by Katherine Kimball Adelberg, Senior Assistant, INALJ Michigan
The Beauty of Morning Pages
Recently I undertook an experiment. My wonderful but demanding job was draining my creative resources. I found myself spending evenings on the couch, scrolling through Buzzfeed, Instagram, or the aww subreddit. Each of these have their place, especially at the end of a long day, but I was never really moving on from what happened at work. Suffering from a classic case of burnout, I stopped finding time for my interests and hobbies. My husband suggested I take a look at the book The Artist’s Way.
The Artist’s Way is a 12 week course in “discovering and recovering your creative self”. This sounded like exactly what I wanted (who doesn’t want to be more creative?), but I needed to overcome some initial reluctance. Like many librarians, I sometimes find it challenging to stop serving others and focus on myself. Other INALJ articles have addressed the topic of burnout and self-care; check the archives for even more!
Once I finally made the commitment, I discovered my new favorite habit: morning pages.
Morning pages are one of the foundational exercises of The Artist’s Way. The very first thing I do on weekday mornings is write (or type, to be more accurate) a single page. I’m not keeping a diary or a journal; these pages are not meant to be kept. They’re stream-of-consciousness ramblings without any concern for grammar or goals. The point of the pages is to reconnect with myself every morning and write whatever comes out. The knowledge that I’m writing something that no one will ever read is strangely liberating.
I’ve been writing daily for a month, and here are some of the benefits:
I’m developing a more personal relationship with writing. I’ve always been good at writing papers, and more recently, responses to FCC Notices of Proposed Rulemaking. Writing every day has given me space to explore writing in an informal and emotional way. I’ll always be a non-fiction person, but writing every day will make me a better advocate. Think of how often you communicate in writing every day; why not hone that technique?
Insecurity is contagious, and these pages are a great place to park my insecurities. The past few months have been very difficult at work; we lost our fearless leader and other staff have been out with life-threatening illnesses. In a small department, these losses are felt acutely. These pages gave me a place to record my worries without them dominating my daily life.
As a corollary, recording things that scared me made them less terrifying. Working through my stream-of-consciousness early-morning logic brought some light to places that needed it. Once I named my fears, they held less power over me. This was true for both small things, like dreaming that my supervisor had been kidnapped by a mob boss, and for larger issues, such as nervousness before a conference presentation.
The Artist’s Way includes many other elements, not all of which I embrace as wholeheartedly as the morning pages. However, I can’t recommend them enough! Here are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to adopt this practice as your own:
● Don’t re-read or correct as you go. Just record the first thing that comes to mind. No one else will read this; there’s no need to correct someone’s misspelled name, even if it’s your own.
● Try it for at least 2 weeks. I experienced a lull after the first few days when I couldn’t think of anything to write. Ideas will spring to mind as you’re typing “I can’t think of anything to write about…”.
● If you take notes by doodling or drawing, try drawing your morning pages instead of writing. You could also hand write them, which the book recommends.
● Use this as a springboard to blog for us! INALJ is always looking for fresh perspectives. Topics will surface and you’ll develop your own voice as you work through the morning pages.