scroll. Giving something from your mind rather than receiving something handed to you every day, every hour, every minute. And what is handed to you is to buy something, envy someone, want to be somewhere else with someone else, do something else, and wear something else. Writing your thoughts down might lead you to anchor yourself in the present moment and think about your experiences - and you might discover something worth digging into a little bit deeper.

There is no right or wrong way to write the morning pages.

You don’t have to think about style, handwriting, or the topic of your morning pages. They are your thoughts written on paper, unique to you - and no one is going to read them or judge them - not even you. And when there is no right or wrong way of doing something, you can create anything really. The possibilities are endless.   

You don’t have to be an aspiring writer to write the morning pages.

Morning pages are not intended to unblock writers only: maybe you want to get back to pottery that you once started but thought you weren’t creative enough, start an acting class, cook better, learn a new language, how to play an instrument, be a better lawyer or a more devoted home gardener. Morning pages are intended for everyone, as Julia Cameron believes that creativity lies in each one of us. 

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