New Year’s resolutions are all well and good but how many actually last longer than a week, let alone have the ability to change your life?!
About three years ago I discovered ‘Morning Pages’ after it was mentioned in one of Tim Ferris’s brilliant books (can’t remember which one it was now) and it’s made such a huge difference to my life I thought I would share it with anyone that cared to read about it here.
THE BIG IDEA
The idea is that each morning you sit down with a notebook (and a coffee) and just write three pages (longhand) of whatever is in your head. It can be anything, from something that is bugging you, something you would like to achieve or an idea you have had, plans for the day, aspirations, etc – it is a stream of consciousness poured out onto the page.
Literally anything, just sit and write.
Sounds crazy but trust me it is absolutely amazing!
I have come up with many of the ideas for so many of my personal photography & filming projects this way, it has helped me work out what to do in situations where someone or something is causing me issues and it’s an amazing way to start each day, almost feels meditative and leaves me feeling very calm and productive.
In the words of the creator of the concept, Julia Cameron: ‘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.’
Julia Cameron first wrote about Morning Pages in her seminal book – ‘The Artist’s Way‘ and while the book is aimed at those in the creative industry, Morning pages can, and does, work for anyone.
I’ve read loads of self-help/creativity/business books but nothing comes close to the changes that doing Morning Pages (MP) can make to your life. It shuts out the noise, lets you have coherent thoughts and work them through as you write them out on the page. The idea of doing MP first thing in the morning is that it allows you to focus before you wake up too much and start overcrowding your thoughts with all the stuff you need to get done (and it minimises disturbances from phones, etc). It is also said to prevent ‘the ego’ from getting involved.
As Julia Cameron says – Morning Pages isn’t for anyone else’s eyes, in fact once I have written them I have never gone back to re-read what I wrote although I do now add a section at the bottom of each page titled ‘Action Points’ where I list things that I need to do to ensure the ideas I have had that morning can become a reality. Sometimes the action points can be as simple as ‘Create a project planning document’ or ‘Phone my brothers today for a chat’ but other times I have come away from one morning’s writing with 14 different action points to take in order to get a project rolling. It’s like having a brainstorming session with yourself.
One thing Morning Pages has made me realise is that most of the answers to questions I have or problems I am going through are already in my head, I just need to give it the space to think out loud (in writing) and I can come up with the solutions over my morning coffee. The simplicity and power of this process has to be experienced to be believed.
HOW TO DO MORNING PAGES
I have the same routine every morning – wake up, head downstairs, put the kettle on, open the curtains, feed the cats, make a coffee and then sit down at the breakfast bar with my Moleskine notebook and a smooth-writing pen and just write.
I think it’s important to have a notebook that you will enjoy writing in so having tried various brands I always come back to Moleskine. They come in a range of coloured covers, the paper is pleasant to write on (cheaper notebooks can have scratchy, cheap paper), a built in bookmark, elastic to keep them closed, a slim pocket at the back and some stickers to label them. I find the A5 sized, ruled notebooks best. I get mine on Amazon here.
My favourite pens for the last few years have been the Uniball Signo Gel Grip pens (0.7mm tip), I buy them by the box-load from Amazon in blue and black here.
One other useful accessory is an elastic loop to keep the pen with the notebook, the best value option I have found is the pack of 5 on Amazon again here.
…and then I just take in the silence and write. Sometimes it’s a struggle to know what to write so I just write about what I’m planning that day, the weather, etc and after a bit of a ramble I find my flow and I’m off – developing ideas, working through problems, writing about hopes and dreams and how I can work towards achieving them. It may take a couple of attempts at doing morning pages to get into the way it works but once you find what works for you there’s no stopping! After finishing my morning pages I definitely have a sense of calmness, order, purpose, determination and creativity, I feel centred, grounded and ready to take on the day.
I’m told doing Morning Pages can also work wonders with calming anxiety too. If something is bothering you – pour it out onto the paper, I find once it’s out of my head I can move past it. It’s like therapy without needing a therapist!
DON’T HAVE TIME?
Well make time! Get up 45 minutes earlier, and don’t rush your Morning Pages, the key is to taking your time, let the words come to the page, you can’t force it. Once you get into the pages and begin to understand their (your) power you will find these could be the most important and productive 45 minutes of your day, every day.
This guy, Chris Winfield has also written a blog about the amazing power of Morning Pages and how to do them, well worth a read as he’s put it better than I could and it’s all very clearly laid out.
Please let me know if you do give Morning Pages a go and the differences it makes for you. I have found it to be so instrumental in driving my life forward on every single level that I just didn’t want to keep it a secret. Everyone should know and do Morning Pages, collectively the world would be a better, more positive, more productive, happier place!
I recently had the privilege of making a film for well-known local artist Sam Thomas (check out his amazing paintings here) and mentioned to him about Morning Pages. Sam totally ran with the idea and says “It’s quick & simple but gives you a key focus. The fact that you do it each and every day means your focus is tuned in to how you are feeling. I am so onboard with Morning Pages and find it useful”
Enjoy the journey, you’ll never look back!