I had always heard about the benefits of journaling first thing every morning but it wasn’t until I started reading the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron that I actually tried it. The book is written with the intention of helping artists get over their creative blocks by getting them back in touch with a sense of faith. Part of the 12-week course is to write 3 pages every day, first thing. You don’t plan anything, you just write. You’ll see, something special will happen.
Not convinced? Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” wrote on Facebook “Just to show how influential it's been to me—the first time I did the program, I had decided by the end of it that I wanted to 1) travel to Italy and learn Italian, 2) Go to an Ashram in India, and 3) Return to Indonesia to study with the old medicine man I'd once met there. We all know what THAT decision led to... Without ‘The Artist's Way’, there would have been no ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.”
I know it sounds daunting when you first hear this and you’re probably thinking “Who has the time?” But it only takes 20-30 minutes. There is something magical about putting pen to paper.
Here are 5 benefits that I’ve discovered after making this a habit.
1. It’s therapeutic.
Before you check your phone, and before you have your coffee, well ok, as you sip your coffee, just write. Write without judgement and see what comes up. Thoughts, fears, a conversation that bothered you, just write it out. When you get to 3 pages, you stop. (Some days I write 2 pages and some days I write 10). I have found that letting out what’s bothering me is a great way to start to the day because then those nagging thoughts don’t follow me around. Now I find that if I skip a day, my brain gets full and I don’t function as well. Julia is quick to point out that this isn’t about writing something pretty, it’s about a release, without judgements. It’s your free space where you don’t have to be “right” or “grammatically correct”. It’s your space to dream and get back in touch with yourself. You can even throw the loose-leaf paper away afterwards if you want. The act of writing is enough.
2. It makes you pay attention.
As the months have passed, my morning pages have developed a rhythm that usually starts with observing the weather. If the weather is good and I sit outside, I take note of the squirrels chasing each other. If it’s raining I notice the droplets hitting the window. I notice how the weather makes me feel. I notice if my coffee tastes good that day. I notice how I feel. If I’m emotional, I dive into it and it helps me identify my exact feelings. This is not just good for me as a writer, but it’s good for my mental health. It’s an integral part of my self-care because if I can’t identify how I’m feeling, how can I figure out how to fix it? Most of the time it passes once I write it down. The residual effect of noticing my surroundings is that I feel gratitude more often than before.
3. It’s like active meditation.
As I become more aware of my surroundings and my own state, that act of observing feels so relaxing that it feels like active meditation. I write for 20-45 minutes every morning and in that time, my only job is to observe and write.
4. Patterns will start to emerge.
I have been writing morning pages for 9 months and I see certain patterns emerge. It’s a great insight into how we think. If I see an emotion like self-doubt repeatedly come to the surface, I know to write about that and try to identify why it keeps surfacing. Normally I am able to get past it or accept it.
5. It will make you brave.
When I say patterns emerge, I don’t just mean negative patterns. Positive patterns also arise. If you see that every day you are writing about your desire to take a certain trip or get back to riding horses or you really want to learn how to play piano, this will all come up too. After trying new things that pop up as ideas (she urges us to go on ‘Artist Dates’) you will get into the habit of experimenting. Maybe you will slowly gain the bravery it takes to try out the really big life changes you want to make.
But don’t take it from me. Pick up the book and try it yourself. What better way is there to spend your time than investing in your own happiness?