Non-Negotiable: Eleven Days of Morning Pages

Documenting a dream

A couple of friends and I were talking at lunch the other day, how making something non-negotiable—whether it be getting to the gym, changing the dog’s water, or sitting down to write—takes all of the mental chatter out of the equation. A thing needs to be done and you do it. Simple. No need to burn energy mulling over the pros and cons or deciding if you have enough energy. You just do the thing. Every. Single. Day.

In just eleven days, Morning Pages have become my non-negotiable. I wake up at 5:55 am. Get up. And write.

The other day I had to leave the house by 6:30 am for an out-of-town doctor’s appointment. The old me would’ve said, “Morning Pages can wait. I’ll just write Evening Pages instead.” Or I would’ve skipped them altogether. But, nope, I got up at 5 am and wrote out those three pages—admittedly bleary eyed, but I wrote them.

Morning Pages pens

Just like I make my lunch and iron my clothes the night before, I pick out a pen and set it on top of my journal right before bed so that I can get up and immediately put nib to paper. I know me. If I didn’t do this, I’d be futzing around with all of the options, burning precious morning time. With that decision made, I find myself looking forward to using that day’s pen and ink combo which makes it just a little easier to sit down at my desk while the rest of the house is asleep.

Morning Pages

I worried about having something to write about, but that hasn’t been an issue. I tend to dream movie-length, technicolor dreams, with involved plots and a large cast of characters. In the past, these dreams would be hard to shake, causing me to walk around exhausted all day, suffering from a kind of dream hangover. But last week, after a dream that had me stranded in a foreign city with someone else’s cellphone (no stress there!), I sat down and wrote out the entire dream. Doing so, caused it to retreat in my head, so that, yeah, I remembered it, but I wasn’t living it all day long.

In addition to dreams, I write about petty chores, big and small worries, the high highs* and the shitty stuff a day can throw at you; the feelings that are rooted deep inside my heart and all the teeny tiny stuff floating on the surface. This is what has surprised me the most. That I’m never at a loss for words. And how good it feels to put those words—those inconsequential thoughts and heartfelt emotions—into a journal, all in a jumble as they flow from my pen. Line after line. Day after day.

Morning Pages

Another bonus—my pens are getting used in a big way, and I am plowing through ink. The pens you see above are the four that I’ve been rotating through lately—a Kaweco Liliput Fireblue [Kaweco blue cartridge], a Franklin-Christoph Model 45 XLV in Coco Pearl [Kaweco sepia cartridge], a Jonathon Brooks Charleston in Combustion acrylic [SBRE Brown ink], and a TWSBI ECO [J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor]. As I empty these, I’ll ink others, slowly making my way through my collection. I’ll identify true favorites, and maybe set aside some that need new homes. I’m writing. I’m really writing. Man, this feels good.

Namami Paper Writer journal

This Nanami Paper Seven Seas “Writer” A5 journal is a dream. Its Tomoe River paper is well-suited for any nib and ink combination I might use. There’s no feathering, no bleed-through, and very little show-through. There are plenty of pages—enough to keep me going for 160 days at 3 pages per day. Admittedly, I have a long way to go (149 more days!) before I need another “Writer,” but that didn’t stop me from ordering a backup today. You know, so it’s waiting in the wings.

I’m hooked. Eleven days in and I’m hooked. What’s ridiculous is that it took me 57 years to give Morning Pages a try.

Now there’s no going back.

*I had an appointment with my neurologist last Friday to go over the first set of MRIs I’ve had done since my MS diagnosis last year. While there are two small lesions present (one brain and one thoracic), and I still have strange electrical sensations in my feet, there aren’t any new lesions. And one that was “iffy” last year is now GONE. He feels that we caught this very early and kept saying that I will do “really well,” as long as I keep doing what I’m doing—eating well, exercising, stretching, and taking my medication. Talk about a high high.

Thank you to the folks who contacted me after I wrote this post, to join my fledgling Morning Pages group. Knowing that you’re writing right along with me gives me the shove I need when I have the urge to linger in bed a little too long.





27 thoughts on “Non-Negotiable: Eleven Days of Morning Pages

  1. Great post! I need to start doing morning pages. I also have long complicated dreams that leave me feeling exhausted when I wake up. And I have health challenges, too. My kidneys are failing and I need to find a donor or go on dialysis. My sister was going to be my donor but she’s now pre-diabetic so she’s not eligible. I’m glad to hear that your last doctor visit was encouraging! I have a Namami Crossfield that I haven’t used yet so I better get to work! I’m going to Lake George in August with my family so I’m looking forward to that.

    • Oh, Sharon…sorry to hear of your health troubles! Please know that I send you the best, and hope that a solution is found for you.

      I wanted a Namami Crossfield but they are NEVER in stock, so I decided to go for another Writer. GREAT journals. Please keep me posted on how you’re doing!

      Have a great time in Lake George!!

  2. I did the Morning Pages years ago, but I found I was So Negative, so I stopped them. Maybe I try them again. How long does it take you to do three pages?

