When I was thirty-two years old, I was fully immersed into “Mommying” with all of its chaos, beauty, and stress. I had a newborn, a toddler and a five year old. I was in a perpetual state of exhaustion and each day was a blur of changing diapers, feeding children, and taking hours to run simple errands.
Right after my third child was born, my cousin strongly urged me to read a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book was designed to help artists discover and recover their creativity. There were so many reasons to not this read this book. First, I had no time to read. Second, I am by no stretch of the imagination an artist. And third, I wasn’t looking to discover, let alone recover, my creativity. After having three children, I was pretty sure I didn’t have any creativity left anyway. But for some weird and mysterious reason, I felt compelled to buy this book.
While I wasn’t interested in finding the “artist” within me, I was very interested in recovering who I used to be before I turned into the stressed out, sleep-deprived mother that I had become.
The most important tool that Cameron teaches is what she calls “Morning Pages.” Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, strictly stream-of-consciousness writing (that’s every single thought that pops into your mind) that you do as soon as you get up in the morning. You write about anything and everything that crosses your mind. If you think it, you write it. You write whatever you are feeling at the exact moment you are feeling it.
Morning Pages sound a lot like you have Attention Deficit Disorder in that you jump from one topic to another, to another, to another. They are also completely private so you can really let out how you honestly feel about everything and everybody.
Why specifically three pages? Cameron says it takes a page and a half or so to do a mental clearing out. Once you have written down all the things you don’t want to forget, like to-do lists or errands, or cleared your mind of frustrations and worries, that’s when you tend to get into more meaningful observations about yourself and your life.
What is the real purpose for all of this writing? This is how Cameron explains it in her book:
All that angry, whiny, petty, stuff that you write down in the Morning Pages stands between you and your creativity. (or as I thought about it, what stands between me and my true self). The Morning Pages teaches us to stop judging...it helps to get us to the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods...above all, the Morning Pages gets us beyond our Censor (our inner critic).
When I first began writing Morning Pages, every single entry began with a calculation of how much sleep I had gotten—or hadn’t gotten— the night before.
Typical entry from 1994: OH MY GOD! It’s 5:00 AM. I didn’t even get into bed until midnight! At 2:00, the baby woke me up. That’s only two hours of sleep! Two hours! I got back to bed at 2:30 and now it’s 5:00. That’s two and a half more hours for a total of four and a half hours of sleep. I CAN NOT SURVIVE ON 4-1⁄2 HOURS OF SLEEP! Seriously, how am I going to function today? I AM SO DAMN TIRED!
And on and on and on I went, morning after morning, complaining and bitching on the page about how tired I was and how I wasn’t going to be able to function on so little sleep. I didn’t get that much out of writing at first, but within a few weeks, I began to crave this little morning ritual. I started to look forward to letting it all out. It felt so cleansing. I eagerly anticipated venting mercilessly on those three pages every single morning. In my Morning Pages, I was free to give space to the negative and pessimistic side of my personality, the part that doesn’t show up in public. I could bitch, moan, and complain to my heart’s content.
Without even realizing it, the Morning Pages began to work their magic on me. I could see my personal evolution—from who I was before becoming a Mom, to who I had become as the mother of three. I started to hear more clearly that little voice inside me that always knows what is best for me. And miraculously, my stress level began to decrease.
I have been doing Morning Pages for 24 years now, and I proudly do them imperfectly! I don’t always write the second I get up, I don’t always write three pages, (sometimes I write one page and sometimes I write ten pages), there have been times I haven’t written for a few months and I almost never write on the weekends. But even with all my imperfections, I get enormous benefits from writing my Morning Pages. In my Morning Pages, I become acutely aware of my thoughts and feelings. I come face to face with my Inner Critic, and I am able to challenge her and quiet her down. I become clear on what I value, what I need, and what I want. I become inspired and motivated to move towards things that make me feel happy, peaceful, and fulfilled.
Writing Morning Pages has completely shifted the direction of my life. Through this type of writing, I am able to have a safe place to let out my stress, explore all parts of my personality, bring spirituality into my life, and gain compassion towards myself and others.
If you are looking to understand yourself on a deeper level, I would highly encourage you to try this practice.