Category Archives: Reflection

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.

Fourteen bucks is too high for pocket notebooks. I don't care if they are special/limited editions. Stupid. #imout

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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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Comparison of Sharpeners: Long Point

Here’s a little reference of points produced by long point sharpeners.

Included are:

  • Carl Angel-5
  • KUM  Automatic Long Point
  • KUM  5L or Stenographer
  • KUM Masterpiece
  • Apsara Long Point

These are all sharpened on a #2/HB Ticonderoga of som sort. The natural wooden pencil in the various pics is a factory sharpened General’s Cedar Pointe #1

 

In Defense of the Humble Pilot G2

I’ve railed against the Pilot G2 in the past. It blobs. It skips. It smears. It isn’t waterproof nor is it lightfast. It is everything I don’t like in a pen that I draw or sketch with, in fact it is horrible for either of the 2 purposes in which I usually use a pen. I’ve never understood the popularity of the Pilot G2, until I began my current DayJob*.

The DayJob require black or blue ink, and black ink on particular documents as some sort of herald to professionalism and for perceived legal reasons. I’ve blown through an astonishing number of black gel ink pens in the last 6 months in a search for the best of the best. What really blows my mind is how fast some of the gel pens were consumed. One of these days I must log the number of pages I’ve written/signed/filled out with each pen. I’ve used Papermate Gel InkJoy, Zebra Sarasa, Uniball Jetstream, Uniball Signo, Staples 0.5 Stick Gel pens, and the Pilot G2. All with black ink.

I loved all of them.

The DayJob uses the finest cheapest of all the available Staples recycled papers. It is as absorbent as a Brawny paper towel. In fact I’ve used it to mop up spilled coffee in the past. The InkJoy glides over the page like butter on a hot griddle. The Sarasa writes and writes without skipping or blobbing. The Uniball pens performed flawlessly, writing page after page without skipping or blobs- silk smooth on the page.

The Pilot G2 has surprised me and has become my go to gel pen for this cheap absorbent paper. Unlike all the other pens I’ve used it doesn’t absorb into the paper, it sits on the surface of the cheap paper. The pen still glides smoothly, less smoothly than the InkJoy or the Sarasa, but still smooth enough to be enjoyable. What really sold me on the G2 is it’s longevity when compared to the other gel ink pens. Most of the other pens lasted roughly a week to two weeks. The G2 in heavy use lasted three plus weeks.** Given the amount that I write in my job, that is a huge amount of time. It’s also nearly double the time of most of the other pens used.

I cannot believe that I’m going to write this, the Pilot G2 is the superior gel ink pen if you are writing on super cheap absorbent paper. It’s not quite as smooth as the others mentioned here but it writes for much much longer. This is enough for me to purchase a package of my own 

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NaNoWriMo 2016

This year I participated, and won NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know about Nano, the idea is that people sit down during November and write 50,000 words. That’s 1667 words per day, every day, for 30 days. Phew.Early

I’ve tried to do Nano many times and always failed. I had excuses- too busy with work, the holidays, travel for the holidays, work around the holidays included 12 and 16 hours shifts. All of that is true, and it makes it really really hard to sit down and write, let alone creatively write on any of those days. In fact, sometimes all I wanted after those hard and horrible work days was to plunk my butt down in front of the TV and vegetate. Frankly, in the past that is what I did.img_20161129_185013

So what was different this year? Well first I decided to write everything by hand- pencil, pen and paper. Second, I don’t have the same job I used to have- my schedule is still chaotic but I carved out time every day to write. Third, On days I had more time, I wrote more. I padded my numbers when I could. I had several days where I wrote between 2000 and 3000 words.  Finally, I decided I was going to win.img_20161120_174950

Let’s address these points one by one, writing by hand is not easy but it offers a tactile experience which I think I crave when drafting a piece of writing. I’ve almost always written drafts of my blog posts, papers, and other writing with pencil, pen, and paper. This is what feels natural and works for me. Even this post has the bones of it written in my pocket notebook. Not the full post, but the ideas I’m hitting, pencil and pocket notebook. After I get the idea drafted I then type it up, mostly without looking at the paper draft. Occasionally I’ll reference it as I write, but especially for shorter pieces like this, I find no need to refer back to the notebook. I’m sure that if and when I type the novel, I’ll be referring to the notebook more often. Or I’ll go through and make an outline of the major chapters and events and work off that.

