I’ve dipped in and out of journaling for pretty much as long as I could hold a pen and point it at a piece of paper. Recently, I’ve been reading about morning pages, described by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, as “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.” So, full disclosure. I haven’t read The Artist’s Way. It might be awesome but I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how journaling first thing in the morning is a pretty life-changing experience, so I decided to give it a go.
Before I go any further, I want to make it super clear that if writing with a pen on paper isn’t accessible to you, or comfortable for you, use whatever tools are right for you. I know a lot of people believe it absolutely has to be pen and paper, which is cool if that’s what works for you, but if a screen and a keyboard, or talking into a dictation app, fit your needs better, go with that. This is about giving yourself an opportunity for growth (the word growth keeps popping up in my life recently and it’s good-weird), not about making you hurt yourself to prove something. OK?
Before I started, I removed any requirement for how much I ‘had’ to write. If I can sit up and make my hands work enough to write at all in the morning, I’m doing well. My fine motor control is basically non-existent when I wake up so no way am I going to feel like I’m not doing it properly because my fingers or wrist seize up before I hit three pages. I write with a fountain pen, partly because it’s the smoothest writing experience I’ve found (again, the fine motor control and seizey-uppy hands issue) and partly because if there’s an opportunity to use fancy stationery, I’m going to take it.
When I’m doing my morning journaling, I let whatever happens happen. Sometimes I write about my dreams the night before. Sometimes I write about some random stuff that was floating around my head when I woke up at 4am. Sometimes I write about awesome happy stuff or niggling annoyances. No-one else sees what I write, so it doesn’t matter. The point, for me anyway, isn’t to write amazing things. The point is to empty out my brain in preparation for the rest of the day.
It feels really REALLY good to brain-spew like that. Sure, sometimes it’s just frivolous rambling to wake up my brain, but sometimes it offers an opportunity to dissect patterns in my thoughts that I may not have been aware of and to consciously work through baggage I didn’t even know I was carrying around. That’s why journaling in the morning is good – my mind isn’t fully awake yet so everything flows a bit better. It doesn’t always make a huge amount of sense, but some things have come up that were only able to come up because I was in full stream of consciousness, zero judgement mode.
As well as morning journaling being a generally joyous and wonderful experience in itself, it has totally changed how I approach the rest of my day. I’m not even being all like, totally about it. I mean the change has been total. After my morning routine, I get stuck into emails and online volunteering. I am so unbelievably chill by the time I get to this that literally nothing can stress me out or piss me off. Same goes for work-related social media time and to-do list doing. I feel focused and relaxed but also I am hardcore getting shit done.
And oh my productive god, by the time it gets to writing in the afternoon, my brain is READY. Because I’m better able to focus when I do sit down to write, the words happen more naturally and I don’t have the creeping sense of dread that I’m somehow running out of time. I haven’t entirely managed to master the stopping-before-my-eyes-hurt part of working sensibly, but I’m getting there. For a long time, I thought the antidote to bursts of manic activity was forcing myself to stop, even when it left me lying awake at night with my head spinning. It isn’t. The antidote is more effectively setting myself up for the day and making the most of my creative time so I can work more efficiently and reach a natural resting point.
When I started journaling in the morning, I assumed it would probably be sort of helpful and would at least give me an opportunity to empty some crap out of my head before getting stuck into my day. I honestly had no idea it would positively affect the rest of my day the way it has. Whether you write three pages or ten pages or one sentence, I fully recommend giving it a go and seeing where it takes you.
Do you journal in the morning? Do you journal at all? Do you completely hate people who use journal as a verb? Do you use journal as a verb just because you know there are people who completely hate that? Let me know in a comment!