Overthinking morning pages

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If you’ve spent any amount of time in the journal writing community, you may have heard of morning pages. If you haven’t, let me get you up to speed: morning pages are a tool suggested by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. The basic concept is fairly simple: write three pages by hand about whatever crosses your mind when you first wake up. Don’t worry about trying to impress anyone with your writing because no one is ultimately going to be reading it. Including you. Beyond that, there are no rules.

Morning pages have a group of ardent supporters. I’ve heard reports of morning pages clearing one’s mind and making it possible to better focus on the day’s tasks, thus creating the opportunity to be more productive.

Personally, I’ve tried morning pages. I’m not saying that lovers of morning pages are wrong for finding them useful. If they’re useful for you, don’t let anything I say discourage you. Again: you’re not wrong. However, I’m not sure I see the same benefits of morning pages that others see.

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely think stream of consciousness type journal writing by hand can be an incredibly powerful tool. It might be that I get hung up on the word “morning.” It might be that I’m just overthinking the process in general. I realize that the entire point of morning pages is that there are no rules. But I still finding myself placing arbitrary rules onto the exercise and feeling like I’m “failing” if I fail to meet them. For example, when I first started doing them, I thought the only “right” way to do morning pages was to wake up, roll over, reach for my notebook and start writing. Thing is, the very first thing I need to do when I wake up is use the bathroom. Like, I need to go so bad that I can’t wait long enough to write anything. At first, I thought this fact precludes me from ever being able to do morning pages properly.

Once I got over that, I’ve been asking myself some seemingly ridiculous questions about morning pages and wondering if I’d ever be able to do them “right.” For example, do I fail the exercise if I need to communicate with someone between when I wake up and when I start writing? Is it possible to wait too long between when I wake up and get writing? Do I always have to keep things at three pages? What if I have more than three pages worth of things to write? Do I absolutely have to stop at three pages, even if I have the time and desire to keep going?

And then there are the supposed benefits of morning pages. I think part of the reason I always feel like I’m doing it wrong is because I don’t notice the same benefits others talk about. As I said, I absolutely see a benefit of stream of consciousness writing. By writing down my surface thoughts, it helps me get to what’s really going on underneath. If I’m upset about something, writing about it helps me better understand what I’m feeling and brainstorm possible solutions. It’s the “morning” part that I seem to get hung up on. I’ve found this kind of writing to be just as effective regardless of what time of day I do it. I don’t really notice being able to focus or being more productive after doing morning pages. In fact, I’ve seen more benefits to doing this sort of writing before bed. If I’m anxious about something, I tend to have trouble sleeping. If I write it down, it helps take the edge off and makes it easier for me to sleep.

Do you do morning pages? Am I looking at the exercise completely wrong?

About the author

SE is a 30-something blogger based in Pennsylvania. Her very first loves were reading and writing. NerdyWordy is her way of sharing her enthusiasm with others.

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