The work schedule is still chaotic, but it’s much more of a managed chaos. Further my commute home is not panic inducing- I don’t have to be on a congested highway, often I can drive through beautiful rural scenery, so it’s actually relaxing. Oddly enough, my schedule this year included a lot of travel in November for family events and killed those days for writing. I also had to work extended hours the week of turkey day to meet my hourly requirements. So my actual work days were all over the place and the hours worked extended more so than in October. Nothing like the 12 to 16 hours days I worked 10 years ago, but not far from it. Combine the more regular hours with a shorter commute and I suddenly have an extra hour a day.img_20161116_231854

When I had time I wrote more. If I found I had a spare 10 or 15 minutes, I scrawled down 100 words, or even a sentence. 10 to 15 minutes here and there add up to an hour over the course of a day. I had several days where I wrote 2000 to 3000 words and a few days where I wrote more than 3000 words. This was key to success. I had 2 days where I was sick and literally got down only 180 words each of those days. Also on the days where I was traveling, I had only 900 words or so. Being able to write more on days where I had the time was crucial.

Last, I decided I was going to win. In years past I had already decided before I had failed that I was going to fail. I am horrible at month long daily challenges. I failed at NaNoJoMo (November is National Journaling Month) and every other monthly challenge I’ve tried. This isn’t hyperbole, I cannot commit to doing something everyday. I just can’t. You might say, “But, Less, you JUST did!” The thing is I didn’t. I setup my Nano so that I wouldn’t have to write every day. I made sure I had WAY more words in the beginning to give myself extra words so that I wouldn’t have to write on days if I didn’t feel like it. And on those days (2 of them) I wrote exactly one page. I forced myself to do so, even though I hated it whole I did it, and grumbled the whole time. But I decided that I would win and DAMN IT I was gonna win.

So what did I learn from this experience? First off, I CAN write 50,000 words in a month. Writing 50,000 words in a month is hard damn work. Not only is it hard work, but it’s physically demanding work. I wrote over 3000 words 2 days in a row and then had to fill out several 10 page assessments at work, my wrist is still in pain, in fact I had to do several smaller days and take frequent breaks after that, simply to rest my wrist. Because carpal tunnel and inflamed shit in your wrists and hands hurts like whoa! Especially WHOA when you are writing more than usual.  I learned that I cannot do 2000- 3000 words a day on the regular, but I can do less than a 1000.

The experience has shown me that despite my misgivings I CAN do a daily challenge so long as I pad my results so I can take days where I work less than others. I write a lot pretty regularly. Generally I write quite a bit for the blog, and discard it, at one point I was probably producing 1500 words a day for this blog, and never publishing them. I have FILES AND FILES of blogs posts that never developed past an idea. I’ve got notebooks full of idea seeds that never germinated. But this month I pushed out a 50,040 word draft that can use another 100,000 words to complete and be a finished novel. Frankly thought what I’ve written thus far needs a lot of work, it is a first draft of something that COULD be more. That is huge for my writterly self esteem.

Frankly I think when you boil the experience of NaNoWriMo down to it’s core, it’s all about gaining self esteem as a writer. Sure it’s been said (over and over) that to write a good book you need to write a lot, everyday and fail at writing until finally you figure out what you are doing. And by gosh, I think I’m getting it now. Maybe I have a long ways to go before I’m not just a blogging hack, but hey, I’m on that road now.

