Every day that I have time, I fill 3-5 pages of an MD notebook with whatever comes to mind. Once in a while, that means snatches of dreams or imagination or visions from meditations. Sometimes it’s practical, like drafts of scripts, prose, or emails for work. But most often it’s banal: wandering thoughts, explosive venting, out-of-context phrases and song lyrics, unnecessary deliberations on what ink I’m going to put in my pens next. Junk, in other words. It’s gotta go somewhere.
For the past couple years, it’s gone into this stack. Something about the extremely plain design of MD notebooks is such a warm invitation to the eye and mind. After filling up 15 MD Lights (48 pages each), I’ve finally realized that 1) I am well and truly hooked on the paper and 2) I don’t need these to be lightweight or portable—so why not make a big commitment? I’ve since switched to using the MD Codex Blank (368 pages), which suits my needs perfectly. I have a lot of fun selecting tactile, decorative papers from my stash to make into covers for it, since it’s a journal I’m sure to see, touch and write in often. And the very best part of the Codex is the perforated lower-right corner. Tearing that little cream triangle off with the completion of each entry satisfies something deep in the animal part of the brain.
Once a notebook is filled up, I mark the front with a unique sticker that gives me a visual hint of its contents. I also number it so I can keep it in chronological order with the others. Whether I’ll actually keep them is an ongoing question. Part of me, a natural record-keeper, assumes so. But a different part once, after graduation, gathered up my most reviled homework, the most dreary essays and exercises I’d agonized and lost sleep over, and threw them into a cathartic beach bonfire. So who knows.
This past month, I did in fact sit down to do the unthinkable: I went through the mind dumps. No!! I’m sure someone out there, familiar with the practice of mind dumps or morning pages, is thinking. Why!! It was supposed to be a quick reconnaissance mission. I’m working on a new project, and my intention was only to skim the notebooks and retrieve any thoughts directly related to that story. But of course, without any organizing headers, highlights or markers to call out those nuggets of ideas, I had to scan the sometimes near-illegible lines pretty closely to find them. Thus did I end up reading, in great detail, that which was never meant to be read, not even by me. It wasn’t a fun dive. At best it felt like studying a slightly tedious textbook, broken up by the occasional faintly entertaining note or doodle in the margins. At worst, it made me relive some of the most embarrassing, destructive feelings I had over the past couple years, memories that I’d just as soon erase from existence. Into the bonfire, then.
Except—the archivist protests—except there is a reason for that writing to exist, isn’t there? Even in the most painful lines. A thought I keep returning to lately is that the individual is really a crowd of people, perhaps especially on the written page. You end up “not with a book written by the you that existed on any particular day but, rather, one collaborated on by the many selves who existed over the likely hundreds of days you were writing”. Writer Matt Bell was talking about the effect of revising a work of fiction over and over again when he said that. But a stack of journals may well be evidence that the same thing happens even when you are writing with no particular purpose at all, given enough time and repetition.
I tabbed the hell out of the mind dump pages; I’ve found whatever diamonds I could in that rough of mental record. The rest, I’ve no wish to visit again. But I’m grateful to the unassuming stack of cream paper, and will likely keep it around a while longer. Streams (of consciousness) keep flowing, tree rings invisibly keep growing. And even aimless thoughts compound, gather, become their own reason to exist. Reader or no. Fire or no.
- The quote comes from this issue of Matt Bell’s newsletter, No Failure, Only Practice
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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I loves the way you expressed thoughts that I’ve wrestled with. I don’t think I will reread my journals much either, yet I am obsessed with the idea of archiving them as analogue companions throughout life.
I loved reading this post. You write with a flow and grace that makes reading a pleasure. I also loved the visuals. Thank you!
It’s a quandary, isn’t it? I go back and forth, not with morning pages, but with my actual journals. Should I destroy the now, just in case I die unexpectedly? Don’t laugh; I AM 75 after all. Or, would my daughters find something of value in there? I know that if my own mother had kept journals, I would like to have been able to read them. But, I’m still on the fence.