Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Miscellany: Pencils, Lamys, Doodles

Posting was a bit slow here over the past month, and - since September is going to be on the busy side for me - I can't guarantee that I'll be able to maintain my regular schedule in the next month either.  I do, however, have some great new-to-me items that I will be reviewing, and until then, you can read these links...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

10 Ways to Use Your Pens and Write by Hand More Often

If you're a student or if you keep a journal faithfully, then you probably already have many opportunities to use your pens and write by hand in your daily life.  But even I have noticed that I use my pens much less now than I did when I was in university (3 years ago now), so for myself and for anyone else who loves pens and needs more opportunities to use them, here's a list of ideas for incorporating more writing by hand into your life.

1) Keep a journal - This is probably the most obvious place to start, but the traditional journal may not be for everyone.  If you feel uncomfortable committing your thoughts and feelings to paper, or if you just feel that you don't have anything to write about, consider keeping a log of weather observations, books read, movies watched, birds seen, or anything else that interests you.  Or check out books such as How to Make a Journal of Your Life by D. Price or Raw Art Journaling by Quinn McDonald for simple and alternative ideas to get started with a journal.

2) Doodle - Doodling can help us concentrate and remember information, and at the very least, enliven a boring meeting or class (I know I filled many page margins with doodles in my school years).  This is probably something that many of you do already, but my suggestion is to practice it in a more conscious way.  Keep a favourite pen and a pocket notebook nearby and reach for them whenever you have a spare second or feel the urge to doodle.  Perhaps this notebook of doodles will even become the start of an art journal.

3) Practice sketching the world around you - For many years I believed that I couldn't draw, but when I finally gave it a try, I was surprised at what I could do.  I'm sure that many people would discover something similar if they gave it a try as well.  And even if your sketches turn out awful, who cares?  I think that flawed sketches are more interesting than perfect ones anyway.  If you need ideas of things to sketch, try Danny Gregory's EDM Challenges.

4) Start a commonplace book - A commonplace book is a place where you collect favourite quotes, reference information, and other odds and ends (I mostly use mine to collect favourite poems).  The D*I*Y Planner website has a great 2-part article on what a commonplace book is and how you can keep one (though I actually kept one for years before I even knew what it was called).  I think that the commonplace book is a great option for anyone who likes the idea of keeping a journal, but doesn't have anything they want to write about.  And yes, you could save this kind of information in a file on your computer, but a commonplace book is more fun, and writing out favourites quotes and poems by hand is a better way to connect with and understand another writer's words.


5) Plan - Make a to-do list or keep a planner.  While I've used both digital and paper planning systems, I've found that using a paper planner helps me to see my tasks in a more focused, concrete setting.  There is also something very satisfying about checking off or crossing out a task once I have completed it.  There are many different styles of planners available to buy, or you can browse the very informative D*I*Y Planner website for other ideas.  And if traditional planners don't interest you, you can try the Bullet Journal.  (I've written many posts about my DIY planner and Bullet Journal, and you can find them all in my Productivity tab.)

6) Take notes - If you're used to taking notes digitally, try using pen (or pencil) and paper instead.  I believe that the act of writing things down by hand engages different parts of our brains than typing does, and helps us to remember and understand material better.  Writing also slows us down, forcing us to be more selective in our note-taking and focus only on the most important material.  And even if you're not a student, probably most people need to do research and take notes occasionally.

7) Improve your handwriting - You may not be interested in learning calligraphy, but I've found that simply practicing my cursive handwriting is a soothing and relaxing activity.  I also find it fun to play around with different styles of handwriting (this activity is kind of like doodling).  Even if you don't care about impressing people with your fancy handwriting, if you're spending more time writing by hand, then at some point you're probably going to need to read over what you've written, so ensuring that your handwriting is clear and legible will help make that easier.

8) Write drafts - If you write blog posts, articles, short stories, or anything else, try writing your first drafts by hand on paper, rather than on the computer.  As I mentioned above, writing by hand engages different parts of your brain and may help you to be more creative.  Turning off the computer reduces distractions and the lack of a backspace button may encourage you to be more spontaneous and turn off the inner critic..  I write nearly all of my first drafts by hand (or at least start writing them that way) and I do find it very helpful.

9) Remember things - Keep a pen and a pocket notebook near you at all times, and when you think of something that you want to remember, write it down immediately.  This way, you won't forget any important tasks, and all of those neat ideas that come to you throughout the day won't disappear.

10) Write pen reviews! - If you're truly a geek about pens, pencils, and writing by hand, then you may want to share that passion with the world.  Start a blog and write reviews of all of the pens, pencils, and notebooks you come across to let everyone else know what you think of them.  (The photo above is from 2012 and shows all of my pen review writing samples from my first three (or so) years with this blog.)

