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Finding value in the simplicity of pen and paper

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Anne Frank

Not many of us are writers by profession, but we all write. Texts, emails, social media posts – these are all written forms of communication. Most of what we write these days is digital. 

I value the efficiency of digital communication and I use several digital tools in organising both my work and personal life.

I haven’t moved away from pen and paper completely though and still prefer to use a paper diary. I look forward to choosing a new one every year and I love being able to flick back and forward to see what’s coming up.

What was the last thing you wrote using pen and paper? Perhaps it was a shopping list, a birthday card, or an entry in your journal. For me it was my ‘morning pages’. 

Getting started with writing

Writing morning pages is a practice I learned about from reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  It’s something I started doing at the beginning of 2020 and it’s changed my life in unexpected ways.

It’s well known that journalling is good for our mental health. It can help reduce stress and anxiety and boost our mood.

I’ve always found the idea of journalling a bit daunting though. How do I put into words how my day was or what I’m feeling? How do I make it sound coherent?

After reading The Artist’s Way, writing seemed a lot more accessible to me.  The practice of writing morning pages simply involves emptying your thoughts onto paper.

It’s not about writing anything creative, and you don’t have to make sense of what you write. It’s just a tool to clear your mind.

As soon as you can after you get up in the morning, open a notebook, write the date at the top and start writing until you’ve filled 3 pages. It’s as simple as that. It usually takes me about thirty to forty minutes.

Writing by hand might sound like an inconvenience compared to typing. Putting pen to paper takes more time, but it’s the slowness that helps us connect to our emotions. 

There isn’t a right or wrong way of doing morning pages. It doesn’t matter about spelling or grammar. If you can’t think of what to write, you can write “I don’t know what to write” repeatedly for several lines! 

When I find it hard to get started, I use these prompts:

  • I slept well /I didn’t sleep well
  • Today I feel…
  • I’m worried about…
  • I’m looking forward to…
  • What’s bothering me most at the moment…
  • I’m happy about…

The benefits of writing

I started getting up earlier every day to fit in writing morning pages. Whatever happens in my day it feels good to have made that time for myself.

If I have a difficult day, I know I have somewhere I can ‘offload’ my feelings the next morning.

Here are 10 ways morning pages have changed my life:

  • I feel more in control of my day
  • I find it easier to get perspective on problems
  • I’m more able to solve problems by myself
  • I can work out more quickly what exactly is bothering me
  • I can express uncomfortable things I would otherwise suppress
  • I’m getting to know myself better
  • I have more ideas
  • I feel more creative
  • It reminds me I can change how I react to things
  • I feel I’m investing in myself every day 

Since starting morning pages I’ve filled nearly 4 notebooks. Another thing I love about the practice is there’s no expectation you’ll ever read what you’ve written or do anything with it.

I didn’t read any of my first 3 notebooks so I know the value is in the process of putting pen to paper.

Recently I decided to read my morning pages as part of the review I do at the end of each month.

It was interesting reading my thoughts on various things and what I learned over the month. I was also reminded of positive and happy things I’d forgotten about!

The practice of morning pages has become an important part of my morning routine. I guess you could describe it as a kind of therapy.

There’s no judgement and as it’s for your eyes only, anything goes. 

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