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What are the Morning Pages and How to Use Them in a Journal

If have done any reading on creativity, dealing with creative blocks or getting your inspiration back, you might have come across Morning Pages. A practice of writing three pages right after you’ve woken up promises to give your creativity a revival it needs, but can it be a part of your daily journaling and how do you go about it?

What are the Morning Pages?

Morning Pages are a practice of writing three pages of whatever comes to your mind as soon as you wake up.

Created by Julia Cameron, and introduced in her book “The Artist’s Way”, the morning pages suppose to offload all the mental clutter in your mind that accumulated there while you slept.

What do you need to do Morning Pages?

To do Morning Pages all you need is a notebook and a pen.

The notebook doesn’t need to be fancy since you wouldn’t be rereading the pages you have written.

You can use any coiled notebook, the kind that they sell for 25 cents in a school supply store or even a yellow legal pad if it’s your thing.

Of course, if you feel that a pretty notebook will encourage you to write and make the process easier, get one, by all means.

A pen you would need also doesn’t need to be anything special.

You will be writing words down as they come and they probably would look like a chicken scratch for the most part.

If you are like me and a scratchy non-flowy pen drives you crazy, get yourself a pen that glides and make the process enjoyable.

Photo by@anniespratt Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

How do I start a morning page?

To start a morning page, do your writing as soon as you wake up.

Open your notebook of choice to the first unused page and start writing. No details like date or month or title or whatever needed.

Just grab a pen and start writing the first thing that pops into your mind. Like: “My brain is still asleep and I’m writing this. My eyes half-closed and I’m scribbling something. It would be fun to look at this mess later in the day. What should I write about? No idea. Maybe I’ll just write Something Something Something until Something comes to mind. Ha-ha.”

Yes, it can be this disjointed. No sense or punctuation or grammar necessary.

Don’t stop and don’t judge, you are not writing a novel, you are cleaning out your head. No one will ever see these and they don’t need to be coherent or make sense. These words can be ANYTHING.

Keep on writing whatever comes to mind until you have filled in three (yes, three) pages.

What should I write in my morning page?

As mentioned above, you can write anything you want in your morning page. There are no rules on what goes in there.

If you want to start with what weather it is outside to help you – go for it. If you want to write the dream you just head or the noise your dog is making while he is snoozing on the floor – that will do too.

Since the morning pages meant to release thought clutter from your head, what you are writing is not meant to be anything but just stream of consciousness output, a string of words.

You know how we feel better when we can get something off our chest to a friend? Morning pages are this friend and you getting something off your mind. You write all that chatter in your head onto a paper and you will feel light and clear.

How long do morning pages take?

Julia Cameron in her book “The Artist’s Way” suggests to write three pages every morning. That number might seem pretty imposing, but that is the point. To really get to all the corners of your mind, three pages is what it takes.

According to Julia Cameron herself, writing the three 8.5 x 11 pages takes about 30-40 minutes.

How long it takes you to write out those three pages will depend on a few things:

  • How fast are you usually with your handwriting? If you are on a laptop the whole day and a bit rusty with a longhand writing, it might be a slow going in the beginning
  • How comfortable are you with this new process? In a beginning you will be slower since writing a verbal blob would seem weird and awkward. Once you’ve done morning pages for a while and you no longer pick your words or try to make the sentences coherent or judge your thoughts as they come out, you will be flying through the process
  • How good is your pen? I know, seems trivial, but sometimes a really crappy pen can make process a torture, while a smooth pleasant pen can help you fly through your writing
  • Have you had enough sleep? We all been morning zombies at some point and know how slooooow it feels. Hopefully your new Morning Pages habit will encourage you have a more solid sleep schedule

What are the benefits of Morning pages?

Morning Pages were created to help writers and other creatives get their mojo and juices back by decluttering their minds.

Since most of the time our creative blocks come from our mental barricades, doing morning pages helps you shift those blocks and let the creativity flow.

Morning Pages are the primary tool of a creative recovery.

Julia Cameron

Here are some of the benefits of the Morning Pages:

