Category Archives: Reflection

Thinking: Blue Inks That Photocopy

There is no legal reason to not use any color of ink, but it’s a well worn bit of professional etiquette that blue and black inks are considered professional. A former boss at my DayJob insisted on us using black ink for everything. She attempted to tell us that it was for legal reasons, then it was because it’s professional. Finally, she insisted on black ink because blue does not photocopy well. Some blue inks do not photocopy well and if I’m going to use blue ink then I need to know which inks copy well.

I’m going to start this little experiment with the following caveat- I know some of the blue inks I’ve been using at work do not copy well on the small Canon copier we use for fast small batches of copies. We’ve nicknamed this copier “Big Bertha.” Why? I’m less likely to kick uit if it has a name. Well that’s not WHY but it’s a good reason. I’ve included these blues in this experiment for many reasons. Thus far I’ve written with 16 different inks and with one refill style twice, when it is new and once when it starts to skip. Most of these inks are gel, ballpoint, or rollerball. I have one fountain pen inked with blue, and that is included. I do not use a lot of blue inks in my fountain pens, but find myself adding more as I need to have a rotation of “professional” inks.

Experiment- test these pages in my pocket notebook on Bertha as well as the high volume machine on the other side of the building. Bertha tends to make worse prints while the high volume machine does much better. I’d also like to test it on the fax, but then I’d have to write everything out again on a flat sheet of paper. Oh well, next time. Each pen and ink will have the following phrase, “Blue inks for photocopies” followed by the name of the pen, color and size if known.

Results:

The copier used makes a huge difference in the quality of how blue inks photocopy. Big Bertha (Small canon copier) doesn’t do a good job at picking up the blue inks, many of the lighter shades barely show up. With the larger Xerox WorkStation most of the blue inks copied perfectly well. Only the lightest of the blue shades were pale in the copies made on the large Xerox machine.

From the big copier
From “big Bertha” note the differences.

The pens I would use for guaranteed copy success no matter the copier would be:

  • A fresh Monteverde blue refill with a medium tip
  • Zebra Sarasa medium in indigo
  • Uniball Signo 207 BLX in blue black
  • Papermate Inkjoy in Slate Blue or Blue

Medium tips seem to copy better than fine or extra fine even with the better copier. The line form the EF and F tips were fair with the better copier but not exceptional. Sadly for photocopy clarity, a medium point is needed.

Big Bertha makes pale copies.

Pens for Crappy Paper

I’ve discussed in previous posts how my workplace offers the finest of the cheapest papers that Staples sells. Every quarter they buy 10 to 12 cases of whatever is the cheapest at that moment. This means the paper is never the same, though it is always one of Staples finest cheapest offerings. Sometimes we get 30% recycled, sometimes it’s not recycled but bright white whatever. You get my drift. The paper varies and it’s always rough and absorbent. As much as I’d prefer to fill out my paperwork with my Namisu Nove F with a Ti nib loaded up with Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo, it’d feather and bleed through any of the papers. For awhile I was was using an EF or F Platinum Preppy loaded up with Diatrementis Deepwater black. The combination does okay on some of the cheap crappy paper, but not the most recent batch. This has led me on a quest to find the best gel and rollerball pens for crappy paper.

Simply because I’m on a quest for the best pen for the crappiest of terrible paper doesn’t mean that I want to sacrifice my writing experience. I want to keep a smooth enjoyable experience despite the hardship of writing on terrible paper. There are many ballpoints that do well on the crappiest of crappy paper, but I’m not including these in this discussion for the simple fact that I already know they work on crappy paper. You want a solid ballpoint for crappy paper- get a Bic Cristal or Parker Jotter. You want gel? There is much more to discuss.

I’ve already written about how a Pilot G2 is always a solid choice– in both black and blue ink for crappy paper. It has become a go to for my work place. Any point size seems to work well. I stick with the standard offering of the 0.5. I did pick up the Pilot B2P, which is loaded with a G2 0.7 refill and it works quite well. So add the Pilot B2P gel to your G2 choices.

While I quite enjoy the Paperhate InkJoy gel pen in my pocket notebooks and journals when I use it on crappy absorbent paper I blow through the refills incredibly fast. The InkJoy gel seems to flow faster on crappy paper. It is already a firehose of a pen, but cheap paper makes it write wetter and drain faster. Also I’ve noticed that it has a tendency to bleed through on the paper. These faster flow and bleed through makes the Inkjoy a poor choice for crappy paper.

