One of my long term goals is to write everyday. But I’ve always found that life just gets in the way. I just couldn’t find a way to make it happen. I’m not sure if it was procrastination at work, a long term crisis of confidence or something deeper, that was holding me back from making this happen.
But something shifted within me. I’m not sure what caused it, perhaps me just waking up sick and tired of looking at my long list of things I want to make happen and finding that none of it was.
Consciously, I knew that I was the only one who could turn these dreams in to a reality, but it’s much easier to blame external factors. My biggest one was that I have three small children who take up ALL of my time, anything left over was for me, and my fella. But really, this approach didn’t get me very far.
My default is to read, I constantly read (probably part of why I thought I had no time to write), I was always reading. Amongst all this reading I discovered a guy called James Clear. He writes extensively on habit forming and creativity. Both of these concepts are a bit of preoccupation of mine.
What makes his work really interesting to me is that he researches and reads, but then he uses himself as a guinea pig, of sorts. Things that he reads about and thinks are interesting, he tries it out on himself. All this experimentation has led to some really interesting articles and conclusions.
He basically introduced me to the idea that to really produce amazing work, your best work, you need to produce volumes of average work, and the same again of poor work. Simple, but revolutionary to me.
If you wait to be inspired before you take up your pen, paint brush, trainers, or whatever it is that you do that makes you feel really alive, it is unlikely that you’ll be really happy with your results. Just because inconsistency doesn’t produce moments of genius or a great performance, only practise does this. Day in, day out – whether you feel like it or not.
At around the same time I was reading about James Clear, I was also reading about Julia Cameron and The Artists Way. She introduced me to writing Morning Pages. It’s a tool she uses in the The Artists Way, to help unlock creativity. This is what Julia Cameron says about Morning Pages:
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
I connected these two ideas of James Clear’s and Julia Cameron’s, and then the Morning Pages made sense to me. I’ve made commitments to myself before: ” I will write everyday, and exercise every second day, and drink less wine…” but because these commitments were a bit hollow, there was nothing really specific in them, I’d forget about them.
I wouldn’t just not do it and then feel bad, I’d actually just forget that this is what I’d decided. Now I have a Morning Pages reminder in my electronic calendar that won’t go away until I dismiss it. So there’s no way I can forget.
The idea behind it is not to set out to produce amazing work of poetic genius, but rather, to flex my ‘habit’ muscle. It’s also therapeutic. Since starting the morning pages I feel less anxious about life in general and am spending less time worrying about things I can’t change. I have a clarity that I’ve not experienced before. In researching the Morning Pages I wanted to see what effect they’d had had on other people. Here’s what I found:
“The odd thing about getting your thoughts out of your mind and reflecting on them in writing is that you end up internalizing them even more. You’re able to ask yourself questions and approach situations from multiple angles. You acknowledge more of what’s going on and understand events in a deeper way.
As a consequence of this, you stay connected to things that have happened to you in a way you often don’t otherwise. This gives you more perspective in general about circumstances in life.” Nicky Hajal
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at how powerful Morning Pages proved, from day one, at calming anxieties, producing insights and resolving dilemmas. After all, the psychological benefits of externalising thoughts via journalling are well-established. And that bleary-eyed morning time has been shown to be associated with more creative thinking: with the brain’s inhibitory processes still weak, “A-ha!” moments come more readily.” Oliver Burkeman
Pretty compelling stuff, hey? I started doing mine longhand, as prescribed by Julia Cameron, which was ok, if anything it made me a little impatient because it was taking so long to get my three pages down. I’ve since switched to 750words.com – this suits me better. I figured that Julia Cameron first discovered the benefits of Morning Pages in the 80s, way before computers were an appendage, so it’s just a natural progression. I like 750words.com because you get a snazzy analysis of your work and lots of interesting statistics about your mood, and your focus.
I briefly discussed the merits of longhand with my husband and we thought there may be a chance that the act of writing longhand taps in to a side of your brain that typing doesn’t. So I decided to try both ways and see which worked better for me.
I’ve since decided that it doesn’t matter as Morning Pages are essentially an act of mindfulness and what ever vehicle you use doesn’t alter the process; it is the act of stopping all else and reflecting on the current contents of your mind and then flushing it out. Whatever remains in your thoughts is the important stuff.
It helps distill the big stuff from the unimportant stuff, the stuff that drags you down. I can say from my experience, I feel quieted, my internal chatter has eased and the knock-on effects are wonderful. From more patience with the kids, more affection for everyone and more hope and optimism about life in general. But also, my goal of writing everyday – well, it’s happening, thanks to the Morning Pages.
For a 15-20 minute investment, it’s a pretty good return.
Have I convinced you start writing Morning Pages? Or do you already do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.