First I need to add my own personal disclaimer here: I am not a morning person.
Never have been, never will be.
Mostly my mornings begin with multiple swipes at the snooze button until the last nanosecond possible. At which point I roll out of bed and into the shower with one eye barely open. By the time I’m soaped and sudded, two eyes are starting to crack open.
Next stop, Caffeine-ville. Both eyes now open and awake I ride the caffeine high whilst generally making myself presentable before hotfooting it out of the door.
Rinse and repeat five days a week and that was my morning ritual.
There’s a well-known saying, which states, “If you win the morning, you win the day.” Evidently I was losing the morning and losing the day. Waking up bleary-eyed looking for a caffeine fix was certainly not how winners started their day.
I had read numerous articles on the importance of creating a morning ritual. Rituals differed from person to person but the end result was that people felt calmer and more balanced throughout the day. As a self-confessed stress head this was exactly what I needed in my life, so I decided to begin an experiment.
For 30 days I would begin my own morning ritual in the hopes that I too could be one of those calm and balanced people.
I was already a big fan of journaling and noticed how effective it was at centering my mind, keeping negative thought patterns at bay and generally inspiring my writing practice. I had recently read The Artists Way by Julia Cameron who touted the wonders of a concept called Morning Pages.
Simply put these are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing done first thing in the morning. Unlike journaling you simply write out, without censure, whatever thoughts came to mind. Good, bad, ugly, or indifferent.
The point, according to Cameron, is to “catch yourself before your ego’s defenses are in place.”
The primary function of this “brain dump” is to begin the process of removing the angry, whiny, petty worries that cloud your thinking so that they don’t accompany you throughout the day. The content simply doesn’t matter, what’s important is getting your thoughts out of your head and onto the page. You can write about absolutely anything, from small frustrations to your deepest fears or just a good ol’ fashioned angry tirade.
The first few days into my morning pages experiment were tough. I was a slave to the snooze button and it was an exercise in self-discipline to simply turn on the light and reach for my journal. My first few entries were filled with banalities, typically grumbling on for sentences describing just how very tired I was.
I kept going.
My battles with the snooze button became less frequent. My brain began to dust the cobwebs away. As it turned out, I did have some interesting things to say, even at 7 am. Of course there were days where I wrote nonsense for three whole pages, yet there were other days where I began to feel the ripples of a breakthrough across the page.
10 days in and even I was surprised at how powerful this morning page ritual proved to be. I started to feel less anxious; I began to think more creatively and became a little more in sync with my brain’s thought patterns.
Interestingly enough, I began to look forward to my morning ritual. It allowed me the space to explore story ideas, to vent about upsetting situations or simply to describe my dreams from the night before. Crucially, because these pages are private I felt free to express my true emotions without self-judgment.
30 days in, I was hooked. I started to view these pages as my own personal mind dump. It removed the inane clutter floating listlessly around my brain and as a result I became more productive during the day. Having had my morning vent before my morning venti coffee meant I was less prone to negative rants which in turn made me more pleasant to be around.
Its also important to note that these daily morning musings aren’t specifically designed for writers or creatives.
They are simply a tool for removing the chaotic thoughts circling the brain. All those angry, petty thoughts that seem so incredibly intoxicating within our brain cave lose their power once expressed on the page.
In time, these pages begin to illuminate where our inner critic resides; how its loud authoritative voice drowns out that other far quieter, but infinitely more powerful voice, the voice of our soul.
Despite the fact that there will be days where it will feel like there is nothing to say, days where the pages will be filled with destructive thoughts, its important to remember that there will also be other days. Days where huge creative insights are experienced, solutions to previously unsolvable problems are found or simply a magnificent dream can be recollected in all its glorious detail.
For it is in cultivating those first moments of the morning to check in with the deepest parts of ourselves that we can begin to bear witness to who we really are, warts and all. What makes us tick, what ticks us off, our deepest feelings or our superficial yearnings.
To quote Cameron, “Wherever you are is always the right place. There is never a need to fix anything, to hitch up the bootstraps of the soul and start at some higher place. Start right where you are.”