The Uniball Signo series in all colors does well on the crappy paper. It performs as well as the G2. In my mind I like the Signo over the G2 because I’ve never had one dry or skip as I have with the G2. The Signo writes and writes. Plus the BLX colors are just great.

Another Uniball, the Vision, is a rollerball rather than gel ink like the Signo, works very well on most of the paper at work. It writes and writes with good ink flow. Occasionally I’ll notice a few spots of bleed through, but that seems to be a rare occurrence. I use these in the standard black only.

I’ve used  a few Pentel EnerGel pens, and while I like the blue on the crappy paper at work, the black isn’t as good. I noticed that the edges of the line are darker than the center. My lines are less dark because of this. The ink flow is good and it doesn’t skip, nor does it bleed. I simply do not like the darker line edges the black produces. The blue does not seem to exhibit this characteristic. I prefer to buy these in refills and fill my Pentel Alloy body- as I always seem to snap the Energel plastic bodies in half before the pen is finished.

The unsung hero of crappy paper is the Zebra Sarasa. Not the Sarasa Clip, just the regular old Sarasa you can find in multipacks in any Staples, and oddly as Singles in many Walgreen’s locations in the US. The 0.7 retractable Sarasa is a decent and solid pen on crappy paper. On better paper it tends to skip and show that weird lighter in the middle line variation I saw with the EnerGel. The Sarasa doesn’t skip, bleed, or anything but write on crappy paper. From the moment I remove the waxy blob on the tip to the moment the refill is drained, it writes and writes.* Combine the Sarasa’s writing with it’s low price and availability it has become a staple in my cheap paper arsenal.

Many of my workplaces have offered Staples brand capped black gel ink pens in 0.7mm tips. While I prefer a click pen at my DayJob, I grab these when they are offered. These seem to be modeled after a Uniball Signo UM-151. They may even be made for Staples by Uniball. (The ink isn’t waterproof or lightfast.) That said, they perform as well as the Signo 207 series of pens on crappy paper- really well. They write and write without skipping or bleeding. That said, the refills are smaller than in the Uniball or Sarasa, so I tend to drain these pens faster than others.

In terms of affordability, the Staples is the most affordable. Because so many workplaces have accounts with Staples you can often get the person who orders to order you a box of 12 of the Staples pens at least once. If you cannot get the Staples pens ordered for you, the Sarasa is probably the most affordable next option. The Sarasa can often be found for less than the G2 or the Signo. If you look for sales, other pens are an option. I’ve been trying to keep my options to be $1 or less per pen. I’ve managed to score some serious deals in the post Back-to-School Sale season- I snagged 5 Indigo Sarasa for 10 cents each. Keeping a close eye on sales and clearance racks has helped me to find enough pens to last at least the next year at my DayJob.**

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Reflection: The Thrill of the Hunt

This post was written by Deirdre Scolardi, 1/3rd of RSVP and the person behind The Weekly Pencil.

I think for me, besides the excitement that comes with using my stationery goods, is the process I sometimes go through to get there. I am a very organized person and with that organization comes meticulous list-making. Whenever I dive deep into a hobby, I make lists. Lists of things I already have followed by things I want followed by the categorization of those lists into subcategories when necessary. Oftentimes I find myself spending hours compiling these lists and in the end wind up never acquiring half of what is on them.I delve deep when I discover something new. Not only do I need the “starter” stuff, but I need the best stuff. I need to catch up and keep up with the Joneses that have been collecting special edition pencils since they started making special edition pencils. But wait. What about all those Field Notes editions I missed out on? Or how about the Write Notepads subscriptions? Baron Fig’s latest Squire? You see my dilemma here. Yes. I want all of those things, but for what? The ability to say that I have those things? God knows I would NEVER use my last 211 (I have more than one so don’t fret).I often wonder what motivates people in their own hobby that they like. It is the time spent engaging in the hobby itself or establishing one’s self in that hobby’s community? Take the stationery world. Pencils to be more exact. What if, upon joining the Erasable community, you are given a Starter Pack and in that Starter Pack is a bunch of pencils, erasers, sharpeners, notebooks, etc.? Sure, you would enjoy using all of that free stuff, but would you enjoy it for hours, days, weeks, months, YEARS? Probably not. But if you were instead given a list of things that you should check out, perhaps that joy would be continuous because it would require you to acquire those things yourself. Acquisition is the key here. Sure, I’d love for someone to hand me a Blaisdell Calculator 600 (hint!! [I kid]), but it would be a hell of a lot more fun to search for one and find that holy grail on my own. If I did acquire a Calculator 600 I wouldn’t use it, but then how would I enjoy it? I couldn’t. It reminds me of the time I acquired an original Blackwing 602. It did not live up to the hype and I much rather use a modern day 602. It made me ask myself: “Do I want these pencils to collect them or to use them?” Stationery items are meant to be used– they are tools after all. It was at that point, at least for me, that I realized while I enjoy using pencils and stationery items, I enjoy the stories that come along with finding those rare items so much more.

