I have found a sense of calm in writing.
There is something about getting my thoughts on to the page that helps me to think.
I remember reading in the book How to Take Smart Notes about a historian who wanted to interview Richard Feynman:
When he spotted Feynman’s notebooks, he said how delighted he was to see such “wonderful records of Feynman’s thinking.” “No, no!” Feynman protested. “They aren’t a record of my thinking process. They are my thinking process. I actually did the work on the paper.”
The more you write, the more you think, as the words flow out of your mind on to the page.
As yet, my typing speed hasn’t caught up with my thinking speed. This is what I get for a lifetime coding instead of writing long form content.
If I really need to clear my head, then I do this with pen and paper.
One of my morning rituals, before I sit down to write my blog posts for the day, is to write what has been coined by Julia Cameron in the book The Artist’s Way as my “Morning Pages”.
Julia Cameron describes morning pages on her site as:
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page
I must admit I have yet to read The Artist’s Way, but it is on my to read list. I heard about Morning Pages from some of my favourite productivity gurus, such as Ali Abdaal and Tim Ferriss, who both seem to implement this morning ritual.
As Julia describes, it is writing anything that comes to mind for 3 pages. I don’t always get to 3 pages, but I try not to write any more than that.
The key is to write down anything that is on your mind and get it down on paper. It doesn’t even need to be legible. On a good day, my handwriting is atrocious, so you can only imagine what it is like when I am trying to write at the speed I think.
It doesn’t matter if your handwriting is terrible, or you have spelt something wrong. No one else is going to read it. In fact, you probably won’t read it again, either.
So what is the point of morning pages if it is never read by anyone?
Writing down your thoughts on the page comes with a number of benefits.
For me, the main benefit of morning pages is to clear my mind.
I often have various thoughts rattling around my brain, and these can be distracting if I am still thinking about them when I am are trying to write.
Once I have all of these thoughts out of my head on to the page, they no longer need to consume any of my mental bandwidth, which makes it easier to focus on my work.
Another quote from How to Take Smart Notes comes to mind:
Only if we know that everything is taken care of, from the important to the trivial, can we let go and focus on what is right in front of us. Only if nothing else is lingering in our working memory and taking up valuable mental resources can we experience what Allen calls a “mind like water” - the state where we can focus on the work right in front of us without getting distracted by competing thoughts.
It is when you let your mind wander that you come up with your best ideas.
I try and let my mind wander when I am writing my morning pages. Different thoughts come to me as I write, and I will often go off on different tangents of consciousness.
I am sure if you ever tried to read my morning pages, it would appear like a mad man's ramblings. The point is, by letting my mind wander and meander down different paths, I come up with novel ideas.
This will then get added to my backlog of ideas for my writing and my YouTube videos.
Naturally, some of my thoughts are worries. These negative thoughts can cloud my judgement, as well make me feel anxious.
My daughter has had a “worry monster” for a while now. This monster is a soft toy with a zip over his mouth.
Whenever she is worried about something, she writes it down, places it in the worry monster’s mouth and then hangs it on her door before bed. Then at nighttime, the worry monster “magically eats” her worries away.
There is obviously nothing magical about the worry monster. In fact, the monster is just there as a fun way to encourage her to write down her worries.
Once your worries are written down, they take less of a toll on your mental faculties and also ease some of that anxiety too.
For me, my journal is my worry monster. It might as well eat the pages, as I never reread them anyway.
Writing 3 A5 pages each morning sounds like it would take a long time.
At most, it takes me around 10 minutes to complete this morning ritual. I don’t always complete the full 3 pages, but it is always at least 2 pages. I stop when I have nothing else going round my head.
Like any practice, whether it be journaling or meditation, you have to take time to do it. If I didn’t see the benefits or enjoy doing it, I wouldn’t be able to find the time. We always seem to make time for the things we enjoy doing.
If your morning is pretty hectic, then it doesn’t have to be done first thing in the morning.
Some mornings, I do get up at 5 am to write. On those mornings, when the house is quiet and I don’t have any other obligations, I write my morning pages before I do my other writing.
The rest of the time, I get up between 6.30 and 7.00 am. This is when my mornings are occupied by sorting out breakfast for my family and getting my daughters ready for school.
On these days, I take 10 minutes at the start of my work day to do my morning pages. I just like a clear head before I do my writing.
Although the main benefit of morning pages is to allow you to focus more on your work, you can do it at any time of the day. As the process is good for clearing your mind of unwanted thoughts, it can be a good practise to do it before bed so that you sleep better.
Whenever you to do it, I would recommend finding time for this practise, as I have found it really beneficial for my mental health as well as my creativity.