Morning Pages: A Way to Declutter Our Mind

“Of all the self-help tools I’ve tested through the years,” Oliver Burkeman (author of The Antidote) writes in his latest issue of The Imperfectionist, “one has proved more enduring than the rest: Morning Pages.”

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 simple but our complicated minds want to tell us they won’t work for us.

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

Julia Cameron writes about morning pages in The Artist’s Way and her shorter spin-off, The Miracle of Morning Pages. She says:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are not 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.

– Julia Cameron

I write three pages minimum every morning. Without any intention of producing a work of art, just jotting down words and thoughts as they come.

A mind-map from one of my morning pages.

My method is cribbed from Julia Cameron: I write, by hand, these daily meanderings that are not meant to be art. Or even writing. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included. My morning pages are not particularly interesting. They are often negative, frequently fragmented, often self-pitying, stilted or babyish, angry or bland — even silly-sounding. I found this tidbit reassuring; knowing that nothing I write has to be good makes it so much easier to do every day.

When I don’t know what to write about I answer the prompts from my collection. (This morning I wrote about first principles and food)

I often do some combination of mind-mapping and doodles that was inspired by Austin Kleon. I do this very slowly, and let one thing sort of lead into the other. It’s like emptying the junk in your brain.

I recently found out that the director Harmony Korine does a deranged version of this kind of non-linear map-writing to come up with ideas for his films. Watch the video above (if you dare) to see it in action.

In Julia Cameron’s book of The Artist’s Way, she writes that:

Morning pages are about tuning out our inner critic. “We learn to hear our censor’s comments and say, simply, ‘Thank you for sharing,’ while we go right on writing. We are training our censor to stand aside and let us create.”

“There’s a general attitude here that’s well worth cultivating,” Oliver writes, “a healthy scepticism toward the part of your brain that’s so enthusiastic about controlling how things unfold. You just do the pages, and something else does the rest.”

Here, I think, is something else valuable to be uncovered from the morning pages: just as you let go and let the pages unfold, in some small way, you’re also training yourself to let your day unfold. To, hopefully, be as improvisational and playful in filling your day as you were about filling your notebook.

Thanks for reading

If you have any comments or feedback on this article, I’d love to hear from you. The best way to reach me is on Twitter @samyakr_.

2 responses to “Morning Pages: A Way to Declutter Our Mind”

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