Hello MindFitMove Readers! This week I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post from my partner, writer and blogger Jane Endacott. She is here to tell you how a morning writing habit can reduce the stress and anxiety in your life and help you find clarity in your greatest aspirations.
Two years ago, I had a job that was killing me.
I had been working as a property manager for low-income housing for several years. It was my first job out of college, which I landed after a series of unsatisfying temp positions.
Many parts of the job were challenging and gratifying.
My clients had histories of poverty, homelessness, and disability. I helped them navigate program policies that empowered them to make the best decisions for their well-being. I saw people, who struggled to make it through the month on a disability check, share food with a neighbor who was in need. I had the joy of serving hundreds of kind, warm, spirited people.
But it was also emotionally draining.
There were days when I had to work out neighbor-to-neighbor conflicts, which made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict look like Sesame Street. I learned more about bedbugs than I ever cared to know. I witnessed mentally ill individuals go through the heartbreaking process of decompensating. I found the dead bodies of people who had passed away in their homes.
I always knew that I didn’t want to spend my whole life in this line of work. After some soul searching, I decided to get out and start my own business. But I was so exhausted and sapped of my energy that I couldn’t do even one thing to work on it during my free time. I had so much anxiety and tension from my job that at the end of every day, all I wanted to do was drink a glass (or three) of wine and collapse in bed. I felt stuck.
Then I started a morning routine that transformed me completely.
I picked up Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a popular book that guides guides people on rediscovering their creative selves. In the first chapter, Cameron urges readers to do morning pages, three full pages of non-stop, free-writing every morning.
You can write about anything that’s inside your head at the moment – even if it’s your kindergarten teacher’s ugly sweaters or watching your cat cough up a hairball. You don’t edit, read, or show the pages to anybody. You simply write them hard and fast, and then put them away. And no matter what, keep your hands moving.
I’ll admit, when I first read about morning pages I was afraid to try it. Free-writing sounded so woo-wooey. And anyway I already spent enough time with what I call “The Mind Hurricane” whirling around in my head.
Despite my misgivings, I decided to try the practice for just a few days. If it didn’t jive with me, then I could stop doing it.
A few days turned into a few weeks. I set a date to leave my job, hell or high water, and four months after my first round of morning pages, I did what was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done and made the leap into a vast chasm of uncertainty.
Morning pages will do a lot more than get your ass moving.
Why Tame the Mind Hurricane
- Calming The Hurricane. Inner demons love to point out your flaws and insist that the world is against you. You can shove those demons aside, but they never go away. Morning pages gets those demons out of your head and in a place where they can’t wreck havoc. Morning pages gave me peace amidst the mind hurricane. Even if you’re not a writer, morning pages are a fantastic practice.
- Make mistakes. Morning pages are the only place where you don’t have to live up to someone else’s expectations. You don’t have to worry about writing something stupid, insensitive, incoherent, boring, or wrong. It’s a sacred place where you don’t need anybody’s approval or permission. Your mistakes are necessary for growing and learning, and with morning pages you can make TONS of mistakes.
- Find clarity. I realized that spending a little time each day with my mind hurricane isn’t so bad. I discovered that the hurricane is a manifestation of all my fear and anxiety: fear of being alone, fear of worthlessness, and fear of becoming a royal screw up. What’s amazing is that once you see and hear those inner demons they take up less space. You gain room for more clarity, vision, and inspiration for more important things, like working toward your goals and enjoying time with loved ones.
- Write daily. This is the best benefit of morning pages. A daily writing habit is wonderfully cathartic. You’ll find a means of self-expression, a simple creative outlet to awaken my inner world.
How to Take on the Mind Hurricane
If you want to tame your Mind Hurricane but aren’t sure where to begin, start with these four simple steps:
- Have a ritual. Make a cup of coffee or tea, meditate, do yoga, or any other simple ritual that wakes our body up.
- Change the station. I used to listen to NPR in the morning, but doing so filled my mind with more clutter. Now, I listen to classical (more peaceful) and get my news later in the day. Think about your morning routine. Are there any habits or distractions you will need to change? How can you cultivate the clarity your mind needs? Give yourself 30 minutes to write before turning on media (email, social media, news) to avoid distraction.
- Try it for 3 days. One day is not enough, but by day three, you’ll start to notice minor improvements. If you’re still not sure, try it for three more days. Adjust as you see fit. No need to make a huge commitment.
- Notice. As you go about your day, pay attention to how you feel. Do you find that you’re more clear-headed? More creative or a better problem solver? Calmer? How do you feel when you miss a day of writing pages?
Two years after starting my business, I still use morning pages to maintain clarity, to see the path before me, and to look ever deeper.
In my experience, this practice has benefited my life in some very clear ways that is worth sharing with you. If you’re searching for your path or want to look deeper, here’s how it can help you. Those first pages I wrote two years ago? They were only scratching the surface.
Jane Endacott is a writer, blogger, and self-published author living in Portland, Oregon. Her blog, Word Savant, helps writers of all backgrounds find their inner strength and discover their voice. You can follow Jane on Facebook and on Twitter.