Morning Pages – to handwrite or to type? That is the question.

Does anyone else do Morning Pages and have you been tempted to write them on the keyboard, rather than by hand as recommended by their instigator, Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, a 12-step process for unblocking creativity?

Julia recommends three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness morning writing done as quickly as possible, as soon as possible after waking. There is not right or wrong way to write. The words are meant for your eyes only. You can write whatever you like, basically emptying out whatever is in your mind on to the pages – challenges, ideas, to do actions (I mark these in the page margins), discharges of emotional distress, disturbance of world events, relationship hassles, or gratitudes.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash

Julia Cameron writes that the pages will nag repeatedly until we take action on an issue. I have found that the same issue comes up again and again, but eventually, out of the blue, a shift in perspective or a clear way forward will often emerge on the page.

I’ve handwritten Morning Pages on and off for the past two decades. I have boxes of journals filled with my ramblings. Some people write on rubbish paper but I love the feel of my fountain pen gliding over quality paper in a notebook. I’ve also attended writing-to-prompt sessions for several years and enjoyed handwriting with a fountain pen in beautiful journals in these groups. One day, the woman sitting next to me knocked a glass of water that splashed over my open journal. My lovely words just washed off the page. I noted my shocked reaction at those vanishing words.   

It was a short step from that experience to searching for an online journal for my morning pages. I found it in 750 in August 2019. Created by Buston Benson and maintained by wife Kellianne, this website encourages users to type out the equivalent number of words as three A-4 pages. It tracks the days you do and don’t write and rewards you with points and badges for not breaking the chain. It also analyses your words and provides statistics on their feelings, themes and mindset. It can tell you how fast you typed and how long it took you to reach the magical 750 words each day. You can search on words in past entries if you’re looking for a particular idea or a thought you remember writing about.

I wrote consistently on for seven months until a few days before mid-March 2020 when the media onslaught and anxiety about the pandemic sent our world into a spin. My husband and I decided to go into lockdown a week before the Australian government called it, in order to protect our immune-compromised adult daughter who lives with us. Just a few days later came the disturbing news that my youngest sister was in the Intensive Care Unit in Christchurch, NZ.

For the five days she was in ICU, I was immersed in Viber messages from the moment I woke until I went to bed, as my siblings and I tried desperately to obtain accurate information on her health status, in the face of her husband’s narcissistic refusal to give us details and our inability to travel to her. When we did manage to speak to nursing staff (against the rules, as her husband had made himself the sole contact person), we learned that she was seriously ill with machines basically keeping her alive while her body fought through sepsis caused by an arm infection.

She survived, but the drama involved negotiating complex family dynamics and it threw my morning pages habit into disarray. I wrote sporadically online until the middle of April, but before this I was questioning whether I ought to be handwriting again. On the 30th March I wrote on ‘I am unsure this morning whether to write here or in my journal by hand. It’s just so much slower be hand. But am I losing something?’  

I was also feeling an implied pressure to meet the 750 word target each day, and thus avoid breaking the chain and having empty days in my month. Other users confessed that sometimes they copied and pasted random words to reach their daily total. I was drawing Chakra cards at the time and must admit that sometimes I copied down the day’s reading or my horoscope reading to make my total or to give me something to write about when my brain felt dead. For some users this pressure to have an unbroken chain becomes problematic and anxiety producing, especially when they have hundreds of days of consecutive entries but suddenly find for whatever reason, they cannot complete a particular day.

When I tried to summarise what had happened with my sister and my feelings about it, it was pen and journal that I used.

Photo by Digital Content Writers India on Unsplash

In mid-April, I heard Russel Brand interview Julia Cameron. She spoke about her morning pages. She still does them at 71+ years.  She said to write about what you like and don’t like in every day, and in this way, you will create new levels of self-awareness. Other people use the pages to do a mind-dump and to plan out their day.

I returned to my paper journal. In my first entry, I wrote that I knew there were things in my mind that I constantly noticed and ignored; things that irritated and annoyed. Somehow writing by hand gave me time to notice them more and to capture them, even if was just commenting on the fact that every time I came up the stairs to my office, I noticed that they needed vacuuming but I shoved that thought aside, because my next thoughts were I don’t have time for that right now. In fact, there’s not enough time for writing as it is. Then, I realized that I had this thought several times a day. ‘To notice these thoughts, acknowledge them and attend to them in some way would probably free up heaps of mind space for creativity and also help me to live more authentically,’ I wrote.

