Benefits of journalling

I posted a time-lapse on Instagram the other day of me doing my morning pages. And I immediately got a reply from someone: “You write SO much every morning?! What do you write about? I’m glad if I can write a to-do list for me and the kids.” But with that thinking you’re missing the point of morning pages, of journalling the way I do. It’s not about writing something productive.

Yes. That’s right.

Morning pages is not about writing something productive.

Most of the morning pages I write are absolute crap. They either piss and moan about some aspect of my life that sucks (I’m too busy, too tired, I don’t want to work today, I want to go back to bed, or simply: I just don’t want to do these morning pages), or they are about all the things I still have to do, or some emotion I am feeling. I never know what I’ll write about before I start. I just put pen to paper and go.

So why do it? Why do morning pages when what comes out is total crap that’s fit for the garbage?

Warming up and get the rubbish words out

Well think of it like this: if you are a runner who does marathons professionally. Would you do a marathon without warming up? Of course not, then your muscles are cold and you either injure yourself or set a crap time. Or worse: do both.

So I see morning pages as my warm up for the day. Sometimes I get so stuck in my thoughts that my creative thinking is blocked and pushed down. It is hidden under the rubble of ‘I am not good enough’ and alle types of ‘this is sucks’. So I do morning pages. To get it out. To unclog the drain so the good words can come out.

Neil Gaiman said it better:
Assume that you have a million words inside you that are absolute rubbish and you need to get them out before you get to the good ones.

So show up to your morning pages, get some of the rubbish out to get to the good ones.

Mental

But that’s not the only thing that makes morning pages magic. For me I’ve always been a thinker on paper. I think more clearer when I write things out then I do when I think in my head, or even talk things through with a friend.

So if my thoughts decided to come up with something like ‘I am missing out on this experience because my leg is injured and I can’t fully participate’, I get to think about it on paper. Not directed thinking, I just go where my pen takes me. I don’t think. I let it flow.

So in the above example I kept writing on how much I didn’t like I couldn’t participate. And then suddenly on the paper it said:
“Hang on a minute. You show up to everything. You’re doing all the sessions, doing all the work. The only thing you can’t do is jump up and down and dance. And even that you’re doing sitting on you bum in a chair. So ARE participating and you ARE showing up.”

So with those 10-20 minutes in the morning I am able to stop a negative thinking pattern that would have held me hostage. And turned it around.

And sure, not every morning is magic. Sometimes you write pages and you go: Meh.
But the key here is: I show up. YOU showed up. So whatever your day turns out to be after that. You did this one thing that you said you are going to do every day. So you started your day with showing up for yourself. And that is always the right way to start your day.

Why I burned my journals

A few years ago, I burned my journals. Not all of them, but a few. My journals are my most precious possessions. And I love how they show me what I was like growing and changing. They were with me in good times, dark times, and times where I had to keep them close because ideas were ever-present in my head.

But still, I burned my journals. During the times when darkness was so close to the surface, my journal was a safe place to let it all out. It was a place where I got to work through things that I needed to let go of. A place where I could be myself, express myself while it was too hard to say it out loud, or let the people I love know that I was struggling.

I read through all of my journals, starting when I was seven and started with ‘dear diary. I even tried to name my diary, just like Anne Frank. While I was reading, I noticed a pattern. Dark thoughts, where I said horrible things about people I loved. Where I even wondered if I might be suicidal. I never was, except that one time in high school.

And then I thought about why I kept the journals. Yes, they were my safe place, a place to keep a record of my life, for expressing myself. But they were also my legacy. Something to leave behind for my children, or maybe if I would become a famous writer one day. Were these the kind of things I wanted to leave behind?

No.

I decided the journals served their purpose. They did what they needed to do. They helped me get through parts of my life. They were a lifeline, a way to keep sane and get certain things out. But they were not things that needed to be in my life any longer or pass on to the next generation.

So one night, my dad and I got a large metal bowl out into the garden of my parent’s house. We lit a fire, and I watched how the words I’ve written so angrily went up on flames. How the pages soaked with tears were set free. The ink went up in all sorts of coloured flames, and they licked and devoured the pages of the journals.

And as I entered the house after our hour-long bonfire, I felt free. Like I let go of something that I held on to for way too long.