    • I was afraid that I’d fall into the “so negative” thing, but so far so good. I mean, I am sort of negative sometimes, but not oppressively so. It takes me about 35-40 minutes to write the three pages. I start out TIRED, but then feel great by the end, no matter the topic. I love experiments and this is proving to be a fun one.

  3. Ooooh that Fireblue Liliput !!! 😉

    When I read the first article about this “challenge”, I said to myself this is not for me (I’m not a morning guy). And… I mean, I love FP, papers, etc., but I cannot just write personal stuff. A part of my brain is “coding” everything, for an hypothetical reader to be confused. Changing a word for another one, (like if “love” was now “heart spiked root”, “name” was “tent”, etc.) And this stops every attempt of writing (Morning, Evening… name them), because it’s painful and negative.
    So… all this to say you did a great work.
    Happy to see your health is getting better too. 🙂

      • Your English is very good! I knew what you meant. I’ve had issues in the past with having journals turn much too negative. I seem to be in a better place lately, though there are surely some negative emotions and thoughts popping up from time to time.

  4. Wow – that is great news with regards to your health!!! On another note, I, too, am quite the dreamer. My dreams are like watching a movie – so many things going on, complete with full-on conversations. Researchers say that dreams only last for a few minutes but I swear mine seem like they last for hours. On yet another note: my attempt at writing everyday ended when I moved back home. I finally realized that I can’t stand writing personal stuff to myself which is why I never completed my diaries (note the plural) back in elementary school. It’s hard for me to read for some reason…

    • Hi, Carrie! My dreams are very movie-like, too. Sometimes I feel like I’m living two lives…the awake one and the dream one. I’m sure mine are hours long, too! I’ve never been able to keep a journal going, but for some reason, this practice has clicked. (I still update my Hobonichi every day, as well. That’s for recording “good things.” Fun to re-read.) The morning pages are much less structured, and I’m not sure how much I’ll go back to re-read. It just feels good to write it out. Look at me…two journals in the works. Weird!

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience with morning pages and the pictures are delightful. My “morning pages” are in the form of a prayer journal that is part of my morning devotions and worship. I include the day/date, location (i.e. home study, office study, “the refuge,” etc.) and city/state. Then I simply begin, “Our Father in heaven,”. Then I write my prayer. Sometimes I write some of my other prayers later in the day, but mostly my prayer journal is for my first-thing-in-the morning-praying. I’ve been doing this for several years and it’s been quite edifying. I almost use a fountain pen with a 1.1 italic nib and inked with Lamy Blue Black (old formula, iron gall).

  6. My morning pages became a non-negotiable after about a week too, and I’ve been doing them now for a year. I just love the way I get to use all my pens and inks as well, which I don’t really have much chance to do in the day job. Glad you’re enjoying it and a big thumbs up on the MS news as well 🙂

    • Thank you! Sounds like the trick to this practice is to just start…and then it becomes a real habit pretty quickly. I definitely see the benefits…great for processing all the stuff that’s in your head AND for using those pens!

  7. Great post, Mary. I am in a position where I am deciding what changes I need to make, and which ones I’m actually going to implement first. You are inspiring me to include this habit in my daily routine. Thanks for your transparency. By the way, I dream some pretty wild dreams as well. The type that stick with me all day, and can be difficult to shake off. I am glad to hear that morning pages has brought some relief for the “dream hangover”, and it’s something that’s pushing me more towards doing this, than not.

    • Thanks, Karen! I absolutely love doing my morning pages now, and never really thought that I could make it part of my routine. Though I’m much more of an evening person, I don’t think it’d be as effective…I’d just end up rehashing the day, and who needs to do that? Morning really is the perfect time to just let your mind wander all over the place. AND a great way to get those dreams out of your head. How crazy they can be!

  8. I started writing Morning Pages about three weeks ago. Was just going to do it one day, as a test, to see what it was like to write, right out of bed. Now I can’t stop — it has quickly become a non-negotiateable. As a bonus, I get to write a lot with my (for the moment) only fountain pen (a fine-nibbed Cross), in my notebook (Clairefontaine Unplugged 🙂). I’ve already ordered a Lamy pen. Several of my friends swear by them, so I wanted to find out what the hype is all about.

    I’m so thankful I came across this concept of Mornings Pages, as late as three weeks ago, online.

  9. Your description of your morning pages sounded very much like my own experience, now some 17 years running. Then I got to the end and read about your MS and was quite touched. My wife, Linda, was diagnosed at age 44. She is now 68. This has been quite a ride I wish you all the best. I wish you all the best.

    • Wow…17 years! Impressive! What a cool collection of journals to have. Do you ever reread them, or are they out of sight, out of mind?

      I wish your wife well with her MS, and you, too, as this is a journey for more than just the patient. All the best to you!

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    • Absolutely! Managed to snag a Crossfield this week…finally! It hasn’t arrived yet, but I can’t wait to have it in hand…even though it’ll be awhile before I use it. SUCH perfect paper.

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