A Different Kind of SABLE

This post is written by Paula Binsol, the med student behind the Insta account @outofpost and the blog Out of Post. She gives us a fresh take on SABLE.

In the past few months or so, SABLE or Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy, has been a term thrown around in pen and pencil collector communities. I have always been more of a user than a collector, with even the rarest among my collection being sharpened up and put to good use, but in terms of SABLE, my stash is small and practical because SABLE for me means Student Acquisitions Budgeted for Length of Education.

Just a little background: for the past two and a half years, I have been studying in the Philippines. Here, my daily allowance is equivalent to about $10 a day, depending on the exchange rate of the US Dollar that morning. It may not seem like much but there are some people in this country who don’t make that as their salary, let alone as a daily allowance and while it is more than enough to live on here while I’m studying, it is not enough to acquire a collection of rare or vintage items, which is why I tend to use everything that is in my stash. As a stationery lover for years, mostly of pens and paper, I started my whole pencil journey in January 2017 and was shocked and surprised when many of the veteran members of my pencil-loving Facebook family offered to send me packages of pencils and notebooks to try. Their gifts make up the bulk of my collection and while it was not feasible to transport everything back to school with me, I have almost one of everything and they are being put to great use each day.

Now, being on a student’s budget does not mean that I cannot collect or acquire pencils! It just means that I must be more creative in the way that I acquire them. To do this in the smartest and most cost-effective way possible, I begin with making a list of all the pencils that I wish to acquire, basically, a pencil wish list. Then, in another notebook (for me, a Field Notes Lunacy), I keep an inventory of all the pencils currently in my possession, which gives me a bird’s-eye-view of my collection, at-a-glance. To make sure that I have the opportunity I try everything, I use a system taught to me by a friend – I have three plastic boxes, two of which house pencils that are newly sharpened and the last that houses ones I have tried. If I love the pencil, it goes into my daily line-up on a pencil cup in my desk, but most of them go into the green “have tried” box. Practically speaking, I try to get the most out of what I do have by using it, using it and using it some more! There are a few things that I carry around with me on a regular basis that get a lot of use. First, is my little Klimt tin, which houses my most-used erasers and a traveling sharpener. Then, my most used pencils remain on my desk in a pencil cup. I use three each day in my daily journaling and rotate through them so that I can get a feel for what I like and don’t like; it helps me pare down my collection to the bare necessities. I don’t let myself buy anything for my collection, which limits my acquisitions to just what comes to me in trades, which allows me to cut costs substantially, but does allow me to explore the pencil and stationery world in a budget-friendly way!  And as a student on-the-go, I have a pencil case that is ready and waiting for me at all times. My pencil case of choice for this academic year is a Yoobi case that I bought at Target. I love it because it opens up into a tray, which makes grabbing what I need when I’m studying so much easier. Because I very rarely have time hand-sharpen when I’m at school or during exams, I bring mostly mechanical pencils with me – my current favorites are the P200 series and I have one of each, a P205, a P207 and a P209, mostly for taking written exams (because on our exams if you alter your answers after writing in pen, it’s considered wrong—the perfect excuse to start out with pencil). You can also see my all-time favorite pencil for writing and journaling, Apsara Absolute with its Ippo Pencil Cap. My two trust erasers, the Sakura Foam and Tombow Mono were chosen because of how well they erase both on paper and on Scantrons; they don’t leave a trace and that’s just the way I like it. While as a medical student, we aren’t able to use pencil very often (we are required to use pen or submit typewritten work for the most part), my favorite use of pencil lies in my quiet daily life, in journaling, making grocery lists or my bullet journal. I have a special pencil case that I use when I travel along with my notebooks that can fit even an unsharpened Blackwing and has extra pockets where I can keep a Ziploc and a sharpener, for long point sharpening while traveling! My favorite notebooks are my A5 bullet journal (no brand traveler’s notebook), the Olive Edition by the Traveler’s Company used for journaling and my September Leather Field Notes size bought off Amazon for my notebooks that carry lists, brain dumps and speaker’s notes for the debate team that I train. All in all, when asked to describe my process and collection and myself, as a lover of stationery, I label myself as an appreciator—both a user and a collector. I find my collection to be large for someone who didn’t have to spend too much and I love, love, love trades because they not only allow me to get to know others within the pencil and stationery community, but they expose me to pencils and other paraphernalia that I would otherwise not have known without the kindness and knowledge of others. So maybe I can’t yet afford the renowned Pollux or snag a vintage Eberhard Faber Blackwing, but with my kind of SABLE, I find that I get to go on an adventure every single day.