  • Morning Pages help you declutter all the gunk in your mind first thing in the morning. When we wake up in the morning, our mind is full of all the information it processed while we were asleep. Tell me, how many times have your day been skewed by a weird dream you had and then you spent the rest of the day wondering and worrying by what it meant. Writing Morning Pages lets you offload that trash onto paper so you can start with a clean slate
  • Morning Pages help you get rid of negativity. Since you are encouraged to write to what comes to mind, often what we write about is something that bothers us. Something crappy that someone said about us, a negative comment, a backhanded compliment, a rejection. Sometimes we also write about crappy things we say about ourselves. And when these things see the light of day, we can see how ridiculous and untrue they are.
  • Morning Pages remind us about what’s important. In an interesting way, the Morning Pages show us what’s important in our lives. And the important things can be as small as returning the book to the library or picking up a birthday cake that evening to magnifying how important that book project it is to you because it keeps on coming up in your ruminations and therefore deserves time in your daily life.
  • Morning Pages lets you have a conversation with your inner self. The older we get, the better we are at staffing thing down, deep down inside of us. But it’s us who knows what we truly need. In writing the pages, our hidden self can come out, helping us address long-buried issues, questions, feelings, letting us reconnect and be true to ourselves again.
  • Morning Pages give you a sense of accomplishment. You write the morning pages first thing after you wake up. Once they are done, you already have something to show for that day. Even if your day ends up going south later on you know that you have accomplished something by writing that morning. By keeping that habit going, you will show and prove to yourself that you can start and finish and be consistent – a great booster for those days when you feel like you can’t get anything right.
  • Morning Pages are here to help you bring back your creativity. One of the dreaded things for a creative person is a creative block. Often the block is cause by procrastination. We just don’t know where to start or what to do next. That can hold us back for days and weeks. By writing morning pages, we give our mind the push it needs. We begin by creating pages of words, pages we know no one, even us, will ever read, pages that don’t need to be perfect or correct or profound. This freedom of expression helps us to melt some of the block, releasing our creativity and letting it flow again. We will find ideas popping up while we are writing morning pages and some of them will pleasantly surprise us.

Are the Morning Pages just for artists?

Even though Julia Cameron’s book on morning pages is called “The Artist’s Way” you don’t have to be an artist to use it in your journaling practice to benefit you.

We all suffer from self-doubt and criticism that often stops us from pursuing our goals and dreams.

Writing Morning Pages and clearing your mind from all that junk can benefit anyone.

If you want to conquer the pesky inner critic or negative self-talk, give Morning Pages a try.

What is the difference between morning pages and journaling?

Morning Pages are meant to offload your mind as quickly as possible. Because of that, morning pages are a stream of consciousness writing, often with no structure, meaning, punctuation or cohesion.

They are not mean to be read or reflected on or mean anything.

In comparison, journaling is a mindful practice intended for self-reflection.

In journaling, we thoughtfully examine our thoughts, the happenings of our day and process our feelings. Journals are often saved and re-read to see how far we have come along or how we’ve grown (hopefully) as a person.

Are morning pages worth it?

One might say that spending time (and paper) to write three whole pages every single morning of something we will never read and even possibly burn or throw away is a compete waste. Making morning pages as a part of your morning routine – is it really worth it?

Yes, morning pages are not meant to be read, they are quiet a lot to write – but that is not the point of the pages.

Morning pages are there to help you start your day fresh, to clear your mind from heaviness and doubt, to let your juices flow and bring your creativity back. I think these are all worth spending 3 pages of paper and some quiet time to do.

Can morning pages be done at night?

As implied in the name the Morning Pages are meant to be done in the morning. They are designed that way to clear your mind, magnify what’s important and set our day right.

Writing similar pages at night will surely bring a relief that might help with the quality of our sleep but these pages wouldn’t be bring us the same result or intent that the Morning Pages have.

Instead, you can have both Morning and Evening Pages.

How do can you use Morning Pages in a Journal?

Morning Pages are not really a journaling practice, stated even by Julia herself, how can you use Morning Pages in your journal?

Since Morning pages help us clear our minds and spark our creativity, you can use them as a primer before your journaling session. Write your three pages and then journal on one or two interesting ideas or questions that have popped into your mind as you were writing.

You can also write down the ideas and questions from your morning pages in a list and use this list later on in a day as prompts for your journaling.

You can also jot down any reminders or priorities that popped into your head and note those down in your planner or your Bullet Journal.

Additional tips for Morning Pages:

As tempting as the typing the morning pages can be, write them by hand, always. It’s the process of connecting your mind to your body through handwriting is what makes the morning pages so valuable.

Keep the journal by your bed side so you can do the morning pages as soon as you wake up, you don’t even need to get out of bed.

Make the morning pages part of the morning routine, build it into your habits.

Try to wake up just a tad earlier, when the house is quiet to have this time just for morning pages – and yourself.

Don’t judge yourself while you are writing and don’t read what you write. Morning pages are meant to relieve you of mental weight, not to add it. Remember – morning pages are meant to pull out the trash out of your head – you wouldn’t parade your trash to everyone? Write the pages and move on.

Julia Cameron recommends filling out three pages and sometimes, especially when you start and you not sure you know what you are doing, you might feel like you have nothing to write after 1 page.

No matter, write out all three pages even if you have to write something like: “I literally have nothing to say for the rest of these pages, what am I suppose to write? That the weather is gray outside? That the cat is snoring beside me?” Before you know it, you will be writing again.