Most of us play different roles in different areas of our lives. We are one person to our family. Another to our friends. There is a third version of us who exists at work, and a fourth in the checkout line at the grocery store. In all these settings, there are expectations we have for ourselves and expectations other people have for us – we’re playing a role, and all the expectations can get exhausting.
One tool that lets you get beyond all that is morning pages, a concept proposed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.
Here are the guidelines:
You write three single-spaced notebook pages per day, as early in the morning as possible (although admittedly, for a time I wrote them in a cubicle on my lunch break).
The point is to consult your brain first thing in the morning because your subconscious has been solving your problems overnight. Writing early in the morning can capture some of that wisdom.
When I did morning pages consistently, it became a place to dump out the garbage in my brain – all my swirling thoughts – and start to work things out.
At first it was hard to write three pages. I didn’t know what to say. But after a while, I started to look forward to it. I didn’t feel right unless I had written my pages.
Sure, a lot of what I wrote was garbage: There’s a squirrel on the window. It’s early, and I’m tired. I have a lot to do today. But sometimes, once I got that stuff out – the hazy, grumpy morning thoughts – I was able to go past that and into something much deeper.
Sometimes, strange predictions came out on the page. It was a place to tell myself the truth.
When you start telling yourself the truth, magic happens.
There would be tiny, luminous lines hidden amongst unimportant info. Buried in pages of scribbles, I would sometimes find a gem.
I predicted a breakup I never would have admitted to my friends. I outlined a vision for a job I wanted. (Not a lot of people were hiring at the time, and what I wanted seemed impossible. But some time later, I found a job just like what I had hoped for in my morning pages – and it came at just the right time.)
In morning pages, you are free to problem-solve, worry, look at options, and speculate for the future. There are no consequences because you are only talking to yourself. Especially right now, when things are so uncertain, and things are changing every day, and you might feel full of anxiety, having a safe place to air your worries might feel very useful.
The blank page is great. No one is reading what you write, so no one has any stakes in you behaving a particular way or making one choice or another.
It’s an empty page where you can be free from all the roles you play in life.
Morning pages are a garden, a space to dream – a test-bed for your new reality. And the results can be magical.
If you try them, let me know your results.