  • Instagram/Twitter: @outofpost
  • Blog: https://outofpost.wordpress.com

Biography: Born and raised on bagels and lox and challah French toast, Paula considers herself a Jersey girl through and through. She is a lover of stationery, the musty smell of a good, well-loved book and runs on hot tea and plain croissants. Currently pursuing her medical degree in the Philippines and in her third year, she is a self-proclaimed nerd and believes that quality tools bring quality work.

An Updated PigPog PDA

This post is written by Lenore, one third of the 3 woman team that makes up the awesome RSVP Stationery Podcast. You can listen to Lenore talk stationery to you over here. You could also enroll at the University where she teaches chemistry if you really want to know more about the elements that make up the world around us. You can hang out in the RSVP stationery podcast Facebook group and learn even more about stationery!

My history with to-do lists and pocket notebooks has been a messy one. Like most of us, I often have lots of little personal tasks that need doing, some on a timeline, some not, along with tasks for my work including big jobs, small jobs, and big jobs that are made up of lots of small jobs. I’ve dabbled with various organization and productivity systems in the past, but have usually fallen back on some combination of a desk pad, a stack of index cards, a pocket notebook, or random scraps of paper, none of them organized in any intentional way.

So when I read Less’s post last week about her planner setup, [ed note this is from 2006 and unearthed when we were talking about OLD school GTD methods on RSVP.} there were three main components of it that leapt out at me and made the difference:

(1)    The 4-page arrangement: two facing pages for lists, and the next two pages for random whatever. I needed this. One of my problems has always been the fact that there’s a combination of action items and random thoughts needing to be corralled, and like siblings in the back of a station wagon on a 13-hour road trip, these don’t play well together unless some thought is put into making space for them.

(2)    The concept of marking things off *or moving them forward.* I don’t know why this had never occurred to me before as a formal part of a system; it always felt like cheating to mark something off one list and move it to another, but of course, it’s brilliant, because it keeps everything where you only have to look at one display, rather than checking back.

(3)    Dropping in one vertical line for the margin, to check things off as they’re dealt with.

Of course, her setup, and the PigPog planner setup from which it’s adapted offer so much more than this. I was going to go the whole way, setting up my new notebook with sticky flags in the front, dedicated pages for various tasks, etc etc, but then it was four days after I had initially read her description and I still had no place to write down the first action item, which was, “Go back to Less’s blog post and set up planner.” So I realized that I needed to just take the very minimum components and get it going.

My setup is as basic as it gets: a dot grid No-Brand pocket notebook with a date in the front and my name and phone number in the back; 

the first set of facing pages marked with margins and separated into four to-do lists;

and the second set of facing pages marked as “idea pages”. 

Because of the weird way my first day went, the “idea pages” didn’t get any play, while the to-do list pages were nearly full. But that’s ok because I just leapfrogged over to the third set of pages for my next set of lists. It was fine.

