In her influential book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron urges artists to begin their days with Morning Pages. Although her book is aimed at artists, the practice has gained popularity among people of all professions. As a dentist mentor, I urge my clients to adopt this habit as well. Beginning each day with some quiet self-reflection will help you be a better professional and, more importantly, a better human being.
What Are Morning Pages?
Morning Pages are quite simple. Begin every morning with some personal writing. Cameron suggests three pages, but you can begin with one page longhand. The content is all stream of consciousness. Don’t worry about making the words pretty or artistic. Simply write whatever comes into your head, even if it is three pages complaining about your dental hygienist or bemoaning the Baylor Bears’ loss to West Virginia. It literally doesn’t matter. What is important is that you write whatever comes to your mind. When you wake up, your brain is free from the distractions of the day. Therefore, you know that whatever you write down in your Morning Pages is somehow very important in your subconscious.
There are no rules about what you should write, but there are two important guidelines to follow:
- Write things out longhand. Don’t use a computer or iPad. Writing things by hand forces you to slow down and really get in touch with what you are saying.
- Write every day. No matter how busy you get, or how overwhelmed you feel, take the time to write.
Why Morning Pages?
“Ok, Dr. Deems,” you may be thinking. “This sounds all very well and good for a writer or one of those creative types. I’m a dentist. A scientist. I have specific guidelines about what I should do. I follow established medical protocols. What does this have to do with me?”
It has everything to do with you. Although Morning Pages certainly do help artists to come up with new ideas, the main benefit of this practice is personal. Morning Pages can center you and help you identify problems and solutions that have been eluding you.
- Eases you into your day: How often do you jump out of bed, hop in the car, and guzzle a cup of coffee right before you see your first patient? If you are like most dentists, this happens almost every day. When you begin your morning slowly, it helps you feel calmer and more relaxed for the rest of the day. Your patients will also pick up on your relaxed frame of mind.
- Stops the cycle of worrying: Like many of my clients, you may be a perfectionist. You obsess over everything. You worry about your anxious endo patient, your grumpy landlord, your sick mother. Most of the time, there is nothing you can do to solve these problems. When you write about your worries, they become more tangible. Frequently, you will stop turning them over in your head once they are there on the paper.
- Helps you develop creative solutions: Perhaps you are worried about something you can control, but you don’t know the best way to deal with your concern. When you let your mind and pen flow, you may develop effective solutions. All the worry in the world may not have yielded an answer to your concerns.
- Allows you to get in touch with the deeper problem: As you know, sore gums are simply a symptom of more deep seated periodontal disease. Often, the things we worry about are simply indicators of a larger, underlying problem. Writing out your Morning Pages will help you identify these foundational concerns. Then you can develop strategies to deal with both the problem and its symptoms.
Give Morning Pages a shot, and be patient with it. It may take some time, but after a few weeks, you will notice the calming, centering effects it can have on your life.