Today I want to talk about morning journaling, or Morning Pages. Some of you might be familiar with it from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way (which is on my Life-Changing Books list.) My approach is a bit of a twist on that but with the same kind of concept.

Sara Naumann journaling

Of all my creative practices, Morning Pages are probably the single most effective thing I do.

Every morning I sit down at the kitchen table with my coffee and my journal and I write three pages, longhand. This is not writing as in prose or poetry. It’s not even terribly cohesive. This is not Writing, with a capital “w”. This is Brain Dump. (I get up at five am. Even the strongest coffee isn’t making me A Writer at five am.)

But that’s not the point. The point is to connect, creatively, with myself—to meet my not-quite-awake creative self at the kitchen table for a coffee and conversation when the house is quiet. (Luckily, the Inner Critic is a little sleepy then, too.)

My Morning Pages are where I write out the stuff that collects in my mind and my heart: My speculations, questions, wondering, whining, beliefs, petty annoyances and to-do lists. I wish, gripe, plan and ramble on these pages. This is also where I put down a lot of ideas. These ideas may be put to use right away, they may be remembered and used a few months down the road, or I may decide against them after all. But they’re there.

Sara Naumann journal stripes

My (current) journal. Yes, it says “I love stripes” on the cover—I don’t know why it says that but you know what? I *do* actually like stripes. So there you go.

After I write my three pages, I jot down my main intention for the day and three to-do items. My intention for the day is usually something like “start the week off right”, “enjoy the sunshine” or “feel productive”. They are vague on purpose, but they are all designed to be a deliberate kind of mind set—it’s funny how simply writing an attitude down on paper can make it real.

The to-do’s are all about actions I must take that day—appointments, updates, meetings, deadlines. I only write three because otherwise I could write 100 and that’s definitely not the way to start a day. The other 97 usually sort themselves out, in terms of the calendar. If I have just three things to do, I can do them. I can also do more, but with three I don’t feel overwhelmed.

Sara Naumann blog Morning Pages

Then I close my book and come back to write in it the next day. I don’t re-read the pages unless I’m flipping through to reference something right away—instead, I re-read the pages when I’m done with the whole journal. Then I take a highlighter and note all the stuff I want to do or pay attention to, ideas I want to integrate or things I don’t want to forget. This is also a great time for me to notice patterns—for me, this is mostly stuff I stress out over (*ahem*) which then comes out just fine in the end.

Then I take note so I can tackle things that I catch as patterns. After all, it’s very difficult to complain to yourself about something every day and not just get up off one’s behind to do something about it.

I started my Morning Pages about 5 or 6 years ago, while doing The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Julia suggests doing Morning Pages as off-the-cuff writing where one simply keeps the hand moving. I’m not quite that loose—I get up for more coffee, look out the window, lose track of my thoughts…but that’s what works for me. Everyone is different.

What about you? Have you tried journaling, or art journaling, to keep track of patterns and creative ideas? What if you gave it a try for the next week or so, to see if it suited you? (You don’t have to get up at 5am…but if you do, you’ll know I’m journaling right alongside you!) And if you do give it a go, I’d love to hear how the process works for you.

PS—My journals are super-cheap hardback books that I pick up at the local stationer’s. I want a hardback book so it’s sturdy and will last, but nothing too fancy or precious. In Poland, it’s weirdly impossible to find lined notebook paper—all notebooks have this grid thing going on and at first it drove me crazy, but now I’m used to it. Blank pages make me tetchy (I’m weird that way) but again, it’s all about finding what works for you.