Less’s setup has dates in the margins for when jobs need to be completed; I rarely need this feature, since I have a sense of the necessary timeline for most of my tasks, and can naturally prioritize them in an appropriate way when I have them all laid out in front of me. And since the number of tasks I’m recording is small enough for me to have an idea where most of them are in terms of progress, I don’t need the dot-slash-X-circle kinds of codes a lot of systems use. For me, a check mark indicating completion is usually plenty. Similarly, I don’t need color-coded inks (and indeed this would be an impediment to my using the system, since I don’t normally carry a variety of writing materials.) For me, it was really critical to give myself permission to write—and check off—with literally whatever is handy to write with.  (This is another point in favor of the pocket notebook, since I often feel pressure to match the ink and use good handwriting in a “nice” journal.) In my initial setup, I was thinking of three categories of jobs, but of course I didn’t allocate exactly the right amount of space for them so I ended up with some messiness when the longest list slopped into the next available space. Also, four lists is a more appropriate breakdown for me, if I’m going to use a single notebook for work and personal lists together. On my second set of to-do lists, I fixed that by starting two lists on the same page, one from the top line down, the other from the bottom line up. I left a space between them when they approached in the middle, and I still had to slop one list over to another area, but at least it was only one. Oh, and here’s one of my revlations: when the pages started filling up with jobs, and then the margins started filling up with check marks, and I found myself staring down the barrel of opening a new page of to-do lists…I was reluctant to copy some of those jobs over. They were such little things, it really seemed like I should just do them instead of carrying them to the next list. I should just…do them…oh. I should just do them. Oh, yeah. I don’t know why it took me that long to catch on, I mean the point of a to-do list is to remind me to do things, but before starting this system, I was perfectly happy to let those jobs just sort of languish on an old list. I mean, I knew I needed to do them sometime, but…well, they were on my list, weren’t they? But now I have to put up or shut up. The day this dawned on me, I completed several small tasks that would normally have just fallen off the end of the day, again and again.

I use a few other adaptations that I haven’t noticed in other places (apologies if I’ve appropriated ideas without credit):

  1. For tasks that include several small sub-tasks, I often combine them on a single line, with spaces for check marks after each sub-task. Then when the whole series is done I can mark it off in the margin. For example, for an exam that has to be scored, the line might have:

“E1: Score___ Total___  Alphabetize___ Scan____ Collate____ Record____.”

Then if I need to move part of this to a new list, it might become

“E1: Collate___ Record___”

or just “Record E1.” (b)  I do use the PigPog method of keeping a sticky flag on the first page that still has active jobs listed on it. However I also literally mark across a page with a slash mark when everything on that page has been completed or moved. It helps me get over the uneasy feeling that I might be missing something.

(c) For other needs that come up, I just start from the back of the book and use space as needed. Quotes, meeting notes, ink tests, drawings my daughter does when I’m trying to distract her at a restaurant, etc. Most of the things I might need to do in a pocket notebook are sporadic and unpredictable enough that I don’t need to invest mental capital in setting them up when I start a new book. The top consideration for me is low startup costs. The best planner is the one you’ll use, and my experience is that if I have to do a lot of organizational work before I can start my organizational work, I’ll close that loop by never doing any of it (and I’ll be back to a pile of index cards, a random scattering of pocket notebooks filling simultaneously, and a lot of dropped balls and missed deadlines.)  (d) When I have a task that really has to happen pretty quick, particularly if it’s a kind of task that is outside my normal workflow (I’m lookin’ at you, insurance open enrollment period), I put a circle in the margin (with or without a date) to draw my eye every time I open the book. [Pic 8]

So, the tl;dr: new notebook; margin lines slashed in on outside edges of first two pages and date at the top (total setup time <30 sec); four categories of tasks, one category at the top and one at the bottom of each page; markthrough of entry and check mark in margin on completion of a task. A set of dedicated pages immediately after list pages for whatever brain dump/ephemera/info that needs to be captured and transferred elsewhere. A plan to use pages starting from the back for anything I need to use them for. Permission to be messy.

 

Professional Shades of Blue

At some point someone somewhere decided that the only colors of ink that are acceptably professional* are blue and black. Red is occasionally acceptable in some contexts- like accounts receivable, editing, and other jobs where a mark must be immediately recognizable. I’ve read a myriad of reasons why blue and black are the acceptable professional colors from photocopy-ability to price to general opinion. Sadly, the general opinion seems to be that black and blue ink are professional and others are not.

My workplace is one which states somewhere that we can only use black and blue ink on any official document. This translates to using blue or black ink only, as everything I fill out becomes part of the official file and the only thing that can be tossed are occasional notes to myself and scratch paper. Honestly as much as I’d like to whip out a pen loaded with Diamine Chocolat to take notes while I’m on the phone it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to cart around a fountain pen loaded with ink just for scrap notes, not to mention that the Diamine Chocolate would feather and bleed on all the paper in the building, so I”d then have to bring in a notepad just for that pen. It just doesn’t make sense.