There is something more focused about pen on page,’ I continued.  Another entry reads: ‘There is definitely more focus in handwriting. I get blocked and distracted more easily on the keyboard.’ And a day later ‘there really is more introspection and self-examination when writing by hand with a pen on the page,’ followed by ‘this kind of writing is very much more reflective and leads to more insights’.

I wrote on paper through late March, April and May, reflecting on the process. ‘My brain has more time to think of metaphors and similies,’ I wrote. I also found lots of creative ideas flowing. I got an idea about an Italian mythical tale inspired partly by my grandmother’s experiences and partly by research that had revealed all sorts of amazing parallels between the stories about water witches and my grandmother’s experiences of washing clothes in running streams.

I am not sure why, but I switched back to online after a hiatus prompted by the shocking realities of the Black Lives Matter movement exploding all over our screens and media. In mid-June I began writing on Penzu, another online journaling system. I was trying to write some order into my head and my world with these wordsBack to morning pages. All will be right in my head then, if not in the world. What a messed-up world we have created. So much violence against black people in the US and so much violence here in Australia against human decency.’

In late July I wrote ‘I don’t write with pen any more. Is that a bad thing? I have my beautiful pen and I have the remnants of a beautiful notebook somewhere but still I don’t do it. It seems easier to type and I can get more words on a page.’ I used two screens and developed a technique of focusing on the computer keys rather than the words coming up on a different screen, in order to stop myself stopping from editing as I wrote.

I continued through September, October, November, December on Penzu. I liked the clean open page display it offered. I liked the way I could go back and add to an earlier entry, something that did not allow. I liked that the entries were searchable. I gave my entries headline type titles that indicated something significant about the piece as a memory prompt.  

Just a few of my journals!

Since January 2021, I’ve returned to a new journal and handwritten morning pages with my fountain pen. Again, I have been actively noticing the difference in the process. Here is a summary of my pros and cons for handwriting and online



  • Handwriting allows more expressive stuff to come out and my brain has time to think of similies and metaphors. Entrepreneur superconnector and business coach Chris Winfield says that the slower pace of handwriting morning pages allows us to connect with our emotional life.  
  • Handwriting gives me a break from the keyboard.
  • Handwriting shuts down the inner editor (critic) as I cannot go back and correct. The idea is just to keep writing. Sometimes the words that come out, while incorrect are actually perfect for the sentence, or provoke another thought, or a laugh, like a Freudian slip.
  • I write fast for a set amount of time (25 minute Pomodoro) and feel relaxed about the amount I get written.
  • I love writing with fountain pens in beautiful journals


  • It’s difficult to scan my handwritten pages to find topics I may want to write on further (even when I put asterisks and action comments in the margin)
  • I end up with boxes of journals and pages of writing that I don’t particularly want anyone else to read and can’t bear to throw out (not good for a minimalist lifestyle!)
  • Ink may fade or be washed off the page! It may not be permanent.



  • I can type faster than I write, so Morning Pages can be done more quickly (in theory)
  • Electronic storage means no physical space taken up by journals
  • Entries are easy to read and search for particular topics
  • Entries are stored forever (in theory)


  • Trust is invested in on-line organisation that they will keep going and that your entries will always be available to download
  • There is a subtle pressure to reach the 750-word target and when this does not happen, one can be tempted to fill the page with random stuff.
  • Entries are not as deeply connected to my inner life.
  • I am more inclined to edit and fix as I go, rather than continuing with the flow of the reflection. This gives the inner critic time to wade in.

So, the scales have fallen on the side of handwriting my morning pages. For now, I’ll continue in my beautiful journal, making my pen and ink marks on paper. Next time my pen runs out, though, I will refill it from a bottle of Noodlers Luxury Blue Ink, apparently forgery resistant, light and bleach resistant, water-proof and it glows under UV light. I can’t wait to try it!

Autumn Archetype

May 2020.  Auspicious times. COVID-19 lock down restrictions are easing here in Australia and Europe. In Celtic earth-based traditions, it is southern hemisphere Samhain: time to settle in for cooler, less-light winter days; to note the passing seasons in the cycle of the year; to prepare for change. According to the old ways, this was the beginning of the new year. Time to gather in, acknowledge life’s gifts with gratitude; to remember our ancestors; to face our fears.

