For the last month I've been waking up 30 minutes earlier each day to journal. But it's got a few interesting rules. One of the rules, for the eagle-eyed readers, is that you have to write three pages. Hence, the name, three pages. Another rule is that it should be done first thing in the morning as you wake up. And the final rule - or at least the final one that I follow - is that it should just be a stream of thought from brain to page. Simple? Yes. Effective? Hell yes!
The whole concept was conceived by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way. Personally, I have not read the book and see no need to, as the concept is very self-explanatory and has been explained by others before in articles and on Youtube. I'm really just stealing their idea of stealing her idea and saying how it's a great idea. Essentially, I'm putting Austin Kleon's idea of Steal Like An Artist into practise (Another book I haven't read). But I digress.
The idea of three pages did baffle me a bit at the beginning. For a start, it's an odd number. For many people, odd numbers are, well, just a bit odd. And people like even numbers more than odd. I have no scientific basis for that statement, I am simply reflecting on the fact that a lot of people I seem to come into contact with really don't like the TV volume being left at 19, and prefer a more solid 20 or at the very least a much more acceptable 18.
So why three pages? It gets worse. When one writes three pages, you are starting from a new point of view every day. Some days you are starting with a clean page that has no ink showing through from the previous page. Other days you are starting with a page that very much has the inky shadow of the previous day's writing. This doesn't bother me as such, it is more an observation.
I have come to accept the three pages is a nice number. It's not too long, meaning I don't simply end up wondering what I should be writing, and it's not too short that I ever feel constrained by the bounds of the three pages. On those occasions when I just don't know what to write, the advice is to simply write 'I don't know what to write' until you do have something else to write, then write that. It's simple. And it works.
Mornings are hard. Even morning people such as myself don't jump out of bed every morning and do a morning dance and sing-song. Some times you would rather just stay in bed, all cosy, and go back to sleep and avoid the world, it's problems, and general shittiness. But, alas, one cannot avoid reality forever.
Mornings are, however, the best time for doing a journal such as this for a very obvious reason that I have come to learn during this last month. With no filter, waking up and simply having no other events preceding the writing allows for a very uninterrupted journal session. If I was to journal in the evening, I might be overly focused on the work I have done that today, the friend I have had coffee with, or the rude driver tailgating me. It would be more of an emotive and reactionary journal.
Writing in the morning allows me to simply sit down and write about the previous day and my current thoughts about the impending day from a more detached perspective. After 7 or 8 hours of sleep, I am very much removed from a lot of life and do feel that writing with this mindset allows for great reflection and contemplation than I would have had I started to do Three Pages after coming straight home from work. Waking up 30 minutes early and giving myself the extra time also means I am not rushing to write to finish early, nor am I rushing home in the evening to make sure I do write as it's already done first thing in the morning.
I do have an idea about this one. Surprising, I know. And it's so simple it's bloody genius. And I believe this is the reason I wanted to try this out in the first place; the main selling point of this way of journalling.
I have tried to journal before, such as keeping a diary. And I have also done Bullet Journalling for quite a while too in the past. I definitely prefer Bullet Journalling to more traditional journalling, but I did eventually feel Bullet Journalling had outlived it's usefulness for where I was with my life and my daily needs.
The main idea behind Three Pages is not to journal for you to read and reflect later on, but rather to simply stream all of your thoughts down onto a page, and forget about them. This blew my mind. Why would anyone want to write a journal, only to then ignore it, hide it, never look at it again.
The main reason is because it's not for reflection. It is not for creating an outcome, it is for writing for the sake of writing. Or, to put it another way, it is a method to allow one to create without feeling future judgement from anyone, be it external or self. So much of what we do as people is judged or perceived to be judged by others. Having an activity such as Three Pages where one can create on a daily basis without a fear of being judged (even by your worst critic - yourself) is mind-blowingly freeing.
I have streamed thoughts about everything into my journal the last month. And in doing so, not that I will reflect on them, but it definitely has been a very therapeutic exercise every morning that does bring perspective and balance to my mind. I am not writing for anyone, I am writing to create a stream of my consciousness onto a page. It clears my mind, and brings perspective to all thoughts.
My original intentional was to start Three Pages, see how it went, review it after a month, and decide whether to continue. Will I continue? Yes. Forever? Who knows.
I do enjoy the process of creating. Creating for this website is a very different process as I know it has the potential for everyone on the planet to see. Creating for no purpose other than to stream my consciousness onto a page is unique in many ways. As long as I continue to enjoy doing both, I will continue to do both.
For anyone that wants to create or be more creative or even to be more confident with creating, I would highly recommend this practice. It can be fun, light-hearted and breezy, whilst also being thought provoking, heavy and overly reflective.
Does it need to be Three Pages? It works for me, but in the interest of habit stacking, one page is better than none, and you have to start somewhere.
Does it need to happen in the morning? Again, it works for me, and I can definitely argue the benefits of doing it in the morning as soon as I wake up, but I'm sure an afternoon or evening journalling is better than skipping it altogether because the mornings just aren't an option.
Does it need to be a stream of consciousness to a page. Yes. This is the only real requirement. As this is the essence of the practice. No filter. No expectation of judgement. Simply the person, the pen (or pencil) and the pages.
Go create. Especially because no one will see it.
I made a Youtube video where I talk more about this practice. Check it out.
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