SSS: Writing as a Way of Healing

Writing as a Way of Healing by Louse  DeSalvo, was required reading in my bibliotherapy class, and it’s well worth the piddly amount I spent to buy it and the amount of time I spent reading. (Seriously the ‘Zon has it for a mere 70 cents right now.) It focuses on writing, and specifically the Pennebaker Paradigm* (PP.) The basic idea with the PP is that you write for a set period of time about something that bothers you. You do the same thing for a day or two, telling a story- with a beginning, middle, and end; and eventually you find some relief from your depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc…  There’s a been a great deal of research into the PP, and I won’t bore you with the details but the gist of it is that if you can tell a coherent story about the thing that bothers you (that beginning, middle and end are important) you start to feel better. The PP is used to back up a great deal of the support out there for journaling as a healing tool.writinghealing

The chapter I chose to look closely at for this SSS was Chapter 3, “Writing as a Therapeutic Process.” It’s a good one to look at because it delves quite deeply into the desire to write and how damaging it is to not write if you really feel the need to do so. This, also applies to making art. If someone really feels a great drive to make art but they leave behind “childish things” in favor of work and other adult pursuits, they are leaving their creative self unfulfilled. A journal maybe a tiny drop in the bucket of creativity, but it is a necessary outlet, no matter if it is written or art based. One of the most interesting bits in this chapter is the various accounts from writers who used writing as a way to heal themselves.

Sadly, this chapter also flogs the age old untruth that “creativity comes from pain.” Yes, many people who have experienced some sort of traumatic event or pain in their life are creative people but also there are many people who are creative who have not experienced trauma. It really does a disservice to the community of creatives to portray us all as “broken” people who create out of desperate need. Perhaps this is an unfair critique of a book where the entire premise is based on “writing as healing” but frankly, it’s tiring to read the lame trope that artists are damaged. Yes, pain can bring about wonderful creative works, but pain does not beget creativity. Rather, creativity is a salve for wounds. This, I think, is what DeSalvo is attempting to get at by writing about pain and creativity, but sadly misses the mark with the blanket statements about creativity and pain.

The rest of the book is well worth the effort to read and delve into, though it is about novel writing, much of it’s contents also relate to visual journaling. Telling a story is telling a story regardless of how the story is told- through images or words or some combination of the two.

Next week, I’m going to review an old favorite, How to Make a Journal of Your Life, by Dan Price.

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SSS: Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Wabi-sabi is a confusing concept, especially for us Americans who tend to strive for more and better and more. This isn’t to suggest that we shouldn’t strive for better or what we need, but part of the concept of wabi-sabi is acceptance for what we have. Further it is in part accepting that nothing is perfect, that life is impermanent, and that there is beauty in not only the cracks but the differences. This is where I think wabi-sabi deserves a place in every art journaler’s list of things to read.wabi Sabi

I’ve noticed an uptick in people posting really polished pages out of their art journal to AJNing, the original as well as other places on the internet. In fact I’d say YouTube is rife with beautiful polished pages. What I’ve always found interesting about art journaling, and journaling* in general, is that the journal is a tool, and the most interesting journals I’ve seen are those that involve the struggle and document the work. This struggle is where the concept of wabi-sabi overlaps with journaling and where I think many journalers need to consider accepting their pages and journals as they work on them.

Acceptance seems to be a large part of wabi-sabi, it’s also a key component of mindfulness. Wabi-Sabi takes that acceptance a step further and not only do you seek to accept things in their imperfection, but you strive to see the beauty inherent in their imperfection and unique individuality. This is the part of wabi-sabi that is most important to a journaling practice, being able to accept the imperfection that you have created on the page, and allowing yourself to see that this is a reflection of the self.

Anyway, I chose to look a little more closely at this book because like next week’s SSS, Writing as a Way of Healing, it deeply speaks to my journaling practice and has influenced my thinking of acceptance of both myself and my art.
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SSS: A Natural History of the Senses

I first read A Natural HIstory of the Senses (ANHotS) way back in 1992, only 2 short years after it’s release, and when I was the impressionable age of 16. It blew my fragile little mind. I’d never read anything quite like this book, and I’d certainly never read much about the human senses, particularly not in the way Ackerman writes about them. This is one of the few books that after reading a few passages I was moved to purchase my own copy. I read that copy repeatedly while I was still in high school and took it with me to college, where I would read and reread passages when I felt that they applied to my life. I shared it with friends over coffee, and discussed it at length. Not only did this book move me, it influenced my thinking over the years. After college I stopped referring to it as often as I once had and in the intervening years I’ve had the pleasure to explore many of her concepts. But after nearly 20 years of not looking at the book, I purchased a new copy (it’s wicked cheap on Amazon) and when I pulled the quote for my paper, the text fell flat to me. It simply didn’t resonate in the same way it once did. It came up during a recent discussion and I felt it was time to give it another once over, now that I’m outside of the rigors of academia I feel like I can give the text a slightly more fair reading. ANHotS