I set out to find some blue and blue-black inks that are professional and worked on the fibery, rough, absorbent paper in my office.

1 Zebra Sarasa Indigo/Navy

Depending on where you purchase your Sarasa pens this pen will be labeled either indigo or navy. I like Indigo better so I’ll use that throughout the review. This pen is a deep dark purple tinged blue black. It’s warm and a really nice dark shade of blue. The bonus is that the Sarasa refill flows well, is smooth, and works from the moment you peel off the little waxy ball to the moment the ink is gone. The gel ink also works well on the cheap office paper. I’ve bought a bunch of these.

2 Zebra Sarasa Cobalt/Blue Gray/ Slate Blue

Zebra really needs to work on their naming conventions and stick to the same name across the brand or even within the same line. The standard Sarasa in this color is officially named Cobalt. Which is hilarious because it doesn’t even come close to looking like cobalt in any way shape or form. Their standard blue should be named cobalt. This shade of blue is more of a dusky gray blue, which is what it is called in the “vintage” series of Sarasa Clip pens. I just call it Slate Blue which is what I call all blue gray ink pens. So from here on out this is Slate Blue.

Slate blue is very sedate. You’d think that because it is gray tinged that it would be pale or faded looking, it has a good balance of blue to gray and stands out quite well on the page. In some lights this pen has a hint of green to it, but in most it just looks blue. This pen has occasional issues with the fax or photocopier. It is still legible but all the copies I’ve made of forms filled out with this ink are faded.

3 Paperhate Inkjoy Slate Blue

This is another deep dark blue. There is a hint of teal or green in some lights but I’ve not had any complaints about this color. I suspect that because unless you are looking at it next to other shades of blue it just looks like dark blue or an attempt at blue-black. I’m not going to gush about the Inkjoy, go read this if you want to read all about the wonder of the Inkjoy.

4 Zebra Sarasa Blue

This blue is bright, vibrant, and stands out on the page. It leans toward the warm purpley side of blue. Honestly, I’m not a fan of this shade. It reminds me of Noodler’s Bay State Blue in intensity and color. Maybe a shade or two darker, but it’s got that sort of pop on the page. It would kill or stain your pen though, so bonus?

5 Pentel Energel Blue

A good standard shade of blue. It photocopies well and is visible on all forms I’ve used it on. Boring but decent blue.

6 Pilot G2 Blue

I list this because the G2 performs really well on all forms of cheap paper. It’s a nice standard blue too. Boring, but it’s blue.

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Writing Process Examined

After NaNoWriMo I decided to start my next novel and continue writing by hand. Thus far I’ve written 66,600 words across 4 Yoobi composition books and used only graphite. The Yoobi books are significantly smoother in texture than the Norcom and Roaring Springs Comp books I used for NaNo. The tactile feel is substantially different, and I’m really enjoying the feel. I began writing on February 26th (this writing is initially being done on 3/31) so I’ve done a substantial amount of writing in the last 30 days. In fact I reached 50,000 words after only 20 days.

Pencils used in writing.

My work schedule has settled down to my working most days after 2pm until about 7pm with longer days here and there. I’ve had to revamp when I write. In the past I had a strict no media- reading, TV, movies, art, or writing before work. I’m prone to getting into the flow and not knowing what time it is, and have been late to work in the past. Now that I’m working afternoons and evenings, that just doesn’t work. If I’m up at 10am I need to be able to work before work otherwise I waste most of my day, because I’m often fried after work.

I’ve set alarms on my phone to alert me to about a half hour before I need to leave, and then again when I need to get out of the house so I won’t be late. The 30 minutes allows me to jot down my thoughts for the scene and where I’m thinking it will go on  a sticky note as well as wrap up the thought. It also gives me enough time to pack my bag and grab a snack. I listen to podcasts on my way to work that help me to disengage from the creative process and get into the right mode for work. (Erasables, Myth and Legend, I Should be Writing, Art Supply Posse, etc)

After work I often find I need some down time to unwind. While writing is helpful in helping me to unwind I find that reading something can be more helpful in shifting from work mind to creative mind. I often read and listen to music for an hour or so after work. Occasionally I watch TV, but I find that many of the TV shows that I’ve been watching tend to aggravate me more than relax me.* I tend to save up 3 or 4 episodes of any one show and then watch them all in one day.

