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These 3 Pages Might be Your Key to a Clearer Mind, Better Ideas and Less Anxiety

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Is she crazy? How the heck am I supposed to find the time to sit down and write out 3 pages each morning?

That was my gut reaction when I first heard about Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. And if you aren’t someone who is already doing morning pages, your reaction is probably going to be along the same lines….

But I’m happy to say that I was dead wrong.

Since I have been doing this practice for the last 241 days, Morning Pages have changed my life in a myriad of ways:

  • I’ve come up with ideas that changed my businesses
  • I’ve worked through issues that were bothering me and seemed overwhelming
  • I’ve been better in tune with my intuition and listening to my heart
  • They have shown me what’s most important in my life and helped me to focus on that
  • They have helped me to leave situations and people that weren’t good for me
  • I’ve been able to unlock a lot of the chains of my mind and open up the dam so that creativity can flow
  • They bring me more serenity and help to quiet my overactive mind each day

Morning Pages are one of these things that sound so simple that you don’t think they could ever work for you. One of the things that I have realized in life is that many of the best things are really simple but our complicated minds want to tell us they won’t work for us.

What are Morning Pages?

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, ideally done first thing in the morning.

There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They aren’t 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…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

What are the Benefits of Morning Pages?

In the 241 days since I started doing Morning Pages, I have missed doing them twice. On both of those days, I was a bit more anxious, my thoughts were muddled and I just felt off. Could it be the Placebo effect? Possibly but I don’t think so.

Morning Pages have become an integral part of my Daily Routine and ultimately have made me a better person. Heavy claim, right? Here are some of the benefits:

  • They center you and clear your mind.
    We wake up with a ton of stuff floating around in our minds. We need to channel that energy and get it out. Morning Pages act as a ‘brain dump’ that will clear your mind to focus on other things. Whether it’s the small distracting thoughts that can take our attention or bigger, more challenging issues that can at times hijack our thoughts, Morning Pages allow us to “dump” all the “stuff”, making way for more constructive and creative thinking.
  • They help you discover your creativity.
    In order to retrieve your creativity, you need to find it. And it’s through this seemingly pointless process that you are able to find it. You discover things that have been hidden inside you and stuffed down in the business of life.
  • They help to silence your biggest enemy.
    Your inner critic.
  • They make you less anxious.
    Writing helps sweep away anxiety.  Envy, anger, fear, vulnerability, procrastination…all those emotions can be put on paper and seen for what they are.  By getting this stuff out and looking at it, you realize it’s not so bad and it helps to ground you.
  • They will help you become a better idea generator.
    I’ve talked a lot about the power of generating ideas on a daily basis. Your Morning Pages practice will help you take this to a new level.

The Beauty of Longhand

If you’re reading this blog post, there is a good chance that you do a lot of your work on a computer and/or mobile device. There’s a good chance that you haven’t written anything in depth or meaningful on paper in a long time. So it would make sense to you to simply type your Morning Pages out each day. You figure that you can get it done faster (since you type so much faster then you write).

Don’t do this.

Velocity is the enemy. It takes longer to write by hand, and this slowness helps connect us to our emotional life.

This was hard for me to understand at first.

Writing by computer is more emotionally detached practice. It helps keep our Inner Critic alive and well since we are so easily able to go back and fix our mistakes. It yields us speed and distance, but not the depth that we are looking for. Velocity is more often our enemy than our friend.

Think of writing morning pages on the computer as if you are driving 80 miles an hour. “Oh– wait, was that my exit?” we exclaim, glancing back over our shoulder at the destination we have blown past.

When we write by hand, it is more like we are driving 60 miles an hour. “Here comes my exit,” we say, well before we get to it. “Look, there’s even a gas station there. And what beautiful foliage…” In other words, we notice ourselves and our surroundings.

And in doing this, the paradox is that we are ultimately more effective– and, yes, efficient– throughout our day.

The Basics Behind Morning Pages

The idea behind the morning page is so simple. Wake up and  write three letter-size, handwritten pages each morning.

You write in the morning because that’s when the veil of the ego is said to be the thinnest. It’s almost as if your ego needs extra time to wake-up and start with all of its demands for the day. Take advantage of this.