What do you do to get yourself writing by hand more?  Is this even an issue for you?  What suggestions would you add to my list?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Favourite Fountain Pen Inks

Last year, I delved into bottled fountain pen inks for the first time.  While I have not yet sampled many different inks, I have already discovered a few that I think will be long-time favourites.  The following three inks in particular stood out among the inks that I have tried so far.

  1. Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrün - This seems to be one of the more popular inks out there, and I can understand why.  The colour is unique and beautiful (I think that anyone who calls this ink "ugly" is crazy!), with great shading.  It writes very smoothly, and the colour is one of my favourite shades of green.  It's also not an overly bright, bold colour, though, so for me that makes this ink suitable for using everyday, in almost any situation.
  2. Diamine Meadow - This was the first ink I reviewed and it is a very close second to Alt-Goldgrün.  This is probably my all-time favourite shade of green (and, even better, it matches my green Lamy Safari!), although because it is a bit brighter and bolder, it's not quite as versatile.  This ink also has some beautiful shading, and it behaves very nicely, with no feathering or bleedthrough.  And using this ink simply makes me feel happy.
  3. Noodler's Habanero - This ink was a surprise third place for me.  For some reason, I wasn't expecting to like this ink very much (I mainly bought the sample because I didn't want to leave Noodler's out of my first order of ink samples), but I ended up loving it.  Orange is my second favourite colour after green, and this ink has everything that I would want in an orange ink: it's relatively dark and a bit muted, it stands out well on the page, and the shading and flow are excellent.  I don't love this ink as much as I do Alt-Goldgrün and Diamine Meadow, but it's still one that I would use every day.

I do plan to try some more fountain pen ink samples in the future (for example, I already have my eye on J. Herbin Orange Indien, any inks by Diamine, and any dark greens (maybe green blacks?)).  Ink sampling is a great way to discover new inks and colours, without committing to full bottles.  I'd love to get some more ideas for inks to try next, so what are your favourite inks?  And what do you think of the inks on my list?

Friday, August 15, 2014

PaperMate InkJoy 100 1.0mm Green & Turquoise

The PaperMate InkJoy is probably the last pen anyone would have expected me to review again.  After all, I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about the last version I reviewed.  But I can never resist bright, fun colours, and my writing experience with this version of the InkJoy was a bit different, so I thought it would be worth another quick review.

This is the PaperMate InkJoy 100, the "lower end" version of the InkJoy, as compared to the "higher end" 700 RT that I reviewed previously (obviously, these are all "low end" pens!).  Unlike the 700 RT, the 100 is not trying to look like a better pen than it really is.  It's a very basic stick ballpoint with no grip and a simple cap - just what I would expect from a pen of this sort.  The triangular shape is a bit different, although it may not appeal to everyone, and I like that the pens themselves are as colourful as their inks - no guessing about which colour is which if you're searching through a crowded pen case.

In my last InkJoy review, I was disappointed by how the pen deposited globs of ink on my page while I was writing with it.  These globs often ended up smeared over my paper and my hand.  I was expecting the same thing with these InkJoy 100 pens, but these two coloured inks (green and turquoise) are not producing ink globs nearly as often as the black 700 RT did.  Is it the 100 version in general, or just these colours?  Or just me?  However, these pens still do not write particularly well.  They are slow to start writing, and they leave a lot of white space in the line.

I do like how the InkJoy 100 comes in lots of colours.  I've only tried the green and turquoise, but I'm pleased with them.  Many coloured ballpoints that I have used in the past have ink that is either dull or too faint to read, but these colours are bright and dark enough to read easily (my photo ended up being a bit washed out, I'm afraid).

Colours are brighter and darker in person.

Overall, the PaperMate InkJoy is still not a pen I would recommend.  There are better ballpoints out there.  Even the basic Bic is going to offer a writing experience that is just as good, if not better, than what you'll get with the InkJoy.  I am, however, feeling more positive about the 100 than I did about the 700 RT.  If you must buy an InkJoy, get the cheap one that comes in lots of fun colours.

Other reviews: Gourmet Pens, Design Fetishism.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shades of White

These images look cool and crisp - perfect for a hot summer's day...

Left to right: Rhodia Ice, Centropen Liner 2811 0.3mm, Eagle "Chemi-Sealed" Verithin 734 White.
Left to right: PaperMate InkJoy 700 RT 1.0mm, Pilot Feed GP4 Multi 0.7mm, Pentel Clic Eraser, Bic Round Stic medium, PaperMate Biodegrable ballpoint, buttons, stamps.

(By the way, if you ever need a non-reflective black background for taking photos, black felt works well.)

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