This 10-minute daily habit will save you heaps on therapy

Daily Writing Habit

Three pages of longhand free-writing.

No stopping.

No thinking.

Just stream of consciousness being poured onto a page, first thing in the morning.

This is the core of what’s known to writers as ‘Morning Pages’, a creative tool conceived by Julia Cameron and introduced to the world in her book The Artist’s Way.

Those words aren’t to be used for anything. (They’re not first drafts of blog posts, for instance.) They’re simply a giant brain dump. A spring clean of your mind.

I love doing them.

The first two pages I write are always full of surface stuff – usually whatever is worrying or bothering me most at the time.

The third page is where the magic tends to happen.

Freed of having to hold onto everything that’s bugging me, my brain starts to deliver insights:

  • Solutions to nagging problems.
  • An understanding that things I’d built up to epic proportions in my mind weren’t that big, insurmountable or even worth worrying about.
  • A reminder that it’s better to accept things for how they are instead of constantly grasping for how they ‘should be’.

While this makes it a great tool for creativity, I’ve also found it to be a great tool for life.

Because you’re the only person who will ever see those words, you don’t have to hold back.

You can write what you really think.

You can go deep into how something makes you feel.

Morning Pages provides an opportunity for self-reflection that is a lot cheaper than therapy. It also gets your sub-conscious ruminating. If you write about a big problem on Monday, I can almost guarantee your sub-conscious will deliver a key insight about it on Thursday. If you let it.

Here’s my main problem, however.

Free-writing three pages (roughly 750 words) longhand takes me a solid 30 minutes.

And while I know I should be able to set aside 30 minutes a day for this exercise, there are many other things I need to set aside time for, (family, health, work, whitespace). And all those things add up.

While it would be easy to take the all or nothing approach with Morning Pages, (i.e. ‘If I can’t write longhand for 30 minutes, I won’t do it at all’), I’ve found the ‘something is better than nothing’ approach still provides great benefits.

So today I have a challenge for you.

  1. Grab yourself a piece of paper or a notebook.
  2. Grab a pen.
  3. Set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes.
  4. Then start writing and don’t stop. (If you don’t know what to write then literally write, ‘I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write.’)

Your writing doesn’t need to be legible. The words and sentences don’t need to make sense or be grammatically correct. The goal is to simply pour the thoughts in your mind on to the paper.

When your 10 minutes is up, you have the option to stop. But if you’ve hit some flow, keep going until you’ve filled two pages. Or three pages. It’s completely up to you.

You don’t have to do it first thing in the morning either. I sometimes do it after school drop-off. Sometimes just before bed. Sometimes at a café during my lunch break.

The key is to do at least 10 minutes today.

And then tomorrow.

And the next day after that.

After a few days, you’ll realise there is something super-special about writing longhand, (something few of us do anymore).

  • Forcing your brain to slow down to the speed of your hands is calming.
  • Being able to write things you could never voice aloud is freeing.
  • Accessing insights and ideas from deep in your sub-conscious is thrilling.

Getting a dose of all three of these things daily? Well, it’s just like therapy. Only a whole lot cheaper ?

Comments 12

  1. Although I blog, I do not consider myself a writer. But this sounds like a neat task to assign myself. I wonder if I’ll do it? I wonder if I’ll do it consistently? I wonder if my husband will “discover” my pages and then stress about them (or stress me about them)?

    I wonder. I think I’ll let this ruminate. Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.

    … by the way, I’ve been gone for ever such a long time. Rather than trying to go back through the archives (since the podcasts take some time to listen to), is there anything Really Important I’ve missed? Like, I just found out from an email yesterday that a favorite teacher had died a month ago. I was shattered, a month later. Nothing shattering here over the last … oooh, year(?), I hope?

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      Hello! Long time no hear!

      Anything Really Important? Not that I can think of. A bit of the same old same old. Which is a good way to be I guess


  2. I love this idea Kelly. I’ve always found the best way to get something off my chest is to write it down. Even though what I have to say is never seen by anyone else, the act of acting on what I’m feeling and being able to express in words is cathartic. This may just become a daily habit x

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  3. Hi Kelly
    Do you shred them once you’ve finished writing, so that no-one else has the opportunity to accidentally unearth them, or do you keep them to read back on later?

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      You know what? I really should shred them! If I died and anyone read those words, I’d die again. They’re definitely not worthy for human consumption (being all my darkest, most self-indulgent thoughts and all). They’re not even worth me going back over

  4. journal ready, pen ready cup of tea in hand, timer on.
    lot easier than i thought for journal writing for 10 minuites, really needed this this week . needing to write down my feeling to try and sort my head…. 🙂
    thank you so much Kelly

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  5. Hi Kelly,
    Thank you for reminding me about the value of morning pages. I did them for many years after doing one of Julia Cameron’s other books, ‘The Artists Way at Work” and then got out of the habit when I moved overseas and all my routines changed. I always felt a lot clearer and more focused after my morning pages – like they had cleared the stuff out of my head that was not useful. You’ve inspired me to start again!

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  6. I’ve been trying to do this, I like the idea of 10 mins, as I have struggled with the 3 pages, don’t need to feel that I’m failing now! I often end up with lists and spider diagrams too, must be the way my head works. Also, thank you for ‘permission’ to do it at another time of day if I don’t do it first thing.

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