Marking the change of season seems particularly meaningful for me this year, perhaps because the lockdown has settled me firmly in my beautiful natural environment – trees in abundance, clean air, blue sky. (And yes, I realise I am very privileged.) Ancestors, autumn, anxieties link me with the wheel of the year and the seasons of my own life.

Recently I was intrigued to discover that as a post-menopausal woman who is not yet an elder Crone, I fall into the Maga or Queen archetype in the female life cycle.  Archetypes and symbols, myths, folklore and legends are treasure houses for writers. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with them, partly because I wrote a story about a water witch, based on a legend from the Friuli area of Italy where my grandmother was born. The legend had such significant connections to stories my grandmother told about their lives, that it felt like it was my story.

In the literature of female archetypes for a woman’s life, three figures are usually described: Maiden, Mother and Crone corresponding respectively to the child and girl; the mother who births and cares for children (or if childless, she nurtures in other ways); and finally becomes the wise woman reflecting in her life, sharing stories with those who will listen. The Maga or Queen archetype reigns in the autumn season of the life cycle between Mother and Crone. (Thank you, Jen Storer from Girl and Duck for drawing my attention to this development).

Seems with all the baby boomers living well past child-bearing stage and into careers and interests outside of and including the grandmother role, our collective unconscious needed a new persona to typify this emerging phase of women’s lives.  Enter the Maga/Queen ( I think she’s always existed in various incarnations of the work of Jung and others) but she has recently taken firm hold in popular iterations of the female archetypes.

While the Maiden energy is youthful, inquisitive, learning about herself and the world and the Mother energy is about birthing new life, understanding unconditional love and putting the ego aside; the Maga/Queen energy is both grounding and balanced while accessing deep insight and powerful wisdom that can contribute much to our evolving 21st century. Australian naturopath Angel Counsel suggests the word means magic woman or wise woman in Sicilian.  

Image by Valentin Salja on Unsplash
A beautiful hike through the Serbian Kosmaj mountain forest in early, cold spring.

The Queen/Maga feels connected to all life, yet she realises she cannot nurture it all. She must be selective. She is aware that her time is running out. She must set boundaries on energy expended. She realizes she can’t do it all; she must let some things go and she must do what really matters. Her expertise, wisdom and knowledge may benefit many if she chooses to work in the community.

She may feel drawn to focus on her own needs and creativity. I think she possesses what Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Big Magic as a fierce sense of creative entitlement. She writes on p.92 creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that – merely by being here – you are allowed to have a voice and vision of your own.

What a gift is this message to those of us who feel called to write, draw, act, dance, sing, create (any creative endeavour) in the Queen years of our lives. Certainly, we’ve earned the right to be here through our Maiden and Mother experiences, not that we needed to earn it. We were always allowed.  Yet somehow, there’s a knowing in our bones that now is the time.

And how powerful for women at other points on the wheel of life to bring in this Queen energy, whether as a Maiden learning her own thoughts, life purpose and expressing her voice; or the young Mother challenged with conflicting demands of child-rearing (or other kinds of nurturing) and societal expectations; or as a Crone settling into her wisdom, sharing with those who will listen. The Queen teaches all of us how to ask for what is needed, how to say no, how to negotiate boundaries, how to use expertise and influence for good.

And as a Maga what am I to do at this stage of my one wild precious life (Mary Oliver poem). Am I doing what I want to be doing? Am I being who I want to be? Questions for another day, another post.

Remembering Ancestors in the time of Coronavirus

Was it prescience? I made a vision board in January and devoted a chunk of it to intentions to focus on spiritual growth, intuition and meditation. I highlighted the words: wisdom, resilience and growth.

I chose these words because I wanted to add that focus to my life. But as the ancient adage from Aesop’s Fables (circa 260 BC) says: ‘be careful what you ask for.’ Who knew that just two months after gluing those words to the poster, a pandemic would find me digging deep for my own wisdom and resilience? Whether I want to or not, I am going to grow.

I am heartbroken at what is happening in Italy. My father is the son of Italian immigrants who came to Australia in the 1920’s after WW1.

My grandmother Amelia Gandini and my grandfather Giovanni Stroppiana on their wedding day in Mackay, Queensland, Australia, December 1927.

In the last few decades, I have been increasingly drawn to my Italian roots. I connected with a distant relative while my daughter was spending year working and travelling in Italy in 2011. Last year I stayed in Faedis, the small village in Fruili-Venezia-Giulia, where my grandmother was born and lived until she came to Australia in 1927. Now I feel as if half my heart lives in Italy.