Write about whatever you want. Don’t think you have anything to say? That’s fine. Simply start writing “This is so stupid, I have no clue why I listened to that guy Chris Winfield and am sitting here writing in a notebook right now.” Don’t worry, I won’t get offended :)

The amazing thing is that stuff will start coming to you. I can’t explain it but it does.

Beautiful time

How Can I Make Time for Them?

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that I would do any of the practices in my Daily Routine if I didn’t think they were making me a better person and ultimately improving my life.

One of the biggest shifts for me came with how I approached time. I no longer viewed it as just quantity and looked at it from a quality viewpoint. Each one of the things that I do helps me in some way to better use my time. They make my mind clearer, sharper and more ‘quiet’. This allows me to focus better and ultimately be more productive.

Morning Pages are a great example of this. Yes, they take time to do (about 30-40 minutes), but they actually make more time than they take because we move more efficiently through our day.

So the tradeoff of an extra 30 minutes of sleep for a clearer, more alert mind become an easy one for me.

Here’s My Personal Morning Pages System

Just like everything else I do, I had to experiment to find the right way to use this tool. Something that would work for me. I encourage you to do the same.

For something that has no wrong way to do it, there sure does seem to be a lot of rules or suggestions for the ways to do the Morning Pages. I break a lot of them… Here’s exactly what I do each day.

I start my Morning Pages after I wake up (obviously), meditate and make myself a cup of coffee.

The first two pages are focused on clearing my mind. I write about whatever pops in there. It can be mundane stuff or very serious issues, something inspiring or something that might be depressing. It’s based on completely where I am at that moment in my life. I try hard not to judge myself and just do it.

I try to keep my writing positive but that’s not always possible. And that’s also okay.

Some of the writing is in the first person. Sometimes it switches to the third person. Some of it is me talking to my Higher Power/the Universe/Creative Intelligence and some is me ‘listening’.

The first words I write on paper are exactly the same as the first words I say in the morning “Today is going to be the best day ever.”

If I come up with an idea that I want to revisit later (so that I can flesh it out), I either make a mark on the page or I stop and jot it down in a different notebook or put it into Evernote. You’re not really supposed to re-read your Morning Pages but if I didn’t come back, I would miss out on a lot of great ideas.

I use the third page to mentally plan out how my day is going to go. I always keep this page completely positive so that I can visualize a successful, happy day. I write in statements like this:

I will meet with John Smith and it will be amazing! I will really be able to help him and there will be a great reason for us to work together.

In this example, I know that I have a meeting scheduled with John Smith later in the day and I want to get my subconscious mind working on ways to make that as productive and positive as possible. Here’s another example:

I will finish writing my Morning Pages blog post and I will love doing it. This post will really help people.

This last page of intentions is absolutely crucial to me because it helps me to focus my day even more and gives me a rough outline of the most important parts for later.

Action Idea

Before you even start, remember this: There is no wrong way to do morning pages.

As with any new habit or practice, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. And with a practice like morning pages, it’s really important to let go of the results:

When we start some new course of self-improvement, whether an exercise program, a spiritual practice or morning pages, we tend to expect immediate results. At least I do. And If I don’t see results pretty quickly, I tend to find reasons to stop doing the exercise. I decided this morning that I’d commit to doing morning pages for 30 days without any expectation of results.

Here’s an easy way to approach this practice and help to develop this habit:

1) Focus on doing the morning pages tomorrow. Just focus on one day.

2) Get a pen and a notebook ready and laid out the night before.

3) Wake up 30 minutes earlier than you normally would. Be okay with that. Tell yourself the night before that you are doing this and that you will feel well-rested in the morning (that simple statement will really help).

4) Wake up, say “This is going to be the best day ever!” (you can skip this part if you want) and write three pages. Be proud of yourself for this.

5) Try to do it again the next day. Use Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret here and don’t break the chain.

As you do this, you will start to notice things happening in your life. Things that you can’t explain. These are your dreams and desires manifesting. From three simple handwritten pages…

Are you ready to get started? Please share your thoughts about the Morning Pages in the comments below.

About the author: Hi, my name is Chris Winfield. I’m a passionate entrepreneur, dedicated dad and eternal student of life. You can follow me on Twitter here.