One of the frequent criticisms that I’ve read concerning Ackerman’s writing is that it’s very flowery. I think this is a very fair assessment, Ackerman is a poet, and her prose does lean toward the violet spectrum. That said, her style of writing, though flowery, is easy to read and flows in a beautiful manner. Part of the reason this book resonated so deeply with me is that a friend of mine and I read it aloud to one another. This book would likely be one that I could attend to on tape or via audible. Ackerman’s prose in inherently readable. 

Since publication in 1990, some of Ackerman’s thoughts and thinking have been disproven- through science and experience. In the section I was utilizing for my paper in school, one of the ideas had been disproven (don’t ask me to remember which/what it was, I’ve been wracking my brain, only to not remember.) I suspect this is why, when I was deep in the academic world, the book was disappointing and resonated with me less than it had in the past. Though some of what she surmised has been disproven much of what she guessed at or thought, has been proven. There is a great deal of truth in these pages. I think this is what caused me to enjoy the book less as I read it when in school.

Now that I’ve been out of school, and I’m not in the “peer reviewed only” article mode of thought, I’ve been able to delve deeper into the book and actually reread it from start to finish (As of this posting I’ve a little more than 75% through the book.) I find I’m rediscovering what it is I enjoyed about this book. It’s that nerdy in depth analysis of a topic of interest in a completely sincere manner. Ackerman delves deep into her topics, writes in violet prose, and yet the book is delightfully readable. One of the reasons I adored this book at 16 is that a friend of mine and I read passages of it aloud to one another. Ackerman’s writing begs to be read aloud. (Note to self: Check to see if the library has an audio copy of this book.) Yes the writing is flowery, and on occasion approaching too much, but at the same time, how deep on a topic can one go when really truly passionate about it?

Next week I’ll be looking at Wabi-Sabi, a slim little volume that is easily read in a few hours, but will leave you thinking for days, months, and perhaps years. I think the ideas in WAbi-Sabi particularly relate to the use of an art journal. But I’ll get into that next Sunday. Continue reading

SSS: Art Heals

Art Heals by Shaun McNiff was my “filler quote” book in graduate school. It is a collection of his writings on art therapy. If you are able to filter through the copious amounts of woo woo and heaps of frou frou* there is a great deal of good stuff within the covers. I chose chapter 7, Aesthetic Meditation for my focus this week. It hinges nicely with a new class I’m developing that uses what McNiff describes as “creating a dialog with the image.”** In the McNiff (and other expressive art therapists who use the studio art approach) approach one looks at their own art, and talks to it, creating a conversation with the image, and allowing themselves to create a story about around and from the image. art healsWhat is aesthetic mediation? In short it is a way of looking at art and more expansively at the world around you in a mindful meditative manner. When engaged in this sort of viewing you are engaging all of your senses and making yourself almost hyper aware of what you are looking at. In addition to really deeply looking you also make yourself aware of all of your senses and focus on what you notice. You are immersed in the object.

This is not an easy state to be in, McNiff likens it to sitting meditation, which is a practice one develops over time. One simply doesn’t sit down and begins meditation for an hour*** they work their way up to it.

Further what McNiff explains in this chapter is that we can use our finished images to contemplate and relax ourselves. How many of us have opened up the pages of our art journals, caressed the lumpy bumpy pages and remembered that sense of release as we created the page? I know I have, over and over and over again. Not only are my art journals a place to release pent up feelings but they are also a place to return and contemplate my day and relax myself.

While many of McNIff’s articles are written with the therapist in mind, many in this book are not. If you are an art therapy student this is a great book for filling out those papers where you need a few extra lines to get  you up to the page requirement. He’s got a quote or thought for every art therapy need.

Next week I’m going to reflect on the book “Wabi-Sabi” by Leonard Koren.

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