Morning Pages - typed or hand-written?

I’ve adopted the routine of hand writing three pages each morning, from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I find this helpful for focus throughout the day, and it helps clarify my thinking.

My question is about hand-writing the pages, and whether you notice a difference between typing or writing your thoughts. I like to hand-write, but have this sensory thing where the paper has to be perfectly flat, etc. This leads to my using a top-bound Rhodia notepad, which means I have a couple of unbound sheets every morning that I will eventually have to do something with.

Appreciate your thoughts.


Handwriting is better for me.

  • handwriting is better when organizing thoughts
  • long-term retention is improved

@JohnAtl I agree with this. However, one can get the same benefit by using the Apple Pencil while gaining the benefits of digital—the best of both worlds in my estimation.


I also prefer hand written notes. Even writing the name of someone I just met on a scrap of paper helps me to remember them. So don’t be surprised if I “borrow” a few pages from your printer or copier if I’m called into an unscheduled meeting.

It doesn’t matter if I write on paper or a tablet. I’m going to scan paper with my iPhone as soon as I have a chance. But writing on my iPad still seems to distract some normal people so I tend to use paper in those circumstances.

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I tried typing for a while, thinking I might want to be able to search my pearls of wisdom later on. But I never did. So I went back to handwriting.

If I remember correctly (it’s been about 15 years since I read it), Cameron advocates the morning pages as a way of getting your writing brain “warmed up” or “cleaned out,” not as a way to organize thoughts or even really articulate them clearly. The point is just to keep the hand moving from left to right, no? In your case, you’d prefer to keep the cursor moving from left to right. I think as long as you’re doing that, typing is fine, if that’s the way that has less friction.

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Great question! And great answers!

I use flat paper as you describe, handwritten, and have for 10 years. I have a foot locker filled with thousands of pieces of paper. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A few years ago, I did a couple studies on morning pages. It was fascinating! One of the questions I had was if it made a difference to handwrite vs type. I can’t say for sure, of course, but in my interviews, one stark difference between the two different modes was that people who typed their notes were more reliant on gamification and often said they’d stop writing if the software they were using went away. This was not, as you can imagine, a theme in the handwriters.

As for how meaningful or transformative the habit? There didn’t seem to be a difference.

As for how long it took? Typers spent about a third of the time writing.


I mostly have an filled up daily agenda (i.e. overfull) and find that, if the first thing i do in the morning is to write down what really must be accomplished that day, i have a high chance of success. It does not really matter where i write it down on, post-it, corner of the white board, printer paper etc all work fine. I noticed years ago when i thought to get neat and remove this habit by making notes in my Handspring (remember those?) i seemed to have less memory and less commitment to the daily goals.

I do a similar thing during phone calls; doodle away with words and phrases from the call, arrows connecting stuff, blocks, and always have a few houses or trees doodled in. It is not note taking; it would not make sense to others but it seems to form a small mental landscape to me to anchor some of the thoughts that came up.

I am getting my first ipad + pencil combo (if UPS can figure out where my order went) hopefully soon so i can try out if it works there too. I think it will but perhaps to a lesser extend. The paper i work with on calls are often preprinted with other stuff on it and i like to work with what is already there and incorporate it into my “writing”

Its a weird habbit i admit…


The key to remembering things is recall, it doesn’t matter whether you use a pencil or write it in Drafts. Reviewing and seeing the information again is the only way to make the brain store it for longer (or permanently, if you recall something enough). This is why I always process everything and tag it manually, and don’t use any type of script to categorise my tasks. I review as often as possible.

The most crucial thing is that you recall and reenforce the memory (which strengthens the neurone for that memory and stops it from disappearing). One of my best friends is a neuroscientist, and I’ve been studying the process of learning for 20 years. This is the key no matter what form you use to record something.


That was another reason I switched for a while. In the end, though, I came to prefer the pace of handwriting. Typing was efficient, but efficiency, I decided, wasn’t one of my goals.

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Yes, this is how I feel, too. Faster ≠ better when it comes to self awareness and the benefits of reflection.

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In his new book, Barack Obama writes: “I still like writing things out in longhand, finding that a computer gives even my roughest drafts too smooth a gloss and lends half-baked thoughts the mask of tidiness.”


Thanks for the input everyone! It’s nice to have access to all these wonderful minds.

Yes, I think Cameron’s morning pages were more cathartic and spiritual for her (her video). For me, it gives my thoughts some attention (that they seem to need), and the writing process helps me fill in those gaps that our brains like to fool us into thinking aren’t there.

I might give that a try, though I do like my fountain pens.

In my initial post I was going to elaborate more on why I was writing, but decided it would be better not to limit or bias responses.
In this case, it’s more about the writing and thinking than trying for retention or any sort of planning. (That comes at other times, of course.)

Looks like the Rhodia pad will work for me, and maybe I’ll just buy a footlocker for my notes like @beck has :slight_smile:


This is a habit I wish I could stick to!

