Are ‘morning pages’ worth it?: How to pave your own path to creative expression

I was riffing in the DMs on Instagram today with the talented Liane Bourke – we often drop in and have deep chats – and here’s how the exchange went:

It prompted a conversation about journaling (and self care more broadly) that immediately got me on my soapbox and inspired me to churn out this blog post. Why? Welp…

I’m sick of trying to ‘fit it all in’ or ‘stick it out’ when I’ve got what I need just because ‘so and so’ experts said it HAS to be that way. 

I promise I won’t get ranty but it appears that self care and creativity have also succumbed to productivity porn and the endless hamster wheel of capitalism. Le sigh. Before I plunge into that mud pit, let’s back it up a bit.

First, what are ‘morning pages’?

If you’re familiar with The Artist’s Way, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Julia asks you to commit to writing three pages of stream of consciousness writing every morning to jump start your day and your journey to ‘creative recovery’. Essentially, you put pen to paper and start writing… and don’t stop until the end of your third page.

Now I adore Julia and The Artist’s Way, but I don’t like rigid practices.

Morning pages are an amazing tool to get you started, but once you’ve been on the wagon for a while, they can become like just another thing you have to do in the morning, like brushing your teeth.

For Julia, that’s the whole point – expressing ourselves should be as normal as buttering toast, but what happens when you feel fully expressed or are craving another outlet? Do you just ‘stick it out’ and do what Julia says? No, you don’t.

Writing (or not writing) should always be about what YOU need

If you’re not vibing with your journal, don’t force it. I’ve had plenty of days where I wake up in the morning bursting with energy and the thought of sitting down to write just doesn’t appeal to me.

And no, I’m not resisting it because I need it most of all – sometimes I just don’t want to write… or write THAT much. There’s a danger in treating advice as doctrine because it breed perfectionism, which – spoiler alert – is the path to self sabotage (shout out to Suz Chadwick for that gem).

Julia says that if we don’t know what to write, we should write that. “I don’t have anything to write…” and eventually it will turn into something. I wholeheartedly agree with this because the whole purpose of journaling (in my definition of it) is to start a conversation with yourself. How the heck are you going to figure out what you like, what you don’t like and what you want? Unfortunately your life direction doesn’t grow on a tree (yet). 

So this all begs the question… 

…if I don’t do my morning pages, will I go to Creative Hell?

No dear friend, you won’t. You may feel guilt or like something is missing from your day, but it’s not actually about whether or not you write. It’s about how you feel and what you need to express or make sense of. 

“So Mazza, how DO I express myself creatively (without perfectionism creeping in)?”

I’m glad you asked! As you wipe the cheese off your eyes from that terrible seguey, let me plant three alternative perspectives in your mind and heart. 

Everything is advice, even if it’s backed by science

It seems like everyone has the best morning routine or 1387 biohacks to make you more productive. Granted, while a lot of it is true, do you ever stop to question whether or not it FEELS good for you? 

For example, I wake up early not because I really want to, but because it’s what my body needs. I don’t start ‘crushing it’ the second I wake up either – I drink some water, think about my day and then choose a self care activity to do that gives me a little jolt of happy. Some days it’s journaling, other ways it’s meditating, often it’s staring off my balcony into the darkness to watch the lights of the city twinkle below me. 

Same goes with creativity. At its core, it’s about self expression, so don’t worry about HOW it comes out, just make sure you get it out regardless. 

Sending a voice note to a trusted friend is creative.

Decluttering your office is creative.

Cooking a new recipe is creative. 

Stop limiting yourself by what the loudest people are saying – get quiet and wait for your inner voice to let you know what needs to be released. Speaking of which…

You don’t need to be artistic, just willing to connect the dots

Art, music, dance, etc, are creative practices and products. Creativity lives behind and within each of them. Conflating artistry with creativity diminishes your imagination – focus on connecting the dots of what’s right in front of you in new ways to tap into your innate creative energy.

That’s why writing is SO good. It’s one of the most accessible (and democratised) forms of creative self expression. It influences how we communicate and has the power to affect our wellbeing. Writing doesn’t have to be artistic to be useful, either. Jot down thoughts, make lists, draw flowcharts – whatever you choose to do, do it with intention and in a way that MEANS SOMETHING to you and only you. 

Take what you need, then move on

This is the cherry on top of this blog post. If you start writing and lose interest, know that it’s okay to stop and do something else. Don’t feel obligated to take on every single creative practice you try just because someone you admire does it. That’s not how self expression works and it sure as hell won’t feel fulfilling long term. Life has enough rules and restrictions in place already, so free yourself and drop the expectations. Your brain and schedule will love you for it.

Are you stuck in the mud of your own self expression?

I feel you – it’s something I battle with on the reg. Learning to listen to yourself isn’t easy in a world intent on kidnapping your attention and holding it for ransom. But you don’t have to go it alone. Whether it’s trying to figure out your website copy or climb over that creative block, I got you. I offer copywriting support and creativity coaching, both of which are built for the chaotic minds of creative entrepreneurs, designed to demystify the creative process and bring beautiful things into the world.

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