I’ve always felt I can express myself best on paper. I take time to process new information and I’ve learned that my head and my heart like to process together, which can feel very emotional and frustrating – my sweet spot is having a blank page I can let my inner world gush onto – a quiet third party to pour my vulnerability, shame, fear, mess and chaos into.
But I also find traditional journalling can only get me so far. Writing about my problems in detail and how I am feeling was helpful but it could also leave me swimming in circles.
Like many people, it was because of that sense of frustration that I discovered Morning Pages, a journalling practice outlined in the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
I have talked about Morning Pages before – but Julia describes them best:
I have a daily practice of three longhand pages done first thing on awakening, hence, “Morning Pages.” The pages clear my head and prioritize my day. I think of them as a form of meditation. There is no wrong way to do the pages. You simply keep your hand moving across the page, not pausing to take what I call “mental cigarette breaks.” It is as though you are sending the universe a telegram: “this is what I like, this is what I don’t like…” Implicit in this, “please help me.” If the pages are meditation, they are also a potent form of prayer. [Read the rest of her blog here]
They’re not too complicated – just three pages of constant writing in a journal each morning. A solid stream of consciousness, a whole lot of random, nonsensical thoughts all running into each other.
The point of Morning Pages isn’t to produce anything – it’s to unblock you, to get something flowing within you.
When we were little we did a lot of family caravan trips. I’m not sure what modern caravans are like but back in the 90’s the caravans we traveled in had a pump tap over the sink instead of a standard house tap. You had to pump and pump it for the water to be drawn up from the tank into the tap. The first few pumps would yield nothing but air, then you would get a nasty spluttering of water as if the caravan itself was dying, and then finally, a steady, confident flow of water would pour out with each pump.
That’s what my Morning Pages are for me – they pump up all the spluttering mess in me until I feel like I’m flowing again.
Morning Pages aren’t designed to be read, kept or revisited. They are an exercise to get your creativity, thoughts and soul talking – they help you bypass your logical self, they help your inner voice speak without being edited or censored.
Sometimes my Morning Pages are no more than a recap of the days events and a live commentary of what’s happening with the weather – and that’s ok – as long as I don’t stop writing I’m doing it right.
And then other days my Morning Pages are like a spiritual experience. I’ll start writing and before I know it I’m finding truths about myself or my situations, new view points, wisdom, guidance, fears, motivations, insights are all falling out onto the page. Like I’ve sidestepped out of the way so my heart, my soul, my spirit can talk to me freely – it’s honestly amazing what voice I can find in a safe place.
It’s become a foundational practice for me – something that is active and makes me feel like I’m participating in my own healing – like a meditation, they give my mind a break from thoughts that seem to just chase their tail in my mind.
Then I discovered a new book. I actually first listened to the audio book of Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner and loved it to so much I bought the paperback. Where Morning Pages are about letting your inner voice speak to you, Writing Down Your Soul shows you how to write in a way that The Voice/God/The Universe/The Spirit/ The Divine…call it what you will, can speak to you.
It’s a similar practice to Morning Pages but instead of a one way conversation you create a two way conversation by writing questions on your page and then writing continuously until a answer comes, and then writing another question – it sounds strange, and the book explains it way better than I can, but I’ve been practicing writing this way and it’s been wild.
These podcasts are so amazing they really deserve their own post but one of the most interesting things was when Kristen talked about interviewing her anxiety – which fit this journalling method perfectly. So I tried it and I think it was one of the most profound journaling experiences of my life.
I’m sure these journalling techniques seem a little bit whoo-woo for a lot of people but I can tell you, when you’re experiencing anxiety, or any mental health journey, or when you are stuck in an emotional turmoil and you will try anything for a breakthrough, and when you do try something and it works – you want to tell everyone about it!
And that feeling of having a breakthrough, of taking a step forward, even if it’s a teeny tiny baby step is one of the most incredible feelings in the world.
[Art by Barbara McClintock]