To Journal or Not To Journal

Before I started writing this blog, I was doing “Morning Pages” at this time of the day. Morning Pages are an idea from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, which is a workbook of sorts that helps you to get more creativity in your life. Honestly, I haven’t finished the book (don’t tell Julia), but I have implemented the Morning Pages idea on and off for many years. The basic idea is this: write stream of consciousness every morning, very close to when you wake up, three pages (or 750 words–if you write digitally, there is a great site called 750words.com for this specific purpose). It usually took me around 30 minutes. Not a bad way to spend a morning when the alternative is scrolling Facebook or Twitter.

But something I began to notice was that my pages always tended to devolve into a to-do list. Which was fine for a while–it let me get all of the items out of my head and on paper, so I could actually get them done instead of just thinking about them randomly throughout the day. But after years of Morning To-Do Lists, I started to question the point. (Maybe it’s in the book, I don’t know. Please, don’t tell Julia.) What I wanted to get out of the pages was more in touch with my emotions. So I decided to become a bit more conscious about my stream of consciousness.

I made myself a rule that I wasn’t allowed to write any “to-do’s” in Morning Pages. It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I sat and stared at a blank page for several minutes before I could think of anything to write. It’s hard to hear your own voice sometimes, right? But other ideas started to come eventually, and I began writing about what I was feeling about my life; how i felt about my job, my finances, contemplating my hopes, dreams, and frustrations. And I thought things were going swimmingly.

But last week I was confronted with the idea that all these “contemplations” might just be “self-care porn,” the idea that I’m just swimming in my own thought soup, thinking I’m gaining clarity, or making strides in my personal development, but what I really might be doing is self-flagellation. I’m just drowning in the details of my day-to-day, spending precious energy on who-said-what-about-who. Somewhere in this mess of pages I’m supposed to be gaining more creativity, right, Julia? But all I’m doing is keeping tabs on the current gossip.

So I was challenged to write this blog in the same morning-routine-time-slot as Morning Pages. That felt really scary at the time, so I decided I would do it, but I would take my beautiful journal into the bedroom where I could journal before bed. I don’t know if Night Pages are a thing, but I wasn’t gonna try it out. Turns out, I’m too tired to journal at night, at least I was this week. I wrote a few sentences on the first couple of days, but that’s about it.

Now, I’m not saying that journaling is something I’m going to stop doing. In fact, I’m thinking of doing a short gratitude journal entry at night before bed. But I definitely want to rethink what journaling means to me. Because this week, writing this blog, I have felt more creative than I’ve felt in a long time. Turns out to be creative, you just have to create something.

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