Often after reading for a few hours I’ll hit up the novel again and get a few more pages down. Sometimes I don’t get to it. I’ve learned not to beat myself up if I can’t write after work or skip a day. After all, I won NaNo once, and I’m currently crushing the number of words I did in NaNo 2016. I can do it even if I take days off. So a day or two off here and there is no big deal, hell, I am now looking at it as a needed rest for my brain. The other side of that is that just because I’m not writing doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about the novel. I’m a fan of the idea that sometimes the brain needs downtime to noodle through thoughts and figure out the sticky bits. Sometimes the downtime is needed reflective time.

So while yes the adage of “apply ass to chair” is a good one, sometimes the brain needs time to reflect without the pressure of the pencil/pen/keyboard. So long as you get the ass back into the chair after a day or two- even if it is to work on a different project, and you aren’t using the downtime to avoid the writing, the I think it’s all good.

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Sunday Study: The Perfection of the Paper Clip

All my stationery nerd friends said, “Read this book, you’ll love it.” Well, I have and I don’t.

When I spot a factual error in a book it makes me question all other information held as facts in the book. The first factual error I found was on page 26 where Ward states that reed pens are “filled by pouring ink into the top of the pen.” Apparently Ward has never used a reed pen because this is  hilariously wrong. Reed pens are dip pens. You soak some reed pens (bamboo) in water before use to activate the capillaries in the bamboo, but even still they are still dip pens. They function similarly to quill and steel dip nibs.. You dip them in ink. After this point I was left wondering what else was wrong.

In the section about Moleskines he writes that the “first” time a moleskine was labeled as “Made in China” was only after the company had been purchased by SGCapital in 2013. I suspect this may be a typo and he meant 2003, which was certainly before Modo e Modo was purchased. Further I remember the online uproar the “Made in China” label created. I remember my first “Made in China” Moleskine. I got that Moleskine long before 2013. In fact 2013 is long after I’d given up using Moleskines due to quality control issues. It is true that the Moley had always been made in China, and had previously been labeled, “Designed in Italy.” Further I have some issues with his “historical” facts of small-m moleskines. Yes there was one Parisian supplier that sold those made by someone Chatwin loved, but moleskines are a style of small pocketable notebooks- not just the one sold in that one shop. Rather, moleskine was used to describe all manner of small pocketable notebooks covered in oil cloth and were available all over Europe.

After this point I began to hate read the book. The section on pencils is quite good, though I’m reticent to take anything he’s written as factual given the previous factual errors. The section on King’s The Dark Half may not be totally accurate.

Ward’s humor is not funny to me. He tries really hard to be pithy and funny but often his jokes fall flat. Where Rees has deadpan down pat Ward’s attempt at humor fall flat and scratching my head, wondering how did he think that was funny? I got what he was trying to say, I just never found the humor in what he had written. Frankly, Ward’s writing style bores me. I’ve read many of the books on his reference list, and while those are boring they are far more informative than Ward’s book and because the writing was solid, well researched and informative with out wannabe pithy commentary, they were good.

I’m sorry, but The Perfection of the Paper Clip is anything but perfect, and I can’t even say it’s good. I’m not including an Amazon link for this one. just because I tortured myself doesn’t mean you should too.

Sunday Study: Writing Down the Bones

I’m not sure how Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones has escaped my attention. I was published back in 1986 and chapter 1 is a blueprint for every writing with a stationery affliction to delve deeper into that affliction.

For 32 years Goldberg has suggested to readers that they find a pen that lets them write fast on  cheap paper that they feel they can write garbage on. Interestingly, without ever reading this book this is advice I’ve given to journalers who have taken my classes- get journals that you will use- that you feel okay slopping paint into, spilling ink onto the pages, a journal where you won’t worry about making mistakes, one where you’ll feel okay simply turning the page. Goldberg adds a snippet at the end of chapter 1 about use of a voice recorder, something even more applicable today when most of us with smart (or even semi smart) phones carry in our pockets. The section about using a computer word processor is pretty cute in that it was written in ’86 when typewriters were the norm. I do wonder what she would say about talk-to-text? 

It’s interesting to think about the pens and pencils we like and why we like them. Goldberg mentions a pen being speedy and allowing her to record her thoughts quickly lest her mind out pace her hand. How many times have we had a thought about something we’d like to write or journal about only to forget it once we get pen to paper?

