For a variety reasons, it has been awhile since the last post around these parts. At the risk of making excuses I’ll just say that from the middle of May to the middle of June, things get very busy at school. Once school finishes, I need a few days to decompress and the past couple of weeks have been filled with vacation travel. Before I know it, more than 2 months pass and nothing new has happened on the blog.
Anyway, there is another, more pen related, reason why things have been quiet. I’ve been intentionally focusing on using fewer writing tools to see what really works for me and I wanted to go deep and quiet while doing so. Instead of looking for pens and pencils that I might want, I’ve been trying to get the most benefit out of using fewer implements. Instead of worrying about tracking down the next pen or pencil that just might THE one, I’m trying to wade through the massive assortment of stuff I have to find what I want to use. Actually, it is not about what I want to use so much as it is about what I can use. Let me explain.
After years of trying a variety of different pens and pencils, I have only recently come to the conclusion that there are certain writing tools that I just cannot use. I want to be one of those people who can use a whole range of implements. But for one reason or another, be it the way I write and/or the situations in which I write, the realistically useful options for me are constrained. I should have learned this long ago, but it turns out there are wwwaaaayyyy more pens and pencils that do not work for me than there are pens and pencils that do. Heck, it was not that long ago that I wrote a post about the stuff I use and it turns out that a good bit of that really isn’t true. In short, I’m coming to terms with the pen/pencil person I actually am versus the pen person I want to be.
Let me get specific. I want to be a guy with beautiful handwriting that looks even better when using a broad fountain pen nib laying down a bright color. In reality, my handwriting is entirely utilitarian and there is no occasion for me to break out a broad nib and go to town. Also, using a fountain pen for the sole purpose of reviewing seems too meta. There are plenty of sites out there giving readers the impression that reviewers are using certain pens more than they really are and I am not interested adding to that list anymore than I already have. I could take up journaling and use more nibs and colors, but that is just not going to happen. I do a decent job of jotting down random ideas and to-do lists in a pocket notebook (but not as consistently as I could if I’m being entirely honest) but there’s no way I’ll ever keep a journal. Between work, family and other interests, I will never have the time or desire to radically change the way I write. I may want to be a guy who writes beautiful handwritten notes to people but that’s just not going to happen. I want to play the trumpet like Miles Davis, but that ain’t gonna happen either.
What does this mean? It means that the vast majority of fountain pens I have go unused. After spending several years and plenty of money on a variety of fountain pens, it turns out I just do not use them that much. Do not get me wrong – I use them. It is just that I don’t use them nearly as much as I may want to and the reasons are (a) other implements make more sense for most of the writing I do and (b) my writing does not look as good with fountain pens as it does with other tools. That second part probably sounds strange. Fountain pens are supposed to make writing look better, right? Under ideal circumstances (flat surface, good posture, smooth paper, fresh ink, clean nib, etc.) my writing does look pretty good with a fountain pen. However, I almost never write under ideal circumstances. I keep an inked fountain pen on my desk ready to go but I probably use it once or twice a week and usually out of a sense of obligation as much as anything else.
Here’s another example of where I have arrived. I want to love the Retro 51 rollerball pens. I dig that they offer so many different styles and their build quality is very, very good given their moderate price. Unfortunately, rollerball pens and I do not get along. I have tried different brands and different points sizes but for whatever reason, I get a lot of skipping with rollerballs and I do not like the look of my writing with them. I have been in denial of these facts for the longest time. However, no matter how many times I come back to a Retro 51 hoping that this time will be different, it never is. My writing style always causes too much skipping and the end result is unsatisfying. Yes, I could hack a refill that works for me into the pen. Been there, done that and it simply is not worth the aggravation. Yes, they work with the classic Parker style refill as well but I find the fit to be a bit hit or miss between these refills and different Retro 51 bodies. Nobody reading this should take this as a criticism of Retro 51 or their refills. I have and will continue to recommended them to anyone looking for a groovy, moderately priced pen. It’s just unlikely that I’ll ever use one again in any significant way.
On a related front, I also want to be a guy who uses different notebooks but that too just is not going to happen. Right now, I have more paper in stock than I will ever write on in this or two additional lifetimes. In fairness to myself, I came to this realization a long time ago. I have not added any paper products besides Field Notes, legal pads and some notecards to my pile in over a year. I’m sorry, but I’m just not going to fill up a Rhodia Webnotebook or a Moleskin journal anytime soon, later or ever. Are they great notebooks? Yes. Do I use them? Nope and I never will.
In conclusion, I am in reduction mode. I am getting myself down to a very small handful of writing tools that I enjoy and I can use. Moving forward, I will not purchase a writing tool unless I am confident that it could compete for a spot in this handful. Maybe a new purchase will not make the cut, but I need to be convinced it can compete for a spot before I hit the buy button. In the past, I have accepted items from vendors for review. I will not be doing that anymore either. Other sites do a much, much better job than I when it comes to reviewing items. Also, I do not like the obligation of writing a post because someone sent me something. In short, if I do not use it (and I mean really use it) then I will not write about it. The days of impulse purchasing are over. The days of reviewing something just to review something are over. The days of simplifying and using are upon us.
If you’ve read this far then you might be asking, “So, what are you using?” As for paper, I’ll go ahead and tell you that it’s all Field Notes, legal pads, notecards and Post-it Notes and I doubt that will ever change. I may seek out different brands if I hear good things, but the formats are unlikely to ever change.
As for pens and pencils, I’m not fully prepared to answer that just yet. If the course I’ve been on for the past several weeks continues to hold then I can tell you that (a) there is a lot more graphite involved than you might think based on this blog’s history, (b) a pen that I spoke highly of in the past seems to have locked in a spot and (c) a pen design I dismissed in the past is getting very serious reconsideration. More details to come.