By ALLIE MYSZKA
I’m a huge proponent of journaling. We all have thoughts floating around in our head that need to escape from time to time, and writing things out on a page can help us to process complex emotions during the difficult seasons of life.
I’ve always believed my journal needs to be beautifully written, and turn into something that could easily be published as a book after I die—a bit extreme to think about, I know, but who wants to leave a sloppy and scattered journal behind for someone to discover in a dusty attic someday?
But recently, my relationship with journaling has completely changed—and so has my life because of it.
A Different Approach to Journaling
Toward the beginning of this year, I came across a concept called “morning pages.” The idea comes from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.
In short, it’s the practice of writing three, stream-of-consciousness, longhand pages every single morning. You’re not editing yourself as you go; it’s messy, honest, and occasionally emotional and raw. As you freely write, you’re essentially clearing the “mental clutter” from your mind so that all your daily thoughts and mental distractions don’t get in the way of productivity, creative energy, or ideas.
When I began doing morning pages in January, I was doubtful they would do anything to help me. Sit down and write about nothing in particular for a half-hour in the morning? What a waste of time, I thought. Write out all my thoughts as they come to me? I don’t need that, I told myself. I saw blog posts and articles everywhere that contained claims of, “The morning pages changed my life,” or, “Everyone can benefit from this practice,” and rolled my eyes. Really, how could such a simple concept make any difference.
Nonetheless, I bought a $3 notebook from Target and began writing every morning. I now have five full months (minus a few days here and there) recorded in that notebook, and I now see the true power in the morning pages.
Self-Awareness Is a Powerful Thing
When I sit down with my notebook, it usually takes me half a page or so to get through things like, “I need to do laundry,” or, “Did I remember to call my mom back?” But once those things have left my brain and spilled onto the page, I’m left with the thoughts that have been eating me alive from the inside out— thoughts I often didn’t even know were there.
I’m prone to serious bouts of anxiety and depressive states, and I’ve spent much of the last several years on a roller coaster ride that constantly swings between the two. Since I began working with the morning pages, those huge swings are lessening—both in frequency and severity.
The morning pages have truly changed not just my work as a writer and creative soul, but my life as a human—you don’t have to consider yourself a “creative” for this practice to help you. There’s so much power in getting past your menial, everyday thoughts, and spilling out your deepest fears and desires onto a page. You’ll discover things about yourself that you didn’t know existed, and—in time—you’ll begin to see yourself more clearly than ever before. By spilling out your own thoughts and emotions, you can see how to proactively address issues in your life and relationships before they even become issues.
I’ve now reached a point where I don’t properly function all day if I don’t do the morning pages. Those pent-up thoughts haunt me all day, and I can’t focus on a single task until I just stop and write them, then move on with my day. And to my surprise, I’m far more productive in just about anything I’m doing once I’ve cleared the “mental cobwebs” and left them on the pages of my notebook.
Final Thoughts on the Morning Pages
In order for the morning pages to work, author Julia Cameron advises keeping your notebook in a safe space where no one else can read it, and she warns that we should even be cautious of which people in your life are aware that your notebook exists. These pages only produce heightened self-awareness if you can be completely honest on them—with no fear of someone reading your innermost thoughts.
So, I encourage you to think about creating this safe space on pages for yourself. Get past the excuses. Waking up 30 minutes before you normally do? Yes, it’s a change. Spending 30 minutes working on your own emotional state instead of tending to your spouse or kids? Yes, it’s different from what you’re used to.
But in time, I think you’ll find the self-awareness it brings will help you to become a better woman. A better wife, daughter, mother, sister, and friend.
Below are a few resources to help you learn more about the morning pages (click the titles):
Allie was born and raised in Georgia, and moved to Nashville after graduating from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!). She’s a freelance writer, Pilates instructor, old soul, and chronic DIY-er. Connect with Allie at alliemyszka.com.