Last month, I wrote about Todd Henry’s concept of “Unnecessary Creativity” and one of the ideas he endorsed was Julia Cameron’s morning pages. The essence of morning pages is to write 3 hand-written pages of anything, first thing in the morning. I’ve started and stopped writing morning pages for over a decade. They’re not easy. I realized that despite my best efforts, hand writing wasn’t effective for me. I’m a millennial, I can’t help it, I had to type. Three hand-written pages turned into one and a half pages on my word processor. After 21 days, I had 21 entries: 15 were completed in the morning, and 6 weren’t started until after 6p. After 36 days, I had 35 entries – missing only 1 day.
Looking over the entries, I admit, it is gratifying to see my progress on a particular project from announcement, to pitch and award process, the evolution of copy, the inevitable creative clash, the edit, and the end result, all of it, scribbled (and typed) in these pages – including whatever else was going on in my life at the time. In one of my favorite and oft-quoted from books, Maximize Your Potential, is this essay by Teresa Amibale called “Keeping a Diary to Catalyze Creativity” and it’s essentially what happens when you’re writing morning pages.
Shit gets real when you journal with purpose, although I don’t feel less lame in typing that sentence. Keeping a log, or journalling, or whatever you want to call it leaves you vulnerable – no one wants to watch themselves make the world’s slowest evolving mistake, page after page. But if you don’t know where you went wrong, you’re bound to do it again. In the essay, Amibale makes a great point about what can happen when you journal with purpose:
In our research into the diaries of more than two hundred professionals working on creative projects inside organizations, we found that the single most important motivator is making progress in meaningful work. On the days when these professionals saw themselves moving forward on something they cared about—even if the progress was a seemingly incremental “small win”—they were more likely to be happy and deeply engaged in their work. And, being happier and more deeply engaged, they were more likely to come up with new ideas and solve problems creatively.
Additionally, Amibale provids this chart (see bel0w), which is a great visual for how to journal effectively. Morning pages gets you writing every day – and for many writers, that’s a great start, but if those words don’t ultimately add up to something, it’s hard to keep going. With morning pages, I found myself googling “What to write in morning pages?” because I would get a paragraph in and feel like I was just recounting things as they happened. Today, I woke up. I went into work. Work was challenging. I came home. I ate spaghetti. I tried tea for the first time. I didn’t like it. Will try again.
As I move into my second month of journalling, I have these pages to keep in mind in an effort to make journalling, and thus myself, work a little bit harder and maybe get a little more out of the process.
What do you think – do you keep a journal? Have you tried? I recently purchased the Daybooks of Edward Weston. In these books, Weston, a well-known photographer, kept a journal for over 15 years and within its pages, recorded his struggle understand society, himself, art, etc. I won’t compare my own efforts to Weston’s though maybe my words will gain a bit of clarity in the wake of his.