Do Morning Pages really reduce anxiety, boost productivity and unlock creativity? I tried Julia Cameron’s method of writing 3 pages by hand each morning. Here were the results…
Are Morning Pages Really Worth the Time?
You’ve probably heard of Morning Pages, even if you aren’t completely sure of what they are. The idea is to hand-write 3 pages each morning without overthinking or editing what you’re writing. It should flow in a stream-of-consciousness.
Julia Cameron first introduced Morning Pages in her book The Artist’s Way. As a topic of conversation, Morning Pages float around artistic circles and even the business world as a tool for unlocking creativity and quieting negative thoughts.
Why It Took Me So Long
Alright, you caught me! I was wearing my skeptic hat. I hang around creative circles, so I had heard of Morning Pages, but I gave them a Not-For-Me tag and went on my merry way.
Advocates say Morning Pages:
- Declutter their minds
- Clarify their thinking
- Unlock new ideas
- Reduce anxiety
- Put them in touch with their intuition
- Reveal solutions to problems
- “Shh! I’m sleeping.”
That was me. I was desperately trying to squeeze in 30 extra minutes of sleep before my kids bounced me out of bed at 5:30 a.m. with a chorus of “Mom, I’m hungry.” “Mom, I have to go potty.” “Mom, he’s hitting me.” If Julia Cameron had handed me a pen at that moment…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have written with it.
It wasn’t until my good friend Shelby (a.k.a. Little Coffee Fox) told me how much her morning pages had changed her life that I finally took them seriously. After she described her process, it sounded remarkably similar to something I was already doing.
A few years ago, I read Robert Olen Butler’s book From Where You Dream (if you’re a writer and you haven’t read it, you should). He advocates going straight to your computer first thing in the morning before you read, hear, or write any other words. I’m not a night owl (unlike most writers), so the strategy worked for me. I followed Butler’s advice, often writing on the computer while my kids ate their breakfast, and the words flowed more freely than any other time of day.
I downloaded The Artist’s Way onto my Kindle to learn if I could combine the two ideas. What if I adjusted my ritual–as Cameron suggests–to write by hand instead of on the computer? I wouldn’t necessarily lose anything because I could always pull from my handwritten notes.
So, I finally decided to give the Morning Pages a real chance.
Making the Time
I write my morning pages after fixing my kids their breakfast. I tried getting up 30 minutes earlier to write in peace, but that prompted my kids to get up 30 minutes earlier. Seriously, guys?
Instead, I get them up, ask about their dreams, fix their breakfast, and get them settled to eat. Then I can slip onto the back deck to enjoy my sunrise coffee and Morning Pages. By the time I’m done, I’m a much calmer person and we can get on with our days.
Out of 30 total days, I had 5 days in which I delayed my pages until after the initial morning rush to get everyone out the door. And I missed 3 days altogether. That’s ok.
They did make an impact on how productive I felt the rest of the day. As I continue the practice, I’m toying with ways to give my morning pages regular structure the way Chris Winfield does. For now, I like the openness of it all.
What Exactly Were the Benefits
Was I suddenly a world-class writer? No. Was I a masterpiece painter? No. Did my online business become an overnight household name? No. But I had real, noticeable changes in my workflow that were worth the 30 minutes it took me to write the pages each morning.
Besides the external rewards like higher productivity, I also felt my morning pages added quality to my days. That alone is inherently valuable.
At first I found it difficult to let my mind go. I was overthinking the words. I had to remind myself that no one else would read my morning pages. I ended up switched from my Rhodia journal to a regular old legal pad. Once I had cheap paper under my very fast and amazing pen, I felt better about letting it write disposable words.
I noticed my Morning Pages:
- Kept my productivity up the rest of the day
- Reduced the feeling I was letting something fall through the cracks
- Made me feel more positive and capable for the rest of the day
- Helped me process worries weighing on my mind
- Captured new ideas for stories, blog posts, business strategies, and creative leisure activities
- Expressed emotions I hadn’t realized I was feeling
- Helped me complain less (at least aloud)
- Allowed me to be more forgiving of others
- Gave my morning a kickstart
I did have to make some adjustments for my life. That’s to be expected. I simply refuse to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get ahead of my kids. I draw the line at 5:00!
Overall, Morning Pages lived up to the hype, especially once I got into a rhythm. As someone who believes in the power of pen and paper, I’d say this is definitely worth the time.
Start Your Own Morning Pages
On her website, Cameron emphasizes the individual nature of this exercise.
*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.
I didn’t do the full 12-week program outlined in the book, but I plan to do it over the summer. I encourage you to read The Artist’s Way before putting your Morning Pages into practice.
Tips for Success
You already have everything you need to start a Morning Pages practice. There aren’t any special supplies, but I would suggest you find a pen you enjoy using. I prefer a simple fountain pen like the Pilot Metropolitan for longhand writing because they are so easy on my hand.
- Write 3 pages each morning. You don’t have to write anything specific, but keep your pen moving.
- Don’t overthink the words on the page. Just write what comes to mind.
- Make it comfortable: If your environment doesn’t energize you for the day, find a spot that does. Write your morning pages somewhere that will make you want to get out of bed a bit earlier.
- Try to keep the words positive whenever possible. I felt best on days I kept my writing positive, but I wasn’t always able to do so. Even on days I let negativity slip into my morning pages, I still felt better afterward.
- Resist the temptation to type your morning pages. The act of writing slows you down enough to connect with what your subconscious mind is telling you.
If you haven’t already tried the Morning Pages, I hope you soon will. Be sure to comment below and share your thoughts on putting this mindful practice into action.
Brainstorm with me!