Hey folks, the podcast is out of the bag- my friends Dee and Lenore and I have teamed up to do a podcast about stationery and so much more. You can listen to our first episode over at RSVPstationerypodcast.com and head to our facebook group for discussion.
In my final post based off the user, collector, or combination question that I posed to the Erasable Pencil Podcast group, I’ll write about a couple of points that seem to have several adherents, and those are: the seemingly accidental acquisition in the search for the right tool; enjoyment of variety and change; a love of stationery; as well as a fear of writing or use of the materials. Each of these is a vastly different point that is deserving of a blog post on it’s own but for brevity I’m addressing them here.
Initially it seems that all of this collecting and using begins as a love for stationery- be it pen, paper, or pencil. Pure unadulterated enjoyment leads to a quest for a pen, pencil, and paper combination that brings writing joy. In some cases, the chase precludes the writing, and people begin to not feel worthy of their pretty pretty tools. That really is an entirely different post or even series of posts. The chase also brings about an enjoyment in variety, after all, how many of us are truly monogamous with our pens, pencils, and paper?
Here again, I’m in the camp of people who like variety and yet once I find a tool I like (General’s CP#1, Staedtler Norica, Calepino, Field Notes) I stockpile a decent amount of those tools so that I’ll always have them. While I enjoy change I also realize that I enjoy knowing that I have tools that will work the way I expect them to all the time. Say my monthly 6 pencils* include a few duds, I know that I can grab a CP#1 and use it and be happy with how the pencil works. While I enjoy what I use regularly I also enjoy the chase and variety of pencils available.
My love of stationery is derived from my love of writing and drawing as well as a need for a time management system that is flexible and easy to adapt to my changing needs over time. I’ve used such planning systems as the pocket mod, attempted bullet journaling, the pig pog method, and various other GTD styles. Anyway, my planner style has evolved over the years and you can read more about it here. It’s not the point of this post, but to point out that through the finding of the right tool, pocket notebooks, my planner style has evolved to use something I like and fits my use and life.
The final point, which I think I’ll expand upon in another, separate post, is the fear of using our tools. I saw this again and again in art journaling. Journalers would buy the most beautiful journals and then never use them. we call it fear of the white page in art circles, I’ve seen it mentioned as fear of the page in NaNoWriMo circles. It boils down to a person’s inner critic getting the best of them, filling the mind with the phrase, “Who do you think you are?” As a phrase, this just kills any sort of creativity. In therapy circles we call this “negative self talk.” I prefer to call it an inner critic, it seems friendlier, and lacks the clinical feel of the latter. Also, when artists write about the inner critic it is pretty approachable and most people can relate, but if I link to a research study about negative self talk, eyes glaze over.
When I teach art one of the first things I try to do is just get students moving their pencils, pens and brushes across a page in an effort to get to know the material but also to simply enjoy how it feels. This tactile sensation is one of the primary reasons for using analog tools. It’s a sensation you don’t get from swiping a finger across a screen**, it can only be derived from pencil, pen, or brush on paper or canvas. The joy we derive from the tactile sensations associated with analog tools is a large part of why we use them, collect them, and stockpile those we fear will disappear.
In conclusion of this brief series, I’d like to thank all the members of Erasables for feeding my curiosity and looking within themselves to answer my questions. It’s certainly fun to read about everyone’s love for writing, no matter the tools they use it really does boil down to love.
The last post was about how do stationery users really get to a point where they stockpile, basically the journey from simple user of an item to stockpiler. To boil that down, the group consensus was that people were searching for the perfect pencil/pen/notebook/sketchbook. In that search some people had the rug yanked out from under them and their favorite item disappeared, which seemed to directly correlate to instances of stockpiling. I think that it is important for me to state here that in these posts I do not intend to speak for “all” stationery nerds, but rather I’m combining my experience with an informal conversation that was had on a Facebook group. I’m writing this, or compiling this information because I find it fascinating and I suspect that others might as well.
The second important aspect was how people defined themselves- as users, collectors, a combination of the two or stockpilers*. Some people see themselves as pure users of their purchases. Most of these people seem to keep a small stockpile of their favorite items on hand. While other users call themselves user-stockpilers and they keep large quantities of their favorite items on hand. This seems to relate back to having difficulty finding their favorite items due to scarcity or manufacturer discontinuing the product, that the item is vintage, or that the manufacturer changed the product.
The last two items on that list- discontinued products and manufacturer changes seem to take people down the path of stockpiling favorite items. This can also lead to the other end of the spectrum- collecting. Collecting doesn’t preclude using but it is an interesting subset of stationery users. I must admit that I do have a small collection of pencils. One of each pencil that arrives in my home goes into a pencil case. Interesting to me is that collectors range from wanting one of everything that interests them to people who collect pencils in packages or great quantities of particular pencils that interest them. I think that the whole collecting side of the stationery world could be (possibly should be) a post in and of itself.
