Friday, December 28, 2007

More on the importance of journaling
...and a tribute to Leta

My hubby's grandma passed away yesterday. This is a sad event, but she was in her late 80's and lived a good life, and she died peacefully, so it's ok. The thing that makes me really happy, though, is that she told me I could have all her writings. Whether or not you believe in life after death, her journal is a little piece of her that will live on for years and years.

We went to visit her on Wednesday, two days ago, in the hospital. While we were there she said that she had written in her notebook just that morning, and she'd been keeping up with her writing. I asked her whether she had any special plans or wishes for her writing, and she said she didn't think so. I asked her whether I could have them to type up and make into a book for the family to keep, and she said that she didn't know why I'd want to do that since she didn't write about anything special; just her day to day life.

Maybe it's the fact that I was a history major and appreciate the sacredness of the everyday, but I told her that I thought that in 200 years people might be really fascinated by her day to day life. Then she thought for a second about whether she'd written anything negative about anyone, and she'd decided that she hadn't, so it was ok for me to have her writings, but I should be aware of the fact that her writing was awful.

I'm incredibly excited to type them up - they're like a little treasure chest of her thoughts and feelings, and I can't wait to see what we might learn about her from her journals.

IN OTHER NEWS, I'm currently writing with a pentel metallic gel pen in green. I'm a big fan of these pens and always have been. Not only do they write great and have a perfectly sized barrel, but they also don't last very long (about a week), which in my opinion is a good thing since I'm totally ADD when it comes to pens.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

the bic z4 plus

I have just started writing with the bic z4. I usually am too much of a pen snob to use "common bics" but the needle tip and fine point on this bic really appealed to me.

The one thing I'm happy about is that it doesn't look like the ink is going to last that long. I'm happy about that because I don't really like this pen. It's not the worst pen, but it's also not the best, and it's scratchy on the paper that I'm using right now. Also, the ink levels are visible, which makes me happy - I like to see my inky progress. The handle grip is comfy and is about the right size for my fingers.

I got mine at Target, but they sell at Staples for $13.99 a dozen. I wouldn't get the dozen, but half a dozen might be a fun way to switch up your style from time to time.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


It's a basic human instinct that comes from millenia spent hunting and gathering scarce food and supplies. But many of us still hoard, even though we will most likely never feel the needs and wants of our ancestors.

I hoard several things - tea, lotions and pens. I hoard things that have special meaning to me - teas because of the feelings that I got when I bought them, lotions because the smells are like olfactory photographs, and pens because of the potential lying within them.

Someday I might write a brilliant (or at least above-average) novel. I want the pen I use to do that to be a special one, maybe the one I bought at the Paperchase in the Paddington train station, or at the airport in Copenhagen. So I have my favorite pens, but I refuse to use them, preferring instead to save them up for something special.

Then I have the pens I pick up at conferences, the dentist, the dry cleaners, hotels, etc. These pens mostly don't have much meaning to me. I can't imagine a time when I'll be sentimental over an Oxford University Press pen. But I don't use them because I want to save them in case there's ever a pen shortage.

So the collection grows.

Then there are the pens that are in the middle. They aren't meaningless pens, but they aren't exactly my favorite or most sentimental. These are the ones I use everyday because they are so easily replaceable.

But that leaves me feeling unsatisfied because my favorite pens are sitting in a rubbermaid storage container drying out while I'm using a Bic gel pen with a fine needle point that I got at Target on a completely unremarkable visit.

It's really a dilemma and I guess it's one that many collectors face. If I managed to get a Birkin bag, I don't think I'd ever take it outside the house. So there it would be, collecting dust.

There's a big difference between Birkins and Muji pens, though (about $11,999 worth). So I really should start to use my favorite pens. That would make me happy, and would probably get me to write more.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

the eee pc

I am writing from my new, very digital little machine, the asus eee pc. This little computer weighs in at less than 2 lbs, has a solid state 4 gig hard drive and a seven inch screen. This little gem is tiny. It fits nicely in my daily bag and is hardly that much bigger than my palm pilot was. It's the size of my journal, only just a bit thicker. This baby is going to let me write down my thoughts from anywhere I might happen to be. The bookstore, the hampstead heath, a beach in Goa, etc.

But is this a good thing? Obviously I think so – I bought one just three days after they were released in the US. But it's not going to replace my longhand journaling, nor will it mean that I'll never buy pens again. But for some people, it might. When was the last time you got a handwritten letter that arrived in a mailbox that you didn't need a computer to access? I get cards from my parents and in-laws, and that's about it.

I have decided to do more letter writing. I believe that I might go out and get some lovely stationary to start me off. And I'll choose one of my nicest pens. And I'll write a letter to a friend. One that requires postage. Perhaps I'll try to do this once a month. It hardly seems ambitious, but if I can manage it, then perhaps it will inspire the recipients to do so as well. And the cycle will continue.

And we'll all start using more pens. And receiving things that the sender actually touched, with their own hands. Something real, tangible, that can be held.

I'm a big fan of these eee computers, and I'm hardly a luddite. But I think that in several decades, when I'm gone, my children and grandchildren will be happy to have my journals; pieces of me that I actually touched, held in my lap, carried in my bag; and not just these digital bytes, though they might be easier and ever more convenient.

By writing more letters, I will be scattering those parts of myself around the world; literally leaving my mark rather than just a digital signature.

