As more and more writers are moving to write online, the habit of journal writing is dying. Yet journals are the breeding grounds of ideas, insights, and creativity.
I started journal writing more than twenty years ago, after reading Julia Cameron’s legendary book The Artist’s Way. In the book, Julia Cameron suggests writing morning pages.
The morning pages are three pages of a daily longhand stream of consciousness written first thing upon arising.
Almost every part of the instructions is non-negotiable.
- You got to write daily.
- You got to write by hand. There is something about writing with hands that opens the dark vaults of your mind and brings out all that is troubling you.
- You got to write first thing in the morning. You can make a cup of tea or coffee if you can’t function without it, but that’s about it. Don’t try to put away the dishes or make the bed. You got to start writing while your mind is still in an alpha state.
Of all the writing advice in the world, morning pages are the most successful tool for writers. Yet, most writers are not aware of them.
And if they are, they don’t follow the advice.
I have been writing morning pages for twenty years now. That single habit has made me a better writer than anything else. The pages clarify my thinking. They are not real writing because I am not writing drafting an article or working on a story but writing whatever comes to my mind.
They are basically ramblings. But hidden between the unless thoughts, to-do lists, and daily frustrations are deeper thoughts and impulses that form the material for my writing later in the day.
From time to time, I introduce little questions in my morning pages, making me go deeper to dig out the answers. Here are twenty questions if you want to bring some structure to your morning pages:
- What excited me yesterday? What made me feel alive?
2. What drained my energy? How am I going to handle it next time?
3. What did I learn yesterday?
4. Did I observe something different yesterday? A person, an event, a dialogue?
5. What did I learn about myself yesterday?
6. What went well?
7. What didn’t go well?
8. How did I cope with it?
9. What will I do differently next time?
10. What did I read yesterday? What did I learn from it?
11. What makes me angry?
12. What makes me happy?
13. Am I going on the right path? Is there anything I need to change?
14. Did I achieve everything I set out to do yesterday?
15. Am I being too hard on myself?
16. What 3 things are I grateful for?
17. If I am to write a love note to my (spouse/child/friend/enemy), what will I say to them?
18. What are my secrets? Why am I so afraid to share them?
19. What is blocking my creativity?
20. What is my inner critic telling me now?
Morning pages make us intimate with ourselves, and in turn, we become more compassionate with others.
We become more comfortable in our own skin and can withstand other people’s scrutiny. Our relationships improve.
Our expression improve. We learn to voice our feelings and thoughts. We unblock our creativity.
I would love to hear whether you write morning pages as well. If you do what has been your experience?