Love Song for a Pen and a Notebook

For the last several months (truthfully, for the last year or so), my schedule has really started to spin away from me. Deadlines and projects and tasks have been feeling oppressive and overwhelming and my productivity has been a shell of what I know it can be. So after reflecting on what was going on, I realized I needed to simplify and get back to basics on some things. I love tech A LOT, and in many, many ways it has made my life easier. Without all of the technical wizardry at my disposal, there is no way I could run a thriving editing and writing career from suburban middle America. But with that technology comes a lot of distraction and frustration and noise. So. Much. Noise. I needed to quiet down my life.

I started with tuning my radio to classical music when driving and then switching it off completely on a regular basis. I started reading a little bit at night before falling asleep instead of going right from the TV or computer to bed. And I’ve been walking more. I also switched back to carrying around my leather briefcase instead of my back pack because it smells great, I feel cooler carrying it around, and – because it doesn’t fit as many things as the backpack – I had to make some decisions about what I really need to be carrying around, which helped with the simplifying effect. But I also realized I needed a new notebook system. Much of my planning and task keeping and such had been moved online and that just wasn’t working for me. After reading a ridiculous amount of info online about the various options, I went with the Midori Traveler’s Notebook.  Of all the systems I looked at, this is the one that looked the coolest and seemed to have the right combination of places to sketch out writing notes and plans, do a bit of journaling, and also keep track of my professional life.

The first notebook is a lined notebook that I use for story ideas and brain storming. So far I’ve written two short story ideas out on it that made me very happy. The second notebook is a blank sketch notebook that I plan on using for outlining the next book (and likely outlining the end of the current book I’m writing) because my outlines tend to turn into thought clouds and line diagrams at some point every single time (too much Syd Field influence I suspect).  The third notebook is a weekly diary with a page on the left for daily notes and calendar items and a blank grid page on the right for to do lists. I LOVE me some to do lists. I’ve already written  up one for this week and logged what I’ve been reading, writing, editing, and watching. Since I’m supposed to be on a social media hiatus, these little notes have replaced some of the status updates I would have normally posted. There’s something thrilling about writing that’s only meant for me. I’d gone back and forth with buying a cheaper, fake leather version on Amazon that was about half the price, but after hemming and hawing I realized this was as much about my quality of life and my mental state as it was about getting a new notebook and I need to buy better quality things for myself.

In addition to a new notebook, I also bought a new pen. My first fountain pen. I’ve always liked pens, but never really felt connected or obsessed with a pen until a few years ago when I was given that silver pen in the photo above by mistake at one of my old day jobs and fell in love with it. I have really poor posture when using a pen and suffer from wrist pain when I write too hard, so I’d tried all of the various rubber grip pens on the market. While I liked the feel of many of them, their performance as pens was almost always a failure. But that Uni-Ball Premier was comfortable and wrote like a beauty. So that was the first pen I actually kept and bought refills for. Now I own three of them I think. And that brass pen up in that photo is made from a rifle shell and was given to me by my mom before I went out on tour for Murder Boy. I also love that pen and it writes very nicely.

But none of these pens made me seek out paper to write something down. None of them made me slow my life down and purposely choose to do something that I could do digitally and do it in pen and paper instead just for the pure joy of it. Not until I bought a fountain pen. Specifically, this fountain pen. I love writing with this pen so much and it has done everything I needed it to do for my life and my stress level. I always assumed fountain pens had to be fancy with enamel and gold and messy ink. But I got this pen for $11 and it came with an ink cartridge. It writes so smoothly with just enough of a scritching sound to make me smile. This is the first pen I’ve ever carried around in my pocket and the first pen I’ve been sad for when I don’t have it with me. This is the first pen I’ve actually thought about sitting down and writing a novel draft with.

It’s only been two days now, but I can already see the soothing effect these items have had on my life. I’m already looking into other fountain pen friendly notebooks I can get (though so far I’ve been able to write on every notebook I have around the house with the pen and no bleeding) and I set up an email alert with the pen store so I know when the 2018 Hobonichi planners are available, but the one item I still haven’t sprung for is the lauded Palomino Blackwing 602. Everyone I know who loves notebooks and fountain pens also loves these pencils, but I’ve never been a huge pencil fan and $22 seems like a lot of money to spend on a dozen pencils, plus another $8 for the special sharpener everyone seems to use with them. I still may spring for a box at some point to try them out because a pencil seems like an even better way to get back to the simple essence of writing and planning.

So, in short: I adore the Midori Traveler’s Notebook; I am full on in love with my Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen; and I may or may not need to sell plasma to afford a box of pencils that I may or may not love but everyone else I know seems to idolize.