How I Changed My Life In 30 Days: Challenge 4 – Morning Pages

If you’re ready to stop negative thoughts holding you back from living a more creative life, try morning pages. Here, I’ll explain what they are, why they work, and how they’ve been helping me.

This is habit #4 in my "How I Changed My Life In 30 Days" series.

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Morning pages, from "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron | blog header

Maybe you yearn to live a more creative life, or you’ve always wondered what it would be like. Maybe you’ve been meaning to get around to it… someday.

Or maybe you’re already living that life, but find yourself struggling to create on a regular basis. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by Imposter Syndrome or feelings of not being good enough. Not measuring up to everyone else so maybe you shouldn’t even bother. (I hear ya.)

You need morning pages.

What Are They?

Morning pages are the brain child of Julia Cameron. She outlines them in her book, “The Artist’s Way” (affiliate link) as an effective tool for overcoming creative roadblocks.

In essence, their job is to clear away the mental clutter and negativity so your ideas can flow freely.

Morning pages help you dump all those negative thoughts on the page so they stop taking up valuable space in your brain. Instead of trying to fight them or let them overpower you, you simply write them all down. Acknowledge them and exhaust them so that, by the time you’re done, there’s nothing left to do but create.

Because, sometimes, on the journey of life you have to stop and clear the path of obstacles and excuses before you can continue.

How Exactly Do You Do Morning Pages?

You sit down first thing each morning and write 3 full pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts. (Julia’s recommendation is A4 paper but I have small writing and it takes me an hour to fill 3 A5 pages, so I stick with that so I don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to do them. As it is, I’m up at 6.30 to get them done before my daughter gets up.)

Whatever’s on your mind, get it down on paper. It doesn’t matter what it is or how silly it seems. And you don’t stop writing until those 3 pages are full.

Even if you can’t think of anything to say, simply write, “I can’t think of anything to say.” Repeat it multiple times if needs be, or “Blah blah blah” or, “This is bullshit” or, “I feel so stupid” or, “I’m hungry”. (Believe me, there’s a lot of that in my pages.)

Just keep writing whatever comes into your head.

Morning pages, from "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron | Notepaper in Kikki.K planner, large agenda

The aim is not to be coherent or even legible; you’re simply emptying your head of nonsense so you have no excuses or negative thoughts left. Trap them in your pages, and then close your notebook on them.

And once they’re away, your creativity can play.

Can You Re-Read Your Morning Pages?

When you’ve done them for at least 8 weeks, then and only then are you allowed to look back over your morning pages. Julia suggests taking two highlighters and using one to mark any insights you’ve had, and the second to mark any action tasks. (I haven’t got to this stage yet – another 5 weeks to go – but I’m hoping to glean some really valuable insights within.)

How Long Should You Keep It Up?

Julia recommends that you continue the practice of morning pages for at least 6 months but, ideally, it will become a daily habit that will carry you through the rest of your life.

Morning pages, from "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron | Notebook collection featuring Moleskine, Leuchtturm1917, Scribbles That Matter, etc.

How I'm Applying Them To My Life

I can’t remember how or where I first heard of them but it’s something I’d been curious about for quite a while. Journaling in general has always been an interest of mine, but I’ve never done any stream-of-consciousness writing and the idea intrigued me.

When it came time to decide what challenge I was going to take on next, it seemed like the obvious choice, particularly because of what was happening in my life at the time. I was feeling completely burnt out. I barely had enough energy to get out of bed in the morning, and my brain couldn’t focus on anything. I was frustrated because, normally, I’m quite ambitious and self-motivated but, at the time, I could barely even bring myself to read a book.

Morning pages, from "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron | books on book case, bookshelf, IKEA Expedit

So I was curious as to how much of it was a mental problem as opposed to a physical one. I certainly felt physically tired, but I also felt mentally and emotionally drained. Very hormonal too, crying at the drop of a hat. So I wanted to see what was going on.

I started my morning pages on October 1st, when I was still going through all of that, and they definitely helped. In 3 short weeks I’ve already discovered things about myself that I never realised before. And my motivation and zest for life has started to come back.

Essentially, I wrote myself out of burnout.

(Psst! If you're interested in some strategies for avoiding burnout in the first place, check out this video:)

The whole idea of taking on a new challenge every 30 days was to try introduce positive new habits that would change my life. They haven’t all been successful but I’m happy to say that I think this is one of those that will stick. I may modify it a little as time goes on (an hour is a lot of time to spend journaling every day, and I have to ensure I’m up an hour before my family so I can do it without distraction) but, overall, I’m confident morning pages will continue to have a positive impact on my life.

If you want to learn even more about morning pages, or to pick up some other advice on living a creative life, I’d recommend Julia’s book. It’s basically a 12-step programme for stuck creatives. (Sneaky tip: if you use the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon, you can actually read a large chunk of the book, including the entire introductory section on morning pages.)

If you’re interested in following along with the challenges, join the dedicated Facebook group. It’ll give you some accountability as you go, and is full of cheerleaders and advice when you need an extra boost. It’s also where I share my own tips and tricks for completing the challenges, as well as the struggles I’m facing and what I’m doing to overcome them.

I’ll be sharing more about my experience at the end of the 30 days but I think it’s already safe to say that…

Morning pages have changed my life!

Do you do morning pages? Or any form of journaling?

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2 Comments

  1. I definitely need to get back to doing my Morning Pages! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

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