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Morning pages: a daily ritual worth trying out

Have you ever heard about something—could be a word, name, phrase, place or thing—for the first time, and then suddenly it starts popping up everywhere? There is actually a term for that. It’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. You’ll probably hear about it again soon.

I had my own Baader-Meinhof experience recently, which brings me to the subject of today’s blog—morning pages. While listening to Brian Koppelman’s The Moment podcast, I heard him discussing his daily rituals with one of his guests. Every morning, Koppelman partakes in an exercise known as “morning pages,” which is basically three pages of longhand, stream-of-conscious writing done first thing in the morning.

Koppelman is an inspirational guy. He, too, is a lawyer, who is proof that it is never too late to pursue your dreams. After working into his thirties in the music business, Koppelman’s wife encouraged him to pursue his dream of writing. So every morning before work, he and his best friend would plug away on their first screenplay, which would eventually become the movie “Rounders” starring Matt Damon. Koppelman has since carved out a great career as a screenwriter and director. (His podcast is also excellent.)

Brian Koppelman swears by morning pages as something that helps him clear his head and get the creative juices flowing. It sounded like a neat idea to me, but I dismissed it because, to be honest, it seemed a little too new-agey for me. Also, how was I going to find the time every morning to hand-write three pages?

But then morning pages started popping up everywhere. I first saw a link on Twitter to a Lifehacker article about morning pages. I then read an article in The Guardian about them. I learned that they’re not just seen as a tool to promote creativity; they also are used to reduce anxiety and increase productivity. More importantly, morning pages aren’t just for artists. I saw that people in the business world found them to be incredibly useful.

Introduced in 1992 by author Julia Cameron in her book “The Artist’s Way,” morning pages, according to Cameron, help “keep an eye on our goals. They may provoke us, coax us, comfort us, even cajole us, as well as prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.”

There are only three rules to doing morning pages properly: (1) they have to be three pages; (2) they have to be written longhand; and (3) they have to be done first thing in the morning. Otherwise, there are no other rules. You can write about anything you want. If you’re interested in morning pages, there are a ton of articles about the subject online.

After reading how effective morning pages were for so many people, I was intrigued. Finally, this morning, I decided to give it a shot. Instead of my normal routine of coffee and the previous night’s Daily Show (it’s currently on break before Jon Stewart makes his last run), I sat on my couch and forced myself to write out three pages. It wasn’t easy—I have the penmanship of a fourth grader—but I did it. I must say, it felt great to start my day by clearing my head, and it only took about 25 minutes.

Obviously, it is too early to tell if morning pages are a worthwhile endeavor for me, but I am going to try and keep doing them for a little while. Does anyone out there already practice morning pages? Do you swear by any other morning rituals? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!