To see the heroic efforts of the Italian medical staff; to know the devastating Utilitarian choices they are making to save younger over older lives (and this in a strongly family-orientated culture); to hear the indomitable spirit of people singing from their balconies; all this moves me to tears. A queer sense of pride rises in my blue-sky, brown-land Australian heart for these people, this culture and this country that I claim as part of my heritage.

In the time of coronavirus, I draw strength and resilience from my Italian ancestors. I and my daughters are here partly because of their incredible resilience. My grandmother (Amelia Gandini) was fifteen when the last pandemic l’influenza Spagnola (Spanish Flu)came to Faedis in 1918 just over 100 years ago. She said every family in the village lost at least one person. A vigil would be held in the home with candles. Then when the bells rang in the piazza, she and her brothers and their mother would run up to the church to say Mass.

Santa Maria Assunta Church, Piazza 1 maggio, Faedis Nov 2019. When my
grandmother left in 1927, the church was still being
renovated from a smaller structure
Photograph by James Hills

No-one died in Amelia’s family but her mother (my great-grandmother) became very ill with a high fever for many days and all her hair fell out. This is the same woman who washed clothes for rich people in icy running water for a few lire to feed her family. I’ve seen that icy running water. It’s a beautiful river if you don’t have to wash clothes in it.

Canal del Grive – this is probably where my great-grandmother washed clothes to make a few lire to feed her family. Photograph by James Hills

This is the same woman who tried to take her children to safety when the area came under enemy occupation. She loaded all her children and her chickens on a cart and with her cow, she led them to a friend’s house and supposed safety. I don’t know why this did not work out but a week later she returned to find her home occupied by enemy soldiers. For the remainder of the occupation she lived upstairs with her children and the soldiers were downstairs.

We found this photograph in the WW1 Museum at Kobarid, Slovenia. It was taken during the enemy occupation of Fruili, October 1917. It shows a woman leading two cows drawing a cart with all their supplies, a child on top – exactly as described by my grandmother.

This is the woman who somehow found the means that winter (with the help of Amelia’s brothers who stole and scrounged food wherever they could) to keep her family alive (1917-1918). Amelia said that the soldiers were hungry and cold. They ate all the chickens and the pig and the family’s winter stores. They burnt all the wood stored for winter, then the family’s furniture. These were desperate times. The hardy and resilient – my ancestors – survived.

My great-grandmother Erzegovina Puppini with one of her sons. When her only daughter, my grandmother emigrated to Australia in 1927, she never saw her again.

We all have ancestors who lived through difficult times – wars, pioneering days, economic depression, undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues, chronic ill health, family tragedies, natural disasters, discrimination, racism, injustice, etc. Their blood runs through our veins. Their collective resilience and strength are in us still; their capacity to dig deep, their wisdom and way of being runs in our DNA.Let’s call on these qualities, the gifts of our ancestors to help us through these strange days.

Then we will be able to say, like our young friend in Brescia, in one of the worst affected areas of Italy:

‘We in Italy are all fighting and we won’t give up, never at all. The only thing we can do in this moment is staying at our home. This moment is a kind of opportunity to have time to stay with our families. It is a kind of moment of reconciliation.’  

Which of you ancestors inspire you with their resilience and strength? Comment below.

Understanding Unconditional Love

I’m searching for the key to open the love-net that shrouds my life. Strands and webs bind and cling where ever they touch.

To realise the net exists is one thing. Acknowledging its entangling cords creates a breathing space, like the drawing of a curtain, the hint of a way out, an exit from cloying confusion.

The net contains and restricts, yet doesn’t cover me completely. My horizons and the ordinary lives of those around me are seen in snatches of clarity, bounded by the regular squares, tantalising in their possibilities, yet beyond the reach of my netted life.

I made the net myself

To admit that I made the net myself is quite another thing. I wove it with love and compassion, blended with a good measure of duty. It was a practical response to the physical and emotional needs for care and support in a beautiful adult daughter with debilitating Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue (ME/CFS).

It has become an entrapment. I’m blindsided by the rigid restriction.

If I rant and struggle, the net pulls tighter. How could something that began in love become so restrictive, so unyielding, so implacable? I am frozen in shock at the extent to which I am stuck and bonded.

I am searching for the key

But I’m searching, searching for the key.

