Last week, I wrote about morning pages as one way to conquer resistance to getting stuff done first thing in the AM.
Morning pages, a term coined by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way (affiliate link), are basically three pages of longhand stream-of-consciousness writing that you do first thing in the morning. (Hence the name. Duh.)
Now, I’m a big believer in this practice, which I affectionately call “taking out the mental trash.” The benefits are totally real and concrete: clearer head, greater focus, new ideas, heightened creativity, intuitive leaps, more “centered” feeling … I could go on but you get the picture. Morning pages = very good thing for those of y’all who want to be more creative and productive.
Sometimes those benefits don’t come immediately — sometimes, you gotta keep at it for awhile — but they DO come, invariably, to anyone willing to stick with it long enough.
Sounds great, right? So how come they’re so freaking hard to actually DO?
Why We Resist What’s So Good For Us
Resistance to the actual process of writing morning pages is not unheard of. I’m here to tell you that I’ve experienced first hand just about every form of resistance myself to this practice.
And I know what good stuff comes out of them!
So how do you do it? How do you cut through the crap and stay committed to the process long enough to see the benefits?
The problem with MPs is that, at least at first, it feels kinda silly, especially before you start to notice any benefits. It’s not art. It’s not planning or scheduling. It’s not really a diary or a journal.
It’s so far outside our frame of reference, at least initially, that it feels … weird.
And then there’s the time commitment. I mean, thirty minutes a day?! Who can even find time to breathe, some days, amiright? What are you supposed to do, get up at 4 o’freaking’clock in the morning?!
(Well. Yes. Maybe. More on that in a bit.)
My experience with clients who’ve (however grudgingly) adopted MP practice is that there’s one group, above all others, who especially struggle with this resistance to the pages, and that’s my writer peeps.
It makes sense if you think about it. Most of my writer clients already struggle with being consistent in their writing. They sit down to the computer and get beguiled by the internet, or by the television, or the loads of dirty laundry piling in the corridor. It’s a constant fight for them to achieve consistent, productive writing time.
So, for them, spending time writing something that they won’t ever use seems wasteful.
I’m not going to lie. It takes a tremendous act of will to keep writing even when you think it’s wasteful or silly. It takes faith. It takes shutting your eyes and breathing and just keeping the pen moving despite the resistance.
You may feel completely unable to think of a thing to write. If you honestly can’t think of anything to write, then keep writing “I don’t know what to write.” Something will eventually occur to you besides that thought and you write that down. That thought will probably lead to another — write it down, too.
And if nothing ever does occur to you? Then you keep writing “I don’t know what to write.” Yes. For three solid pages. Then you try again the next morning.
MPs force you to slow your thoughts down to the speed of handwriting. So, it stands to reason that if you keep the pen moving as quickly as you can so as not to trigger a mental wall blocking the access to your thoughts, you’ll experience less resistance.
Specific Tips to Move Past Resistance
Some more random tips that will help you get the most out of the MP ritual:
- Seriously, do them first thing in the morning, even before coffee if you can. Ahem. For some of you, this may not seem possible. Try setting up your coffee or tea preparations the night before.
- Lay out the notebook and pen right by the coffee pot or tea kettle while you’re at it.
- MPs take about thirty minutes. Tell yourself you can do anything for thirty minutes. Don’t think about tomorrow’s pages, or next week’s seven sets of pages. Just today’s.
- You must cut off all other possibilities. You MUST write three pages — front, back, front of a second sheet — every day. Do not accept one line less.
- Remind yourself you only have to try it for a month. That’s enough time to make it a habit and to begin to see the benefits in your daily productivity and creativity.
- Reengineer morning activities to make time. Thirty minutes less sleep won’t kill you. Go to bed half an hour earlier if you must.
- If all else fails and you’re sick of writing “I don’t know what to write” then write down what you’ll get from doing MPs — clearer head, greater productivity, heightened creativity, more focus, clearer sense of direction, intuitive insights, greater internal consistency between values and actions.
- This one’s been a huge help to me: Use a pen with easily flowing ink. I use Pilot Precise V5s. If the pen moves easily, you’re more likely to keep at it.
- Use the cheapest notebook you can find. This is not journaling – don’t put your pages in high quality, expensive blank books. The marble-cover comp books are a great choice. Each notebook will last you about a month.
Have you ever tried MPs? Experienced resistance to them? Share with the class! Tell us about your experiences and tips in the comments.