My Daily Pages in Detail // A.C.

My Daily Pages in Detail // A.C.

After reading last month’s story, a friend asked me about the daily writing habit I mentioned in it. They were thinking about forming a similar practice, and wanted to know some particulars of how others go about it. Their questions made me realize that although I’ve previously talked about thoughts I’ve had during my daily writing, I’ve never broken down exactly what that part of my day looks like. I suppose I felt that the concept and techniques have been covered by others enough, before and better (Yumi Sakugawa and Julia Cameron come to mind), so my experience was too commonplace to share. Then I remembered where I was.

If you’ve ever been to Baum-kuchen’s physical studio space, you know of the large, sturdy, antique wooden table in its center which has a magical power: it makes those who sit down there ask about each other’s journals. Okay, it’s not that scary. It “encourages” this, I should say. Of course a stationery store, by its nature, might prompt these kinds of conversations. But there’s something about gathering at the table, where people naturally settle down and bring out their notebooks to stamp and pens to jot down notes. Sitting journal-to-journal, it becomes easier to talk face-to-face. Curiosity intersects with apparent common interests and makes you feel at ease to open up, not just about your notebook, but the way you process your life in it. It’s one of the things I love most about visiting in person during the store’s open hours. No detail of a writing life is too ordinary to mention at the analogue table.

What I told my friend went something like this:

Midway through the morning, after my partner’s gone to work and our pets are napping, but before starting work (I work from home), I take what remains of my coffee to my desk and sit down to write. Using a cheapo Bic I keep in a little box nearby, I light a stick of incense. Some favorites: Morning Star’s Jasmine or Mimosa, or 19 Candles’ Fernwood Cypress or Labyrinth. Not only does it smell excellent, it gives me a gentle and practical way to measure time. I burn a smaller stick when I expect to be writing for about 15 minutes, while a larger one means the session will be around three-quarters of an hour instead. Either way, it doesn’t typically change how many pages I fill, just how much time I have between sentences. During pauses, I process thoughts, sip my drink or simply zone out as the ink dries and the incense smoke drifts and dissipates in the light. By the time the ceramic holder is sprinkled with a long curl of ashes, I’ve filled 3-5 pages of MD paper with writing. I close the book, tuck away my fountain pens and move on to the next task of the day.

Surely, this intentional practice, this aesthetic ritual of smoke and pine and light and paper and pen, yields some kind of apparent benefit, some inherent perceptiveness to the writing. Would that it t’were so. Much more often I look back at a page and it’s…a to-do list. Or lyrics to a song I despise, but nevertheless got stuck in my head. Or even, in an unhinged scribble, “I want to be done I have things to do let me reach the end of the page already aaAAaah”. Boredom is fine. Impatience is fine. The mundane is human and all of this is fine. This time truly is for writing anything that comes to mind. That very openness can seem opaque or intimidating when you don’t do this kind of journaling often, so here are some of the very simplest subjects that commonly appear when I start my pages:

- How I’m feeling. How I’m feeling compared to yesterday. Things I am looking forward to, or am very much dreading. Things I’m uncertain of.

- Observations of my immediate surroundings. If it’s hot or cold, windy or clammy. The brightness and color of the light. Animals or people passing by outside. The lovely or sorry state of my desk.

- Commentary on my tools. Ink, pen, notebook. Sometimes I can fill 1-2 pages just debating which color ink I want to use next, in which fountain pen. Frivolous but true.

As I write, I might eventually move to a more introspective place. Sometimes it happens after a page turn. The physical movement of the paper acts as a hinge, prompting my thoughts to move on through with it, as if brain and writing hand agree to say “on a different note”, or “I guess what I’m trying to say is” or “thank u, next”. Making the cognitive shift from surface-level thoughts to more elusive or substantial ones has come to feel more natural, yes, but incrementally, over a long period of time. It’s like practicing holding your breath to go underwater: the longer I’ve kept up the habit, the easier it’s become to–possibly– reach the insightful depths. But I’m not mad when I don’t get there. With this type of writing, what you write matters much less than the act of creating a clear container of time and space that allows you to write, with total freedom. From there it’s a matter of showing up to do just that. For as long and consistently as you need, in the present moment.

The present moment, of course, is highly individual. Some swear by doing their pages first thing in the morning for clarity of mind, others much prefer to digest thoughts and events late at night, or in pockets of time between obligations and activities, whenever their worlds have quieted down. The time of day and length of incense stick are up to you; choose what’s enjoyable and makes sense for your life. 

And what about what to write with? (By this I mean paper only; the subject of pens and inks is too vast to tackle here lol.) If you don’t know where to start, start small and with what you have on hand. When I wasn’t sure if I could commit to the habit, I used random tiny notepads and half-finished sketchbooks. Then I moved on to a pile of unused TN inserts that I’d accumulated because the paper was cool. After learning the joys of writing on cream paper, I entered a long phase of filling up 3-packs of MD Lights, ending up finally in my MD Codex era. Nowadays, I do write nearly every day, but that wasn’t always the case; as with most of my journals, there are lots of starts and stops in the record. The pages don’t mind. 

I wish you the very best of luck in carving out stream-of-consciousness time for yourself, and letting the words flow whichever way they need to go.

Text and photos by: A.C. Esguerra

Where to find A.C. : instagram @blueludebar

Read other stories by A.C. : Here

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