Morning Pages or: How I Stopped Procrastinating and Rediscovered My Love of Journaling
Instead of New Year's resolutions, I’ve embraced the concept of adopting three words as my themes for the upcoming year. In 2018, I selected vitality, trust, and renovation. The last of these words was the most obscure one I’ve ever picked. However, to me, it meant that I would no longer shy away from making big, necessary changes to improve the long-term outlook on life regardless of if it was painful in the short term. It was a bold declaration, and I followed through in many ways both personally and professionally, including leaving a company I co-founded so that I could free up the time and space necessary for the health and wellbeing of myself and my family. It was tough, but I have not regretted this decision for a second because it’s already yielding the intended results.
As part of this major life transformation, I have been intentionally exposing myself to new ideas, people, and places to give myself a fresh perspective and open new doors. One such experience has been the discovery of the process called “Morning Pages”, which was coined by Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way. While this book has been wildly known and popular for decades, I finally stumbled upon this after attending World Domination Summit and seeing the talk by Cathy Heller and then listening to her Podcast episode with Julia.
For me, journaling is one of those activities like meditation or physical exercise. It’s common knowledge and generally accepted that these are beneficial practices, and yet our busy lives typically squeeze these off the bottom of our todo list. The result is that I used to journal 5-10 times a month, but then went almost six months without a single entry. I was too busy to write down even a sentence about all the experiences I was having in life. This was counter to my beliefs and values that a life worth living is worth documenting the highlights along the way.
So I decided that I would begin the morning pages process on day one after I left my previous career. I was able to keep to this commitment all but three days over a 35 day period. I have yet to count, but this represented over 100 pages of handwritten notes of about 300-400 words per page. This is approximately 30,000 words, which is about the same number as a typical 100-page book.
But it’s not the quantity that matters, while it wasn’t always easy or desirable to wake up between 4 AM and 5 AM to start the ~45 minute process before the rest of the world woke up, I can say without hesitation that I would and will repeat this process because it was tremendously beneficial.
Highlights of My Experience
- More Immediately Rewarding: When I journaled previously, I only found the benefit of the process at the end the month when I would look back and reflect on what happened. With Morning Pages, I almost always leave the process feeling lighter, happier, energized, and/or creative. Experiencing the benefit during the very act itself has made it easier to stay motivated and keep up with the habit.
- Analog: I’m an adult of the digital age, and love the idea of having everything digitized and searchable. However, there is something nice about using pen and paper and not being distracted by notifications and other things that are so easy to access when using a laptop or phone.
- Depth: Journaling in short bursts is nice, but I have discovered there is a lot of truth in Julia’s statement that it takes a good page and a half just to get warmed up. Some of the best stuff starts coming out once you get through all of the superficial thoughts and start sifting through a specific issue in incredible detail.
- Intuition: A colleague of mine recently reminded me that you could only hear the soft voice of your intuition when you can reduce or eliminate the loud voice of the ego trying to navigate the chaos of the day to day stressors. It’s been interesting to see what bubbles up when in that calm, reflective state for such a long period of time when life is quiet.
- Creative: Beyond the benefits of self-reflection, I’ve also found it to be a creative time to work through a problem, come up with ideas. Something about grounding a word or phrase on paper helps spark new ideas. I haven’t written a lot on my blog as of late, but I believe I have anywhere from 10-20 ideas that I plan on pulling from the last 30 days.
Morning Pages is simple and yet not easy. My biggest gripe is the time commitment. Life has all sorts of things that can feel more urgent or pressing and 45 minutes of writing can feel almost indulgent. However, given that the average person consumes 8 hours of media a day, taking a small fraction and replacing it with a more reflective practice of journaling is worth it in my experience.
If you are so bold enough to give this a try, I would love to know your experience!
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About Rick Manelius
Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.