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Unlike most here, I found that for myself typing works better than handwriting.

I tried it several times but found both - real handwriting and also with iPad and Pencil in various apps - too slow for me and especially too distracting. I couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand and my brain would start to wander off, thinking about todos and other stuff until my hand has finished writing :blush:.
Secondly I found myself obsessing about the perfect paper and it drives me nuts when the paper was not perfectly clean, straight and aligned; about the pen and if it doesn’t write perfect lines (I tried many) and lastly my handwriting if it doesn’t look good to me and constant I would start to obsess about that („why my hw looks so bad“, „why this letter looks different than the one before“, „why the weight of the strokes is different?“ and „does the color look different as well?“ … so not really peaceful writing and I would want to look at them later on again.

Instead I found my sanctuary​:blush: in Ulysses and markdown writing: it looks clean and exactly the same and I find it easy to concentrate on the task. For morning (or evening) pages I use my iPad Pro 12,9 and write on the Glas itself. I love how quiet that is compared to normal keyboards and I found this way I’m just fast enough to keep my brain engaged with the task while also not being too fast to not enjoy :blush:.

I once also played around with creating my own font from my handwriting to give it a personal touch :blush:.

Just my 2 cents


I am thinking of giving Day One a go to form the habit… I know our lovely hosts love it but are you all the same?

I tried for a few months to use DayOne for “evening pages” – end of day reflection. I used the DayOne “reminder” feature to pop up a template for me to fill in. My problems:

  • had to be at a computer or phone when the reminder showed up;
  • had to be at a computer or phone, which is distracting, so more than half the time I cancelled the reminder because there was some other eye candy I was enticed by.

Using a computer for personal journaling – morning, evening, whenever – in my experience always fails more than it succeeds. I’m ok on a computer with logging events – which is different than journaling IMO – but not with personal writing.


Thank you for that. I find with all these things you never know until you’ve gone too far into the app/process.

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My journal is all handwritten in paper notebooks. As I’ve been sorting through boxes in the garage I’m finding some of my earlier ones, so far the earliest one I’ve found is from 1969. Clearly the paper or style of journal did not matter much to me in the past. I’ve found journal notes in spiral bound books, the old black and white marbled cover lab books, special ones for trips. Some are really nice handmade things and some are cheap ssteno notebooks. Some are bound and some are paperback. Seems even early on I would start a journal whenever we took a trip usually filled with pictures of dinosaurs or trees or the plants and things we saw along the way. In one memorable one I’ve found a pretty nicely drawn map of a cave system we were exploring. What is missing from all of them is a way to link or see the connections. I know in a computer system I’d see that but I don’t really like to think and write that way for journal stuff.

Lately the size of the paper is more important to me than I thought. I had been using small pocket Moleskin notebooks and have a bunch fo them filled up. Then I moved to a larger sice and I’m currently in the use if the notebooks phase so trying to use up a stash of notebooks of varying types. I already have my next ones in hand though, junior (half a sheet of paper) size onces from Leuchtturm1911

I do like typing for longer things and I’m much better at organizing thoughts into more coherent forms on the computer. I get frustrated with paper for that kind of stuff because I want things to be accurate and if I didn’t leave enough space and then try to go back and fill in I get frustrated if I’ve run out of space on the paper.

OTOH I have basically switched over entirely to GoodNotes on my iPad with the apple pencil for all notetaking and love that I can move thigs around and use colors more easily than carrying around a handful of pens. I have considered moving my journals into the GoodNotes system but the pleasure I am gettign reading and finding old paper ones even if the paper is old and yellowed is so muhc more than the slight pleasure I get from uncovering a lost file.

What I think I might try next year is an experiment to see what happens if I still write in my paper journals but do a summary of them on the computer and link them somehow. Basically to make an index of the notes so I can find stuff later.

Now my ideal app wuld be an extension to GoodNotes or some other scanner app where I could write in my journal, then snap a picture and have my handwriting recognized and stored as a typed version of the note. Even if I had to do corrections because of my terrible writing I’d like that.

In fact one experiment I have planned is that I did get 2 of Leuchtturm1911’s white lines notebooks. One with lines and one with dots. Combined with their app you can digitize the pages easily and the lines fade away so also better for drawings. Now no handwriting recog. (none planned either as far as I know) but still an interesting way to do handwriting on paper plus digitization.

One thing I think is very important no matter what tools you use. DATE all your entries with day month AND year, Please! Esp. if you are doing them on paper. I’ve been finding what are journal entries from my mother and also things like a really detailed record of high and low temperatures and precipitation with the day and month clearly labeled but no year that I can find. So what could have been a treasure trove of cool weather data to compare is now interesting but not nearly so useful. Many of her personal notes have no date info at all and I’m left to guess when they were created.


@OogieM given your working environment I’d think you’d get value out of something like the Rite in the Rain notebooks or the Field Notes Expidition notebooks.