Goldberg encourages reader to really deeply think about which pen and paper combination allows them to write freely. I see this as a direct outcropping of her Zen meditation practice. For anyone who has practiced mindfulness writing can be a form, but also focusing on the feeling of pencil or pen on page can really bring about a sense of calm, and that can be channelled into the writing of the novel or into the journaling itself.

As a for instance. I’m a fan of rougher paper when writing with pencils. I love the feeling of pencil across the toothy page of a cheap composition notebook. In opposition, my friend Dee of The Weekly Pencil likes  smooth paper with her pencils, like Maruman. Alternatively, I like a smooth page for my fountain pens. I like the skating sensation of the nib across the page. Knowing these things about what we like can encourage us to delve deeper into our SABLE stash of materials and actually use them for their intended purpose- writing and arting.

 

How Much is TOO Much?

I’ve been in this holding pattern of knowing I have enough notebooks and journals to last me for the next several years. I haven’t bought a new edition of Field Notes in quite some time.* I’ve traded and sold some off but felt no need to buy more.  My use pattern is pretty stable. I generally go through 1.5 per month, occasionally less, occasionally more. I use them in the same way every time. I’m a user and not a collector. I’ve blathered on and on about my feeling that the bottom of the Field Notes collectable market is going to drop at some point and the only editions to be worth any money will be the early editions. I still hold to that belief and I still point to Beanie Babies as an example of how this can happen.

Anyway, I was vaguely aware that Field Notes had raise the price of their colors editions and collaborations. Apparently they vary from around $13 to $14. Especially interesting is that the L.L. Bean edition is on the higher end and costs $14 per 3-pack. The Carhart was around $13, adding taxes and what not it was around $15. So if you order them online you are also going to pay shipping. The cost is going to be even higher.  At $14 that’s $4.67 per notebook. At $13 that’s $4.33 per notebook.

What is the cost of production of a notebook? It varies based off of the scale of production. If I sit down with a ream of HP LaserJet 24# paper ($9.50 at Amazon) and a stack of Neehah Astrobright Eclipse Black Cardstock ($7.64 at Amazon). I have a total of $17.14 invested. I can make 41 notebooks from the 500 sheets of paper and the cardstock. Without factoring in staples, a long reach stapler or my time. I’m looking at each notebook costing 42 cents.

Thinking about the time that it takes to staple, fold, trim, and check for quality; I know I can make quite a few of these in an hour. I spent 15 minutes stapling and folding 8 full sized Traveler’s notebook inserts. Trimming took another minute. That means in one hour I can possibly churn out 30 hand stapled and trimmed notebooks. Pocket sized notebooks take slightly longer because they are smaller and require 2 cuts instead of just one. So I can also make roughly 30 pocket notebooks in an hour.

If I charge $1.50 per notebook I’m making roughly $1 gross per notebook. Some of that money must be used for administrative fees- paying Etsy and Paypal- we’ll roughly estimate that at 50 cents. so I’m down to 50 cents of profit per notebook. Which leaves me making roughly $15 per hour for my labor. If I charge $2 per notebook, then I’m making roughly $30 an hour for my labor.

This does not factor in time spent packing and shipping items to people.

The examples given above are using relatively inexpensive papers and covers by an individual person. If I were to buy a case of the HP LaserJet paper it would bring the cover down dramatically. The more paper I buy the cheaper it is. Further if I automate the production it gets even cheaper and cheaper.

I digress. Smart shopping means that the bookbinder can find deals and make their own pocket notebooks at a fraction of the price of Field Notes. as someone who has made and sold handmade notebooks in the past I’m rather appalled that the corporate collaborations with Field Notes are $14 a pack. It’s not like FN is doing a great deal of design work here. Every corporation has a “Look Book” or “Design Bible” that details the colors, color combinations, fonts to use, and how the logo can be used. The first LLBean books are LLBean colors and camo over dirt standard Field Notes. The Carhart books are the Carhart logo exploded out and in Carhart colors, with an admittedly cool back cover**. All this stuff would come straight out of the corporate look books. The first LLBean books could have been farted out by anyone with adobe and a mockup of the Field Notes covers. $14 is too much for little more than a kraft notebook with a fresh coat of paint.

With the price hike I submit to you that Field Notes has jumped the shark and diverted far from their initial inspiration. After all the inspiration was promotional notebooks that were often given away free with the purchase of goods. Instead Field Notes and their Corporate Collaborators are now making the consumer pay for the notebooks, at a premium price.

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