Here is where I make an admission. I wanted to be a collector, but I’m simply not. I really like using my various pocket notebooks, pencils and pens. I have a Danitrio Cumlaude pen that I’ve been on the fence of selling. Though it is a beautiful piece of celluloid that I adore looking at I don’t use it. It’s got the most buttery smooth nib but I don’t use it. I don’t use it because I’m rough on my tools and I’m deathly afraid that I’ll break it. So it sits in a lonely drawer, never being used. That bugs me. I want to use all my tools. I chew through pocket notebooks at the rate of roughly 1 every 2 to 3 weeks and I destroy pencils when I draw and I use them pretty quickly when I’m writing too. I take delight in using my more “collectable” Field Notes**, sometimes as coasters. I’ve got a whole post about how I came to the conclusion that I’m a user not a collector, so this isn’t the place for that story, but the reality is I’m not a collector.
It seems that most collectors use some of their stockpile but never the collection. This is another point of difference between collectors and users- nothing in a users stockpile is sacred, it’s all up for grabs. This, I think is the primary difference between users and collectors. A user primarily stockpiles or collects items to use, eventually, while collectors will hold certain items as sacred and not for use, ever. One member specifically referenced enjoying their pencils as objects- finding enjoyment in the look and feel of the item, not just in it’s use. Even users will take into consideration the look of a pencil or notebook as they use it, the more attractive the item to that person, the higher the desirability. In some cases, people had favorites due to nostalgia. My enjoyment of the EF ECOwriter is largely nostalgia. It’s a dark soft pencil but it also has some grittiness that can be unpleasant in use, but I love the dark chrome yellow of it’s paint combined with the silver ferrule and green eraser. This is nostalgia. While my enjoyment of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl is largely because it is pretty and performs well.
In this discussion, it’s clear that there are a lot of factors that determine if someone considers themselves to be a collector or user or combination of the two. Most importantly it seems that there is a sacredness to the collection of the collector and a lack thereof for the user. Most importantly it seems that each person determines and defines if they are a collector, user, stockpiler, or some combination.
Not long ago I posed a question to the Erasable Podcast Pencil Community (EPPC) about how the members would describe themselves in terms of their stationery use: hoarder (for future stockpiler), user, collector, or some combination in between. I then asked them to really think about why they use their stationery goods in the manner they do. The results were, at least to me, fascinating. Not only in terms of stationery use and purchasing patterns* but also the deeper psychological reasons people collect, stockpile, and use the products they love. From this brief online exchange I think a deeper survey could be created and interesting research paper written. But I might be too deep into my thesis to think clearly and everything might look like a possible research study.
To begin, let me discuss my own stationery journey. I started journaling way back in the late 80s in a cheap but very cool to my young mind 5 year diary with a lock, when I hit high school I decided I would only journal in the Mead 5-Star 6×9 inch 5 subject notebooks. The reasons were, to my 13 year old mind, well reasoned. I liked the size and the paper did well with the pens I used for journaling. Also the paperboard cover accepted the glue I used to collage the covers. I filled one for each year of high school. When I went to college, I could not find the same notebooks. They had changed the covers, so I decided to switch to something a little more adult. This is how I began my journey into finding the “perfect” sketchbook.
This is a process that came up often in the EPPC responses. Many of the members were searching for the “perfect” pencil, pen, notebook or combination, this process seemed to lead to an initial flurry of purchases to test out all the things. Some people solve the stockpiling problem through gifting pencils they don’t like as much to others who might like them more. Others added the excess to their hoard of supplies.
At this point in my own use and stockpiling of supplies I began to evaluate my constant influx of more supplies. For quite awhile I was able to justify my accumulation by writing reviews of various items for my blog. At one point I was buying items faster than I could possibly review them. I had a running list in one of my notebooks labeled, “Shit to Review.” Eventually I did review some of those items, but I also realized that there was no way I was going to be able to review everything that came across my desk, especially since I don’t tend to review stuff I dislike**. I took the gifting approach. I boxed up a bunch of the pencils that I knew I’d never use again and gave them to a classroom in need***. I still have a box of sketchbooks and pencils that I intend to test and review, or have tested and will review.
This leads to the second point that seemed to be common, that people would find an item that they liked, and like myself with my Mead 5-Star and EF ECOwriter, find that it would disappear or undergo change. This seems to lead to stockpiling of a favorite item(s). In my case, I have a half gross each of General’s Cedar Pointe #1 and Vintage EF ECOWriters. Why? Both of these items have disappeared on me in the past and been impossible to find. Fortunately, the CP#1 is back on shelves, but the ECOWriter is gone for good and is only available on eBay. Almost every person who stated that they stockpile a favorite item said that another favorite has disappeared on them in the past. I think this is clearly an important motivator and point of change in the stationery journey.
I have to wonder if I would stockpile**** pencils, notebooks, and sketchbooks if in my early years of stationery love a favorite notebook and pencil hadn’t drastically changed or disappeared?
Consider this part one in a multi part series that muses on the thought process between using, collecting, and stockpiling.