Journaling or Morning Pages is a universal tool that allows you to connect to your consciousness, clear your headspace, unleash creativity and tap into inner knowledge.
Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.
―Mina Murray, Dracula
Long ago, I discovered that productivity is not as much about the things you do, as it is about how clear your head is and how good you feel about it. As a part of personal development, writing allows you to accomplish way more profound work than just thinking alone. Journaling, also known as Morning Pages, is a powerful and available to anyone tool to help you organize your thoughts, find answers and solutions, and work with unresolved situations and limiting beliefs.
What are the Morning Pages?
Morning Pages is a journaling technique developed and described by Julia Cameron in her book “The Artist Way”. It has become so popular that people far beyond creative circles use it interchangeably along with journaling. The main principle is to handwrite 3 pages of your stream of consciousness first thing in the morning, every day and with no censoring, editing or deleting. If you want to learn more about the exact way to use Morning Pages, I suggest you read the book. I will share my own experience of how journaling works and what it can do for you. And you don’t need to be a writer to get the most out of your Morning Pages.
The benefits of journaling
1. Clear your head
Similar to the computer RAM, our brain keeps all tasks, unprocessed ideas and thoughts we haven’t decided on in our working memory. To make sure we don’t forget important stuff, it will hold onto and occasionally bring them up to us until we discard, take action on, or at least write down every single unit. And if we don’t, this queue will grow and cause an overload, which we consider being our normal state. And I’m sure you know how it feels.
Because writing is an active process, it allows us to capture and sort out our thoughts that at this point feel more tangled. When we put our thoughts on paper, our mind takes this as secure storage for the information and releases it from our active memory. This is why keeping a simple diary alone can unload our brain, give us clarity and create mental space. I like to compare it to “trapping my thoughts on paper”.
2. Gain a different perspective
The second biggest advantage of journaling is the ability to look at our own thinking from a third-party perspective. When it’s hard to separate ourselves from our emotions and be rational, describing the situation on paper or on a screen helps us to take a step back and see the whole picture. I use it to analyze my behavior and find the fears and beliefs I wouldn’t otherwise know about. A similar approach would be to record my voice or tape myself on video, but writing is the simplest way to work with my own thoughts in private.
3. Mute an inner critic
Creative and self-aware people have a tendency toward self-criticism that can cause more harm than good. Julia Cameron explains in detail how ongoing writing despite your own judgment and censorship teaches us to overcome our inner critic and unleash our creativity. The goal is to keep whatever thoughts we might have going.
4. Get insights
Each of us possesses a source of inner knowledge that we rarely or don’t know how to use. Writing is one of the few completely legal and safe (wink) keys to not only access this treasure but to understand and save it for later. Morning Pages sparks my intuition and provides me with solutions I didn’t know I was capable of. Therefore, we might learn more than we think we know about ourselves.
5. Process emotion
A weight of unexpressed emotion, unresolved conflicts and unsaid words we carry inside is a ballast holding us back. Putting them in writing, as a way of taking action, can replicate the real-life experience and close the loop. It helps us to sort things out when we don’t want to or can’t have the second party involved. So unfasten yourself and pour your heart out on paper. It might feel messy at first, but nobody has to see it. It’s much better to express it on a paper without causing any real damage than keeping the demons inside.
My personal journaling tips
Can I type my journal, or should I handwrite only?
In her Morning Pages FAQ, Julia Cameron recommends that we write them longhand to better connect with our thoughts. I’ve been handwriting my journal for a few months until I experimented with (don’t laugh) combining it with my speed typing practice. Because I think very fast, typing (I use the iA Writer for MacOS with wi-fi, spelling check and all the notifications turned off) seems to handle my thought process better and feels more natural. There are journaling apps (such as “MorningPages”) available for iOS, but using a phone seems to kill the whole purpose. I say try both for an extended period of time and do whatever gives you better results.
How much do you write?
If you choose to type your journals, 3 pages of Morning Pages make approximately 750 words. This minimal amount is required to get past our surfacing layers of thinking and go deep. I normally write anywhere between 500 to 1,500 words. In my experience, the magic happens past the 500 word (2-page) mark. Only then do I I establish a strong connection with my consciousness. It’s worth time and effort.
When should I journal?
Morning is best to set yourself up for the day and get the most out of the time ahead of you. So as a habit, you want to do it among the first things after you wake up. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t write later in the day. I also open up the journal when I feel overwhelmed or even at night if something keeps me up. When traveling, I used to experience hard times writing surrounded by strangers. Eventually, I became comfortable with them too. We’re all humans, after all.
How much time does it take to journal?
Journaling on a daily basis can take some time but is extremely rewarding. It takes me about 30-60 minutes per session. After religiously writing every morning for several months, I now do just enough to maintain a clear head and good connection with my consciousness.
As a bottom line, I definitely recommend that you give journaling a try or follow the Morning Pages principles. Share your results with me or any questions or suggestions you might have.