And that, along with this gorgeous little eee pc, makes me very happy.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cataloging my pens

I work in the world of libraries and spend a lot of time around librarians so I pick up lots of information about stuff like cataloging, indexing and subject headings. I am embarking on a grand plan to completely catalog all of my writing instruments. I've done smaller catalogs before, but this is going to be something special. This morning I took out all of my pens and organized them by brand, and then by line width, needle tip, etc. I'm making it into an excel spreadsheet.

This is a picture of all my pens this morning. I've organized them in a big rubbermaid clear box, but I had a heck of a time doing it. I know this is probably more pens than I'll ever use in my lifetime, and I just have too many choices as to which ones to use first. The ones I like least (the ball points) will probably take the longest to use up, but if I use the ones I really like first, then they'll be gone. So I don't know. It's a real pickle, and an example of why too many choices is a bad thing.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I have started The Artists Way more times than I can count. Really, it would be a breakthrough for me to actually finish it. I get confronted by the idea of actually living my life as fully expressed and creative as I can imagine. But hey, at least I know about it, so that has to be something.

But I digress.

So I start the Artists Way, and I get confronted, and I quit it, which is a subject that belongs in another blog. The reason I bring it up is that one of the things they have you do, early on, is write Morning Pages. Three pages every morning. It clears your head, gets you ready for the day, is kind of a meditation of sorts.

I like Morning Pages because it gives me a chance to use pen and paper. I've always been a journaller, though. I got my first diary for my 7th birthday - a cute little Hello Kitty one where I pasted pictures of Wham! and discussed why I wanted to be cool like Lois Shippen.

I've always kept my journal, with varying amounts of regularity, but always at least two or three times a week. The times when I do it every day tend to be good times in my life - I think it's because I'm doing a regular writing meditation. I like to go back and look at my journals and think about what I was doing a year or ten ago.

Right now I'm writing in a Working Class Press journal. I like the pocket in the back to keep sentimental stuff. And the lines are good and narrow, which keeps my handwriting looking presentable so that my grandchildren will be able to read it. The lines are dark, the paper is smooth (but not slippery) and the binding seems to be holding up well. The one I'm using has about 120 pages, and cost about $10 at Barnes and Noble.

Tonight I just spent an hour on the living room floor listening to the Beatles really loudly and playing with the cat in between writing my three pages of thoughts. What a lovely way to spend an evening.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Why Pens? Why blog about pens?

It's been a while since I've blogged, and it's especially been a while since I blogged about pens. Since I started this blog I've done the following:
1. Met my now-husband
2. Moved in with my now-husband
3. Got married
4. Am in the process of buying a house

While I have been able to keep up a modicum of journaling, and have managed to go through about 5 or 6 notebooks, I haven't had a chance to keep writing about my love affair with pens and notebooks.

We are going to be moving up to the mountains (the Lake Arrowhead area) in a few weeks, and I think that my life will be a lot calmer without all the stress of LA just outside my door. So I am hoping to be able to write about pens and notebooks more often.

To that end, I thought I would paste in a Post to the Host that I sent to Garrison Keillor, of Prairie Home Companion fame, about my pen fetish. And his response. I think it very eloquently sums up why people like me (and him, evidently!) like pens, why they are good, why the world is a better place with them, and why we'd all be happier if we'd leave the keyboard and write out a page or two in longhand once a day.


Dear Garrison:

I suffer from a blank notebook/book/pen fetish. All over my apartment there are books and notebooks strewn about and I can't walk out of The Strand without dropping at least $50. This is bad for several reasons. I move around a lot. When I moved to London I could only take three suitcases, two of which were crammed with books and journals and a shoebox of pens. Having such a large percentage of my luggage taken up with books/stationary made it difficult once winter came and I needed sweaters. And I simply lack the space to store all this stuff. I'm 27—I'm moving to New Zealand soon. So what do I do? Should I sell all my books on ebay and pay back my student loans and then buy more when I have a house and room for a library? Or do I keep collecting them and just deal with the fact that I'm never going to be the kind of girl who can fit her life in a backpack?

Heather A. Buettner
New York, NY


I'm happy to meet someone at last who shares my secret predilections. What you describe is all very familiar to me. If I see a stationery store, my heart jumps, and when I go in and see a whole counter of pens, I am helpless to resist. I buy about a dozen, or two. I love Pilot pens and the Sanford Uni-Ball and have tried various German and Japanese things, though I consider the Mont Blanc to be an obscene rip-off.

I also buy books, steadily, more than I can read, and when I stroll into a bookstore, particularly one of those independent ones that's run by people who share my tastes, it's hard to get out with less than a shopping bag full. And now that I'm rediscovering the pleasures of writing in longhand, I'm stocking up on legal pads, and various other paper supplies ... hmmm, graph paper, maybe this could give me a stronger sense of structure.

What to do? Well, don't strain your back, my dear. A person can handle only so much luggage. If you love to buy books, then you should also learn to love to give away books. But if you are actually using the pens to write on the paper, then buying them isn't a fetish. It's simply the sensible pleasure of writing, including the sensuous feel of a lovely pen in the hand and the point against the paper. A person can take a lifetime of pleasure in this. You pick up a sheet of handsome paper and your favorite pen and pick up a book to use for a writing desk and hold it on your knees and proceed to improve the page with a few paragraphs and thus you leave your mark. A noble enterprise, nothing to be sheepish about.