When you are deeply immersed in a process, it is easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture. But, it is not always a bad thing. Oftentimes, when looking at it from a distance of time or space, you will be pleasantly surprised how much you enjoyed the process and as a result completely forgot about the passing of time and the progress you’ve made in between.
Among many strategies to induce this reflection, a tool called Morning Pages is probably the most transformational. This is something I learned from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a journaling exercise where you rely on the stream of consciousness and jot down non-stop for 3 pages whatever comes into your mind at that very moment. No limits or restrictions on grammar or punctuation or really anything. All you need to do is to simply record everything your mind happens to be working on right there right then. If you have nothing to write, then just keep writing something like “my mind is blank now” until the next thought comes up.
It takes me 20 to 30 minutes every morning and it is so natural to me now that it has become part of my morning routine like brushing, which also means that if I don’t do it, I will clearly feel something is missing.
It has helped in many ways already:
- It gives my creativity an outlet that is absolutely free of constraints. Because my mind is in the state of a free flow, it seldom ends where it begins. Sometimes the writing is dull and uninspiring, and other times it is unexpected insightful and profound but it does not matter because it is all about the process, not the final product.
- I hear all kinds of self-talk from my inner voice in a way that I’ve never experienced before. Not only am I listening to it intentionally now, I am also able to analyze where it is from. This is powerful because it helps me to track it back to the source and either cut off the root if it is a negative self-talk or to embrace it more and let it nourish me even more if it is a positive self-talk.
- My unconscious mind does not only ask questions, it also generates solutions. Many times my mind proposes all kinds of solutions before my conscious mind knows that I am even looking for them.
- It creates a safe place. I do not show my morning pages to anyone so I am not afraid of judgments. I do not have to put up a persona to the public. I can be completely true to who I really am.
- It helps me to lock my demons. Whenever my anger, my frustration, or my fear comes to attack, I try my best to not let them influence my day. Magically, me putting those emotions into my morning pages is like catching my enemies, and me closing my journal is like locking them up in a cell to never be visited or released. Writing morning pages has so far been the most effective way for me to stay strong or heal peacefully.
- If nothing else, it is a great way to do some brain dump. I find that to put things out on the paper and find the right place for each one of them is the only way to stop them from nagging me. I usually immediately feel much more relieved and put together after a brain-dump-type-of session.
What I do with morning pages by itself is not extraordinary. The real challenge is to do it consistently. Every time you add more lines, you wake up your unconsciousness a bit more and gain more clarity and self-awareness.
I know this idea of writing three pages of absolutely anything might not sound natural to you at first. If it helps, try to make it more fun. I sometimes light up a nice smelling candle and put on some soothing music. It then becomes an experience, a conversation or even a date with myself.
If you still think it is weird or pretentious, I ask you to keep an open mind and put your skepticism aside, try it consistently for two weeks, and I guarantee you that you will find value. Some changes are not very noticeable at the beginning, but just give it time and you will be surprised.