Daily Journaling for Creativity

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I don’t have as much creative drive to write the kind of content I want to on this blog. Maybe you’ve noticed that several posts in a row were list-style posts.

I have nothing against list-style posts, and all of my lists were ones that I felt were important to share, but my preferred style of incorporating lists is to use them sparingly, mixed in with other posts occasionally.

Instead of mixing it up, I’ve recently exhausted several of my list ideas because when I sit down to write my bi-weekly blog post, I’m finding that I just don’t have the energy or motivation to use words the way I used to.

In looking for ways to remedy this creative drought, I came across an idea called “Morning Pages” from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

In her own words:

“The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages.

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.”

~ from Jula Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” online
JuliaCameronLive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages

I’d heard of this before (probably from The Creative Pep Talk Podcast), but because my ADHD brain doesn’t retain what I don’t regularly use, I forgot about it until now.

(This reminds me that I haven’t listened to Creative Pep Talk in months. It’s my favorite podcast, but I’ve been busy, and turning my interest to learning other things. I should really start listening again, and get some of that patented Creative Pep.*
(*To my knowledge, Andy J Miller did not actually patent Creative Pep. I don’t know why I worded it that way. I’m leaving it, though, because it emphasizes how that source gives me pep like no other.)
…but now I’m getting sidetracked, and podcast recommendations are a topic for another day.
(maybe even another list oop)
)

With renewed interest in Morning Pages, I went down a Google rabbit hole, and found that this is a somewhat universally renowned way of maintaining creativity and motivation.

The benefits of morning pages are talked about as follows:

“Lots of people are already huge fans of writing first thing in the morning.

The most popular version of this habit comes from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Every morning, you write a stream of consciousness set of “Morning Pages” and that writing leads to:

– Clarity — the jumble of thoughts in your head get articulated and captured. That leaves your mind calm and clear.

– Reduced anxiety — again, any fears and anxieties get named and captured so that you can deal with them rationally. No more tension sitting just below the surface of your conscious mind.

– Ideas and epiphanies — your mind has been working all night. Sometimes you’ll discover new connections or brilliant ideas.”

~ from Medium.com writer, “Coach Tony”
medium.com/better-humans/how-to-get-more-creativity-from-your-morning-pages-practice-27684106268d

“Doing Morning Pages is about uncluttering the mind to make room for more creative thoughts. All the stuff that usually simmers under the surface-including any inner demons and anxieties-gets wrestled from your head and put on the page. As a result, your inner critic becomes quieter, and negative self-talk dwindles. Your focus increases, and clarity sharpens. And in the midst of all that haphazard jotting, strange and wonderful ideas sometimes do appear on the page.”

~from the blog, “Mind Fuel Daily”
MindFuelDaily.com/livewell/morning-pages-a-simple-ritual-to-boost-creativity

…and there are similar raves from multiple other sources.


I have a couple of problems with this, though:

The first of which is probably what’s on a lot of writer’s minds, and Julia Cameron would probably dismiss this as an excuse easily overcome, but in the interest of honesty, here is my doubt:

If I already can’t generate content, then how am I going to fill three pages?
Three pages is daunting to do one time.
Three pages feels like stretch to do more than once.
Three pages every day, then, seems impossible. There won’t be time for anything else.

Lyle Chan suggests the following:

“If you find the idea of 3 pages intimidating, then here is a fall-back:
Just write for 20 minutes. If at the end of 20 minutes, you want to continue, then do so. You probably will.”

~ from the post “Morning Pages” on Lyle Chan’s blog:
LyleChan.com
lylechan.com/happiness/morning-pages

I’m going to do that time idea, and take it a step further. I’ll go ten minutes.

It sounds small, but what I usually find with new habits is that if it’s not small, I won’t do it. I’ll tell myself that I’ll do it, but then by day three or four, I’m saying “I don’t have an extra twenty minutes today, so I’ll just skip today,” and then suddenly, I’m skipping multiple days, until finally, the aspiration to write twenty minutes a day is an ancient memory.


My other issue is the morning part of “Morning Pages.”

I’m not a morning person.

And, as any parent of small children knows, if Mom tries to get up early to do a morning routine before she steps into the parent role again, her child will simply adjust their sleeping schedule and get up early, too.
Resistance is futile.

Is there any reason daily journaling has to be in the morning?

Well, in the Productivityist article, “Why You Shouldn’t Spend Time Journaling in the Morning” (which I only found because I was looking for a source to justify dropping the “morning” from “Morning Pages”), Mike Vardy says:

“I’m a big fan of journaling. But I’m not a fan of taking time to write in your journal in the morning. . . .
I don’t consider that to be journaling in its purest sense. That’s because when you work on these pages (or spend time “freewriting” as Mark Levy discusses in his book Accidental Genius), you’re not setting out to journal. Instead, you’re really emptying the mind. Sure, some of the things that might come out would fit into a journal entry but those would be incidental rather than intentional. In my mind, that doesn’t fulfill the promise of what journaling can offer you and your productivity.
In fact, when you write in your journal in the morning, you don’t have much to chronicle yet. If anything, you’re spending time writing out what you’re planning to do for the day. There may be other bits of writing that get into a morning journal entry but in my experience the majority of what is written are plans for the hours ahead. I don’t think that’s an effective use of that time.
. . .
am a big fan journaling. But you need to time it in a way that allows you to leverage the early part of the day for action as opposed to reflection. . . . Writing in my journal is part of my evening routine, so I begin my entries just as I’m closing out my day. At that point, I’m pretty much spent and I’m ready to fully reflect on the moments of the day that has just gone by. The act of journaling right before bed allows me to fall asleep faster and deeper because I’ve emptied all of the tanks – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.”

~ from Mike Vardy’s site,
Productivityist.com
Productivityist.com/no-morning-journaling

So, there it is. Solid reasons to journal at night instead of the morning.


No matter how it is done, or what time of day, the benefits of journaling are generally agreed upon.

For me personally, I want to try it in order to get my writing juice back.

So, starting tonight, I’m going to begin a practice of trying to journal every day, most likely in the evening, hopefully for at least ten minutes a day. I intend to document the journey, and let you know how this goes.

My next scheduled post is a quarterly update post, which means that the post after that one will be a good time to see if journaling has helped me (and if I even stuck to it.) That will be in four weeks.



Note to self (and anyone else interested) :

“The Artist’s Way” is also a book.

I’m not going to buy it right now, because I have a bad habit (or very good habit?) of impulse-buying books. It seems like a good read, but the scolding adult voice in my head tells me to buy it without thinking longer would be irresponsible, because “Rebecca, no! You have a budget! You order so many books, and you have a bunch of unread books on the shelf already!”

So I’ll just keep a link here to come back to, in case I decide to go for it:

(If anyone who sees this post has already read the book, please let me know your thoughts. Is it worth it?)

5 comments

  1. I was given “The Artist’s Way” five years ago by my college best friend. She said it was life-changing and told me stories of how it changed people’s lives that she knew. So, I started the morning pages and daily walks. I began my blog a few months later. Then I submitted a story to a website I followed and was given a weekly parenting advice column. I have several books in various stages of revisions now, too. I credit the morning pages to this. I find that morning works to declutter my mind and helps me get rid of worries and anxiety.
    As for doing morning pages in the evening, there’s another book to check out: Flourish by Martin Seligman. There’s an exercise in it called the “Three Blessings.” He suggests at the end of the day to reflect and write down three things that were positive in your day. They can be tiny like a stranger smiled at you or monumental like a wedding. Then write WHY these things happened. He said he tried this with his students and patients and it was as effective as medication in treating depression!

    Liked by 1 person

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