There’s a remarkable sculpture of a man draped in a marble fishing net in the bizarre and beautiful Sansevero Chapel in the historic district of Naples. Titled Disilussione, (Disilusionment) it was created in the 18th century by Francesco Queirolo for the eccentric and controversial Raimondo di Sangro.

Disillusione  18th century sculpture by Francesco Queirolo. Photo from

The work is a tribute to Sangro’s father who embarked on a life of excess following the death in childbirth of Raimondo’s mother. In later years, the father returned home and lived the simple life of a priest.

A winged angel, representing the intellect, is shown releasing the father from the meaninglessness of his profligate life (the net).

The sculpture provokes wonder and insight

The sculpture provokes wonder and insight. How did the artist sculpt the marble to create such beauty, such delicate strands, revealing tantalising glimpses of the body trapped in unyielding stone?

How can I find my way out of my beautiful yet binding love-net? Can my intellect help me break free? Do I need an angel?

Unconditonal love is the key

I searched and searched for release. I journalled. I meditated. I journalled again. Finally, I wrote: To practise unconditional love, but not get walked on and trapped in it – that’s the key!

Easier said than done, as many mothers I know report. I want to support my daughter; help her heal and recover. How do I do this in my mid-60’s with an aging body, decreasing energy and no end to the need in sight?

Finally, another revelation: I need unconditional love for self as well as my daughter and everyone else. It’s aspirational. It’s simple. It holds the boundaries that I failed to set.  It is freely given. It releases and empowers both the giver and the recipient.

I regret that I didn’t know unconditional love as a child. My parents’ love was filtered through a set of religious rules and legalistic expectations. I began to understand it with the birth of my daughters and I am still learning to embody unconditional self-love.

At least now I understand how to use it as the key to open the love-net.

Footnote: There are other marvellously beautiful and shocking works in the Sansevero Chapel. Put it on your bucket list for next time you are in Naples.

January: Looking Back to Thrive in 2018

January is the season of planning and resolutions. Some of us have probably already broken a few of the latter. Fortunately, we can renew them on Chinese New Year – 16th February – but perhaps we’d be better off considering Sankofa.

There are various translations and meanings attributed to the West African Akan words ‘san…ko…fa…’  and the associated bird symbol shown above,  but the one I like most is it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”

The bird is usually shown with its feet firmly planted forward while its head is turned backwards, beak open to retrieve an egg from its feathers. The egg is a symbol of something precious, the wisdom from the past, necessary to move into the future. Sankofa” teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone, or been stripped of can be reclaimed, revived, preserved, and perpetuated.

Sankofa has special significance for the descendants of those taken as slaves from Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Benin to the “New World” or North America. It reminds of the need to reflect on the past in order to build a positive future.

At this time of the year, when goal setting pundits reign supreme, the past is mostly ignored. It’s all about the future, creating the best year yet, planning to get that novel/memoir/kids’ book written, illustrated, finished; multiplying income; building an author platform, etc. etc. etc.

We do need to plan. I’m a great lover of planners. In fact this year I invested in a beautiful Kiki K gold leather binder and filled it with Charmaine Clancy’s 2018 Planner for Writers pages. There’s something inviting and inspiring about the feel of leather and the quirky page design that Google Calendar simply does not deliver on my phone screen. So far I’m using the planner, unlike last year’s that languished on my desk under piles of paper for months at a time.

Yes, I am planning. I’m facing forward into 2018, but I am turning again to bring with me the precious truths from the past; the strengths, the achievements, lessons learned, the happy moment memories. I think sometimes we need to be reminded to go back and collect those things we have forgotten, or lost or had taken from us.

Last year,  one of the things I lost was my own perspective on events and personal history. I know why that happened – that’s a story for another post. Let’s just say, I became very enmeshed in loved one’s version of events until I was confronted with such an unbelievable, manufactured memory (at least from my perspective) that it shocked me back into my own reality.

I realised then that to shut out the past, or to travel onwards acknowledging only the pain, and ignoring the power of the past is to live a strange, half-truth reality cobbled together with determined forward planning. It’s a distorted, uneven landscape that buckled and heaved beneath my feet. It’s like the reassembled shards of a shattered mirror that presented a crazy disconnected reflection of the story or event.

In the end, it’s all personal perception, but for now, I’m seeking out those eggs of wisdom from the past as I make my plans for the future.

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you think about this idea.

Photo credit: Spencer Means on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA