I try to start each day with “Morning Pages,” as suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way: three pages of stream of consciousness longhand writing, each morning upon awakening. I’ve done it for years, with varying degrees of success.
There have been long stretches of time where I kept up with my morning writing, no matter what else got in the way. At other times, months would go by without a single entry. For one year, I spent most of the three pages writing nothing but inspirational affirmations. That filled the paper, but became very tedious.
Often, I used the pages to write out my complaints and grievances. I told myself that it was a way to get rid of all that negativity first thing in the morning, so that I could go forward with a clear head. Sometimes it did work like that; sometimes it only served to remind me of everything I was disgruntled about. That’s not the best way to start the day!
I’ve become pretty loose with the “three pages” rule. In “complaint-writing mode,” I could easily fill three pages or more. When trying to be more positive, it’s more difficult. Some days, I barely managed a paragraph.
Lately, I’ve been incorporating a method recommended by Rachel Hollis, the popular author of Girl, Stop Apologizing. First, I write down five things I am grateful for. Next, I write ten things I want for myself, as if I already have them. Finally, I write about the one goal I intend to focus on for this day. If I’m short on time, this can all be accomplished in a few short sentences. Other days, it’s fun to flesh out ideas and go into more detail. Then, three pages is a snap.
It’s working out! Gratitude is a good way to start any morning. Writing out ten things I want helps me to focus on what’s important. Day after day, the same goals and ideas show up. For instance:
- “I am financially secure. I always pay my bills on time. I don’t have to worry about money. I can help my family when they need it.”
- “I am well-organized. I can always find what I need. I have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place.”
- “I am an artist. I work every day in my studio. I keep several projects going at any one time, and always have fresh ideas and new inspiration.”
- “I am a good friend, and I have good friends.”
…and on and on through ten goals, in this way. I wish everything I wrote was true and accurate now, but even when it’s not, it helps me to see where I need to do better. If being a good friend is what I want, well, by god, I should work harder at keeping in touch with my friends. It obviously bothers me when I can’t find things; that’s a cue through the whole day to be more mindful about organization.
Then, lastly, I write down what I want to focus on today. As I tend to be a scatter-brained, easily distracted person, this helps, too. When I glance in to the studio and my attention is pulled toward something there, I can remind myself, “today, your main goal is getting the lawn mowed.” Conversely, when my focus is the studio, it becomes easier to turn a blind eye to the laundry, or other distractions.
Begin with thankfulness, clarify what’s important, end with a plan. That’s how I start my mornings.