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42 comments… add one

  • Dan

    Quite interesting … & makes lots of sense.
    Thanks

  • John

    Chris,

    Great post, and what I like best is that you said you wouldn’t do it if it didn’t help you/make you a better person. This says a lot–that you do something for 30 minutes each morning–because it works! And by making your third page about your daily plans/positive visualizations-outcomes, you really incorporate some other kinds of spiritual ideas in the morning pages practice. It’s so cool. Thanks!

  • Jeremy

    This is kinda interesting. I know every morning the mind is fresh and there are a lot of ideas bouncing around from last night sleep. But didn’t thought of writing it down. If I were to do this, I would need to wake up an hour earlier everyday.. haha.. Speechless**

  • Sandra Paul

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks very much for posting this article! I tried doing the morning pages for the first time this morning and it was a very enlightening experience.

    I have a question for you though. Do you always have to write three pages? What if I want to write two pages one day and maybe five the next day? Is that okay?

    • Thanks for the comment Sandra — great job with getting this started!

      >> “Do you always have to write three pages? What if I want to write two pages one day and maybe five the next day? Is that okay?”

      Julia Cameron is pretty insistent on 3 pages but do what works for you right now. Just start and get in the habit of doing them each day (even if you have to build up).

      Hope that helps!

  • Claudia

    I enjoyed this especially because I have felt the same way. I have been writing morning pages for several months and thought they were crazy at first but I have actually found them valuable. I committed to trying the artist’s way for 12 weeks. It was great and I am actually continuing the pages. My question though is what do you do with the pages after you write them? Some say toss. Some say save.

    • Thanks for your feedback Claudia!

      >> “My question though is what do you do with the pages after you write them? Some say toss. Some say save.”

      Personally, I keep them.

  • Mary

    Attempted the morning pages years ago but the inner critic prevailed. Also, bought most of Julia Cameron’s books which I treasure. Now your blog (AKA pep talk) just inspired me. I can do this! Thanks, coach.

    • That is SO great to hear Mary! Please check back and let us know how it goes for you…

  • Leslie

    So happy that you shared this I it’s been a little more then a month since I started doing my morning pages and it’s been such an amazing experience an for the past week or two I had some struggled to get it done but seeing this reminded me of all the great benifits that I’ve had thank you and I truly enjoyed everything you wrote thanks for the reminder and this phrase or thought reminded me of what you are doing we liberate our selfs and as we do so we automatically help others to liberate them selfs thanks for sharing take care and let those morning pages coming :)

  • Cheryl

    Graduated Carmel High School in Mundelein, IL with Julia! She was a fascinating, unique individual even back then before we all embarked on life’s journey and what was in store for all of us! I am definitely going to give “Morning Pages” a try! Thanks for this trip on Memory Lane, Chris! ~

  • Ramona

    I hate, hate, hate morning pages. But they work!

  • Hi Chris…. I enjoyed your “nudge” to get back into the morning pages. I had done them for many years, and came to discovery thru doing this discipline my long-repressed artist/writer. What I never did really seem to overcome, however, was this tremendous and intense sadness… nearly every day I sat to write. I allowed it to surface, and went with it. But man, it was tenacious, had a lot of velocity, and was always present. I found, after many years of adoring the many dimensions that seemed to be “channeling” thru me, that this victimhood tendency became boring, and wore me out. I couldn’t see the benefit of feeling rather disempowered and, well, sad…. on a daily basis, so I eventually stopped. I must say, in retrospect, that in spite of that dynamic (which I don’t desire to oppress, so I embrace her too)… the multitude of benefits that came with doing the morning pages far outweighed my sadness. I have also walked with serious depression for most of my life, so I feel like that victim voice is from the very tone of depression (oppressed expression). I would love to know if others experience anything like this, as I sometimes still have ambivalence toward it, as it’s not a “cut and dry method” for me to plan my day. At all. The guts. The glory. The bleeding. The oozing. The planning. The creation. It’s messy, and it’s beautiful. At least for me. It also aligns me with my deepest spiritual compass and inspiration. So for that alone… I will return to my beautiful mess. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Wow, thank you so much for this comment Lori, I really appreciate you sharing!

      I sometimes will have sadness in my morning pages but it’s not overwhelming. I just let it work itself out most times.

