How the morning pages changed my life
"The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages."Dina Indelicato
For nearly a year, I struggled with my creative writing. I felt constantly distracted by my own thoughts. I had difficulty bringing a plot to a decent end. I tried several solutions. I used meditation to improve my focus. I tried writing at different times of the day. I even joined a few online writing groups in hopes that accountability would help.
To be honest, these solutions did help a bit, but I was still stuck and frustrated. Then I learned about the morning pages. I decided to give the process a try for a week. Before the week ended, I was hooked. Writing felt natural once again. But, it wasn’t just my writing that improved. This simple habit has had an amazing impact on my life as a whole.
Morning pages are such a simple thing. It costs no many. Anybody can do it. Keep reading to learn more about this technique, and how it might help you in the same way that it helped me.
An explanation of Morning Pages
This is a simple and uncomplicated process. All you have to do is, first thing in the morning, is sit down and write three pages. This should be done in long-hand.
What do you write about? Think of it like a daily brain dump. Write about the fact that your sciatica is bothering you, whether or not you want to attend the neighborhood block party, or any other thing that happens to be cluttering your mind. The stuff you fill the pages with might be trivial, angry, happy, or just some random puff.
The idea is to get whatever is on your mind that could get into the way of your focusing on your writing, out on paper. This definitely worked for me. I’ll get into further details about this. However, that wasn’t the only benefit. I’ll also address how this simple exercise helped in other areas of my life as well.
My approach to Morning Pages
I’ve adjusted my schedule so that I get up before anyone else in my home. Then, make a cup of tea and start writing. When I first began this process, the first words I would write were, ‘This morning I’, and then I would dive into whatever it was that was going to come out next. That’s now become a habit. I now have several notebooks full of pages beginning with those three words.
One struggle that I did have was that I tend to be an edit as I go writer. It was really difficult for me to let go of that habit for this exercise. My tendency was to scratch out what didn’t look right after I wrote it. Sometimes I would even edit myself in my own head before I wrote my thoughts down.
A cleansing and disturbing process
Then I realized something. I wasn’t editing out what I thought was bad writing. Hell, most of it was bad writing. That’s part of the design of morning pages. I was editing out thoughts I wasn’t exactly proud of having. It wasn’t fun to realize that I was jealous of my best friend’s career success when I felt stuck and unsatisfied in mine. My writing revealed plenty of trivial stuff, but also a few ugly resentments.
It was difficult, but I forced myself to stop editing what I was writing and just write. That was helpful, until I made another mistake. I began reading what I was writing. This led to me shaming myself over my emotions, and harshness of some of my sentiments.
Then I remembered what Brene Brown said about shame in ‘I Thought it Was Just me: Women Reclaiming Power And Courage in a Culture of Shame’. Her words, “We cannot grow when we are in shame, and we can't use shame to change ourselves or others.” resonated with me. This was when I fully surrendered to the process.
Morning Pages and my writing
At first, I ignored everything that morning pages were influencing except my writing, and my writing was certainly impacted. I decided to engage my analytical left brain and create some metrics. Fortunately, I am a bit of a digital hoarder. I keep versions of everything that I write. I have the original version, each edited version, and then the final ready-to-publish copy all saved in different files and time stamped.
I grabbed a week of files dated before I started morning pages. I calculated my average words per day before editing and then after editing. I also made note of the number of edited versions. This was because I wanted to see if I could reduce the amount of editing needed before I was happy.
Once I was comfortable with morning pages, and fully immersed in it, I grabbed another week's worth of writing and calculated the same averages. Here’s what I discovered:
● I had more than 20% fewer edited versions.
● The differences in a number of words between my first and final drafts were lowered by nearly a third.
● My word count in both my first and final drafts went up by a little more than 650 words per day.
This meant I needed to perform fewer revisions, I was editing less when I did make changes, and I was simply putting out more words than I had previously.
Of course, it isn’t just metrics. Numbers prove a lot. They don’t prove everything. The other part was that I was enjoying writing much more. Before I started the process, I had begun to resent writing a bit. Yes, I still loved being a writer. I just wasn’t enjoying the daily work of it all.
In my teens and through my twenties, I could write anywhere. I could write on noisy trains. I wrote the first article I was paid to write in a cold studio apartment that was so tiny that I could scoot to the edge of my bed to reach the microwave and heat up a cup of coffee.
Then, I find myself a few years later, unsatisfied with my writing environment, feeling restless all of the time. I would jump at any chance to be distracted. Coffee needs refreshed? I can take care of that! We’re going to Europe in six months? Better find a great translation services guide right now!
I still watch the clock when I write. Only now I do it so I don’t lose myself so much that I forget to pick the kids up from school.
Morning Pages and the rest of my life
Okay, so the title of this piece is ‘How The Morning Pages Changed my Life’. So, now about the rest of my life. I put aside the emotional side of things for a while in order to focus on improving my writing. Still, I knew I would have to address the other stuff at some point. So, I went back to revisit things, those little bits of darkness and unpleasantries.
This is when I discovered something really cool. Many of the negative trivialities that came out when I was doing my morning pages, just kind of faded into the ether. I suppose it’s because there is something to be said about just getting things out that can be all you need to deal with some small emotional things.
Then there were the bigger things, the things that popped up over and over again, and triggered a negative emotional response each time. The act of writing them down, served to temper my feelings and allow me to deal with them constructively.
Sometimes that meant working on myself and learning to accept and cope with things, or adjusting my own actions and reactions. Other times, it did mean approaching others if I had something to resolve with them. Thanks to morning pages, I am now better able to do that using the right words and being compassionate and understanding of the other person.
Conclusion: Morning Pages advice and thoughts
If my enthusiasm hasn’t been clear enough, I cannot recommend this process enough. It’s something you can start today. It costs no more money than a pen and notebook. The hardest step to take is simply sitting down and doing it. Here are some tips that I helped me:
● Do as little as possible before you get started. I do nothing more than fix a cup of tea. Morning pages are best done before you get your day in full swing.
● Find a quiet place to work with as little potential for disruption as possible.
● Get comfortable. When I am writing to make money, I work at a desk or my kitchen table. I often do morning pages in a recliner on my veranda.
● Just write! Don’t edit. Don’t overthink it.
● Someday you might struggle to get three pages. Others, you may feel like you could keep writing and writing. I really think you get the best results if you stick to three pages strictly.
I truly believe this technique can add value to the life of any writer. Morning pages really did change my life.