I like backdoor ideas. You know the ones where you get a new view on how to approach a problem?
When I consider how to find work that matters, what I know for sure is the answers often come in unexpected places.
What about the idea of creating the fertile ground for answers to germinate?
I recently revisited an old idea that I pulled off the shelf.
Morning Pages. I first heard of this practice shortly after the 1992 release of Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Morning pages are a daily activity to help clear away the cobwebs, to make room for creativity. All types of creativity.
But it isn’t just for artists. It definitely is not about making art.
The idea is straightforward. Each morning, before you do anything else, you write 3 long-hand pages. Whatever is on your mind. Whatever drivel is on your mind.
I have had a morning pages practice a few times in my life. Here are the benefits I have seen:
- clarity about what was happening in my life
- working on a plan on how to deal with a troubling situation
- taming down the inner critic
- more inclination to write at other times in the day
- not being attached to what I write
- letting go of thoughts, ideas or plans that aren’t really that important
This year I had an insight about morning pages about how it could help with the work I do. Curiously, it happened when I was doing my morning pages.
A key concept is I encourage with all my clients is listening, listening to themselves, to be able to get quiet enough to truly hear what they have to say.
In a world with so many distractions (and plenty of advice sharing all over social media), listening to yourself is a big challenge.
What morning pages does is dial us in to ourselves. That it is at the beginning of the day is brilliant.
Since I use my phone for my alarm clock, I can see how easy it is to check email or Facebook even before I lift my head off my pillow.
Suddenly I am plugged into the world! Other people’s thoughts. News. Events.
How quickly it is then for the day to unravel and not be in touch with what is going on for me.
So how does this work with careers?
With a myriad of choices and dizzying thoughts about career choices, it is imperative to separate out what is useful and what is not. Some of this is our fears. Some of it is expectations we inherited from our families. It may be our own ways we limit ourselves.
All of this needs attention. The problem often is that those thoughts obscure our vision. And paralyze us.
What morning pages does is allow the doubts and questioning and inner critic to have their time so that we can get onto the important work.
What does Julia Cameron have to say?
"When people ask, 'Why do we write morning pages?' I joke, 'To get to the other side.' They think I am kidding but I'm not. Morning pages do get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, our negativity, of our moods."
If I clear off what doesn’t really matter, then there is space for what does.
Making morning pages a practice is where you can see the pay off. By doing this day after day you are giving yourself a strong message about making room for your own voice.
What do we tap into during the morning pages practice?
Cameron says, “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power. Although I used them for many years before I realized this, the pages are a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self.”
Are they any morning pages’ rules?
There are no rules for content. Write whatever is on your mind. What you are planning to do on that day. How annoying it is to try to come up what to write about. A scene that stood out from the day before.
The idea is to keep your pen moving for 3 pages. I am a slow writer so it takes me 45 minutes.
Don’t read what you have written, at least for a month. Reading what you have written is an invitation to the inner critic. If you have brilliant thoughts that you want to explore later, trust that you will remember.
“Morning pages are about tuning out our inner critic. “We learn to hear our censor’s comments and say, simply, ‘Thank you for sharing,’ while we go right on writing. We are training our censor to stand aside and let us create.”
Have you tried morning pages? I would love to hear how they worked for you. If haven’t and are into the idea of doing a morning pages experiment, let me know how it goes. See the comments below.
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