      I think that by the simple act of starting my morning pages with this sentence: “Today is going to be the best day ever!” that it helps to put my mind in a positive place to start. Little things like that really help me.

      Please check back and let us know how it goes with your renewed practice.

  • Claire

    I have read about morning pages for years. Your post put the pages in perspective in morning pages. I thought there were too many rules to follow to make mp’s truly valuable. I’m writing in the morning – my own way! Thanks Chris :-)

  • Allison

    I started a journal when I was 13, and the only time I really had that was all mine was the hour before I went to bed, so every night I would write down my day, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then I would write my hopes, fears, and dreams for the next day, week, month, and my summer plans. I did these faithfully all through 7-12 grades, all through college until my dad died at 26, but that’s an entirely different story.For me, writing out my day before going to sleep, put the day behind me. It allowed me to let go of all the “stuff” of the day and I woke up starting new. Also, once I wrote it down, I was done with it. I’ve done morning pages, but I’m truly not a morning person. I think regular journaling is beneficial no matter when you write.

    • I think regular journaling is beneficial no matter when you write.

      I definitely agree with you Allison! I also do a quick inventory of my day at night and it’s super helpful.

      I personally believe that we are all wired a bit differently and something that might work really well for someone (writing in the morning) might not work as well for someone else (someone who isn’t a morning person) but just taking some positive action (journaling) is so good!

      • Mary

        Am not a morning person either (except under duress) but love the evening hours to reflect so I switched my three pages to the evening. It was a way to “let go”, express gratitude for what was and dream for the next day. Your specific suggestions for the third page tied in beautifully! I sleep better and synchronicities are on the rise. Thank you and Julia in abundance.

        • That is so awesome Mary! I think making the morning pages “work” for you is the key.

  • This came to me at the best time. I was making a list of things I want to start to do so this is on the list and I am going to do 3 pages…again. thanks for the inspiration.

  • Francesca

    I read Julia’s book years ago and wrote morning pages for about a month. It really helped but somehow, I allowed life to get in the way and I got out of the habit. I will definitely get back into this practice. Thanks for this reminder of a great process!

  • Mary

    I loved what you had to say about Morning Pages and agree with you heartily. I was surprised, however, that you made no mention of Julia Cameron who started countless thousands of us on the Artist’s Way. If I am not mistaken, she is the one to first encourage Morning Pages, and I would surely want her to be credited with that powerful, simple tool.
    And she would be delighted when anyone shares that idea and its potential benefit with others.

    • Thanks for commenting Mary — I’m really glad you enjoyed it :)

      >> “I was surprised, however, that you made no mention of Julia Cameron who started countless thousands of us on the Artist’s Way.”

      I actually mention her quite often in the post — including in the second paragraph: “when I first heard about Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages.”

      She is the one who came up with this brilliant idea and I’m a big fan of her work :)

    • No problem at all Mary :)

  • Mary Stedham

    I owe Chris an apology. I read right past his acknowledgement of Julia Cameron as the source of his introduction to Morning Pages. Obviously, she did receive credit as she was due, and I need to pay better attention!

    Keep spreading the good word, Chris. You did a wonderful job of stating the value of this simple exercise, and I thank you for that!

  • Sherry

    I was introduced to this from a dear friend whom I so look up to! Today was the first day of the rest of my life and I want to make it better! I began my Morning Pages this morning and am excited to do this! Not a morning person but strive to make this a new goal to do! I have journaled off and on over the years but not in this format. Thanks to Julia, Mary and you for bringing this to my attention!

  • Debbi Mansberger

    Good Morning, Chris. Great blog for me this morning. I have done morning pages in the past, and strayed away from them. However, they have been on my mind, and I sensed I needed to get back to them. So, you blog this morning, was just what I needed to get jump started. For today, I will focus on doing my morning pages tomorrow. And I’m feeling a bit excited about the prospect!!! Thanks, Chris. Have a most awesome day.

  • I love your take on MPs (what I call them). I’ve been doing them for the better part of 10 years and I feel lost when I don’t do them. I appreciate the way you’ve taken the 3rd page for visualization – I think I might try that tomorrow. Thanks!

  • elizabeth

    Hi Chris- I am 2 weeks and counting with my Morning Pages. It has inspired me to make some radical changes to my artist website! Thanks.

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