Morning Pages: The Most Cost Effective Therapy
Remove the junk from your subconscious
I first discovered morning pages in Brian Koppelman’s section of Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans. Koppelman recounted that he discovered the Morning Pages routine from a little book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. What intrigued me the most was Brian’s following quote:
Of the people 100 people I’ve given [the book] to, maybe ten of them have actually opened the book and done the exercises. Of those ten, seven have had books, movies, TV shows, and made out successful.
I had to try it.
What are Morning Pages?
Morning Pages are three longhand stream of consciousness pages written in the morning — where you just keep moving the pen for three pages no matter what.
No censoring, rereading, crossing out. Just keep going no matter how illiterate you are.
Julia Cameron’s rules on Morning Pages are quite strict but not without reason. They must be longhand because writing allows you to have time to process your thoughts better. Typing is too speedy leading to a more emotionally detached experience. Morning Pages emphasise depth over velocity.
The three pages rule serves to help you get past the platitudes in the forefront of your mind, but restricting you so there is no overindulgence in the practice.
I find that my first page is usually filled with complaining, anger and banalities but as I move on with my pages I discover more depth in my writing as it moves towards what I could improve on, how I could make the day great and what I’m grateful for.
It turns out that I can’t complain for three pages straight. It’s as if I’ve trapped the bullshit into the page and it has left my mind.
Cameron advises us to stop at three pages to prevent ‘self-involvement and narcissism’. The point of morning pages is to help you get on with your day after all. You don’t want to be stream of consciousness writing all day. The sole purpose is to trap your problems onto paper so you can move on with your day.
These pages are not meant to be read. In fact, Cameron advises that you yourself shouldn’t even read the pages in the first few months. If you have to burn the pages, you can. I personally leave my journal beside my bed and don’t visit it unless I’m doing my Morning Pages or nightly reflection routine.
Benefits of the Journalling Routine
Before I discovered Morning Pages, I had already established a journalling habit. I began by only journalling during emotionally charged moments to journalling every night.
My currently nightly routine involves one journal page asking two questions:
How could I have improved today?
What am I grateful for today?
These two simple questions prevent me from rambling on about the ordinariness of most of my days and target the deliberate practice of self-improvement and gratitude.
While I had already understood the psychological benefits of journalling and that the cloudy grogginess in the morning was associated with creativity, Morning Pages still surprised me in their effectiveness.
Morning Pages are now a crucial part of my morning routine. I do them as soon I as I wake up. 80 percent of people between the ages of 18–44 check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up.
Instead of focusing on consumption, dumping your thoughts onto a paper has helped me remove many worries from my mind and achieve a deeper sense of clarity.
When we sleep, there are subconscious breakthroughs and connections that we experience that still float around immediately as we wake up.
Josh Waitzkin, former chess prodigy and tai chi world champion explains that he makes requests to his subconscious before bed by thinking about problems he wants to solve. Right after he wakes up, he meditates and takes out his journal to tap into these higher realms of learning and creativity he calls “crystallised intelligence”.
Could bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning change your life?
As crazy as it might seem, I believe the answer is yes.
— Tim Ferriss
The Joy Of The Process
I’ve come to look forward to waking up to do my Morning Pages. When I first started this practice, it was difficult for me to begin putting my pen to paper. I would look at my notifications first to try and procrastinate.
Recently, in my hazy tiredness of the morning I’ve reached for my journal because of the sheer joy I experience from writing the pages. The pages are purely for the process of writing. There is no criticism or standard in which the quality of them are measured.
Most of you have probably experienced going about your way with unresolved conflicts in your mind. With random incoherent thoughts popping up and distracting you throughout the day.
We’re not always conscious enough to eradicate these thoughts. I’ve found that since I’ve started my routine, many mundane illiterate thoughts have been eradicated.
It has become a crucial process for me to dismantle the unhelpful thoughts and focus only on how I can improve my life and the lives of those around me. They’ve helped me direct me towards areas of my life that need attention.
Since Morning Pages are personal to the individual, you may use them for another reason. Perhaps you want to beat an addiction, or achieve a goal.
You may possibly trap the thoughts that bring you back like “I can’t do it” or “Just another cigarette” onto the page and be able to defeat whatever you’re facing.
“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”
— Julia Cameron
Morning Pages have become an essential part of how I start my day. While I can’t completely understand why they work the way they do, their practical benefits have displayed enough for me to continue the process.
If you want to read more about morning pages, check out The Miracle of the Morning Pages Journal by Julia Cameron.
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