A few years ago I had the pleasure of being given a copy of Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. It had a transformative effect on me, and removed my long-standing songwriters’ block. One of the tools in the book, the Morning Pages, is something I still use occasionally today (although I do wish I was more disciplined with it and used it every day as Julia prescribes).
It’s a great technique, not just for artists, but really for anyone who needs to create value out of information, be creative, avoid procrastination, or just work out what the hell is bugging you at the back of your psyche.
It works like this: take 3 pages of A4 paper and a pen. Note: the techies and iPhone app freaks amongst you will try to find a more elegant solution. Don’t. The primitive nature of the tools are part of why this works!
OK, it’s early in the morning. You’ve poured your coffee. Sit down with the pen and paper and write. Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t stop writing until you have filled 3 sides of A4. That’s it.
This is an exercise on listening to your mind. Some may find this is a gentle form of meditation and since I’m no expert on that, I’ll just say that it’s probably true. If you can’t think of what to write, you must continue the rhythm of the writing anyway. Just write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over again until something else arrives in your mind.
Once your 3 pages of A4 paper are done (which in my experience usually takes about 20 minutes), you put them somewhere no-one else will read them. I personally also developed a little add-on task to this: My mind often blurts out new ideas or actions that are not in my system so I use it as a place to capture and collect these, marking them with a star, and then at the end of my 3 pages I just run through and transfer any starred items into my GTD system.
This sounds so simple, so why is it so powerful?
Well, first of all, any artist will tell you the hardest part of creativity is showing up to the page. Getting started. This acts as a ritual to show you that you have the motivation to start.
Secondly, it allows your mind the time to blurt out all the gunk and release it — all the worries or anger, ideas or excitement that might otherwise preoccupy you all day are gone, and you feel much more focused.
Thirdly, you’d be amazed what you find going on in there when you really listen to the voice inside your mind. You’ll find amazing creative ideas you never knew you had in you and you’ll find things you might have been stressed about that you can easily address.
In the information-overload culture we live in, we so rarely spend time listening to ourselves, and valuing our own thoughts and instincts. The Morning Pages is a really simple tool to help us do just that.
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