My Analogue Writing Tools

I wrote the first few chapters of my first novel longhand, with fountain pen on loose sheets of A4 tomoe river paper. As I realized that I would have to type everything into Scrivener before I could even start editing, the lazy programmer within me balked. It was fine doing this with quick drafts, but writing an entire novel longhand was not for me.

I still use pen, pencil and paper a lot in my writing though. I use a fountain pen (anything that doesn’t have a flex or novelty nib will do — from extra-fine to 1.1mm stubs) and loose sheets of A4 and A5 tomoe river paper to work on my outlines, for quick drafts, to test plot options out, or when I’m really, really stuck in my writing. A Field Notes Byline is constantly under my keyboard, horizontally. Yes, I know that the lines don’t go that way, but I ignore them. The form factor is perfect for that, and the ruling is pale enough for me to easily ignore it. I use a Blackwing 16.2 or 24 with it, to quickly capture any ideas that may come up during my writing, to remind myself where I was going with an idea or what I need to fix a previous place, to brainstorm names, etc. It serves as a scratch pad that allows me to maintain my writing flow and still remember things along the way.

Messy, messy handwriting, because getting things down on paper is more important to me then keeping them pretty. 

So, even if you do all your writing using Ulysses or Scrivener (hopefully not Word), I recommend that you incorporate some analogue tools in your process. You’re bound to find them useful, particularly when you’re stuck or you’ve dug yourself into a hole.

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My Analogue Writing Tools

Moleskine Limited Edition Peanuts and How to Start a New Journal

I started a new journal this month, this time a Peanuts limited edition Moleskine. This is one of Moleskine’s best designed limited editions in recent years, because of the simplicity of the design and the limited palate choice (white, black and red). So first up, here are some pretty pictures, and then I’ll get into how I start a new journal.

That sleeve looks transparent, but is just perfectly aligned, that’s all. 
“Are you happy right now?” “I guess so..”
Gramma knows best.
No Problem
Only the best end papers in any Moleskine edition to date.
The back end paper is a sweet and a little heartbreaking – like the best Peanuts strips.
Bonk! Stickers galore.
Red detail on the famous back pocket.
Build your own Snoopy’s doghouse from the B-Side of the sleeve. 

So this is definitely a top 10 edition for me, both because I love Peanuts so much, and because it is such a well-designed notebook.

Now to how I actually start a new journal:

I’ve noticed that the hardest part of journaling for me is when I’m just getting started with a new notebook. Blank pages are scary and discouraging, and at that point I’ve invested so much time and effort in my old notebook that I really don’t feel like moving to a new one. Like Charlie Brown says, “Goodbyes always make my throat hurt… I need more hellos”.

The trick is to get the new journal started well before you actually “move into” it, so that by the time you start using it full-time it’s already an old friend.

Once I get to about 20 pages before the end of my current journal I select a new one, fill in my personal info, and start filling the first few pages with various project ideas/running and training plans/writing plans/home improvement plans. These are specifically things that I know that I’ll need to start updating and referencing before I start using the new journal, so that it’ll start filling up with meaningful content ahead of time. I also use the last pages of the journal to test new pens, jot notes for myself or just for various stamps. By the time I start using it, the notebook isn’t just randomly used or “wrecked”, but meaningfully mine. It’s already working for me, being my outboard brain and eye and heart. And it doesn’t take a lot — I was too preoccupied this time to notice that my old Star Wars Duel notebook was running out, so I started the Peanuts one in a rush, only a few days before I fully moved into it. All it took was a running plan and a list of things that I want to pack up and give to charity for me to easily transition into it, as if I was merely turning another page in my old notebook.

If you have trouble starting new notebooks, give this idea a try, it may help you out.

Moleskine Limited Edition Peanuts and How to Start a New Journal

My 2018 Journals

I managed to journal almost every day in 2018, a tremendous personal achievement considering the chaos that was the latter part of the year for me. I use Moleksine large lined limited edition notebooks for my journals and Ti Arto/Ti Arto EDC/Ti Pocket Pro with Uni-ball Signo 0.5mm refills (UMR-85).

The four notebooks I filled in 2018. I filled five notebooks in 2017.

Why do I use Moleskines when I have better quality notebooks (Rhodia, Tomoe River Paper notebooks, Leuchtterm, Baron Fig)? Because they’re notebooks that I want to use. I love their limited edition notebook designs. I used to use Baron Fig notebooks for my journals but I like the Moleskine format better and since I switched to journaling with gel ink pens instead of fountain pens, Rhodia and Tomoe River Paper notebooks are pointless. Moleskine notebooks were easier to obtain than Leuchtterm notebooks, and Baron Figs were slightly bigger, bulkier and with thicker paper, that I no longer needed.

The point is, garbage paper or not, Moleskine’s make me happy every time I open them, so that’s why I use them.

 

First two notebooks of 2018. I was journaling a lot more then, so each one contains two months of notes, bits and pieces that I glue in, plans and doodles.

Why don’t I use my fountain pens for journaling? I used to, during the first two months of journaling, and then I switched them out for my beloved UMR-85 and BIGiDESIGN Ti pens. I love my fountain pens, but they are not the best EDC pens, to say the least. A lot of them are expensive, most of them are vintage, and so unlike the Ti pens which I just toss into my bag or carry in my pocket, I baby them. I don’t want them to get damaged, I worry about them leaking after I carry them around in my bag (my consistently ink stained fingers attest to how often that has happened). I can’t use ballpoints (I hate them and they cause me severe RSI flareups), rollerballs like the Retro51 are almost as bad as fountain pens when it comes to leaking and being finicky about paper, so gel pens it is. The Uni-ball UMR-85 is an excellent gel refill, and the Ti pens are fantastic and can take everything you can throw at them, so I that’s what I use.

Last two notebooks of 2018. I managed to lose the Star Wars one on a plane, but I got it back, so I finished the year in it. 

I’ll make a post about my new journal for 2019 and how I start a new journal probably later this week. My posting schedule is a bit erratic lately, but I’m dealing with serious family health problems these past few months and so this blog has suffered somewhat, I’m afraid.

P.S. Say what you will about Moleskines, these notebooks can take a beating, I’ve carried and used these daily for eight months (four months each), and they are bulging and a tiny bit battered at the very edges, but otherwise like brand new.

My 2018 Journals

This Year’s Field Notes

This year’s filled up Field Notes notebooks all piled up:

And spread out:

I use them mostly for to do lists, quick capture and tracking of various short term goals. The Signature Sketchbook is full of doodles, inktober drawings and rough sketches. My favourite by far has been “Dime Novel”. My least favourite has been surprisingly “Costal”. The cover and design are gorgeous but the reticle grid is just too dark to make it enjoyable to use.

This Year’s Field Notes

“Triggers” Daily Questions and a Moleskine Pocket Peter Pan Limited Edition review: All Children, Except One, Grow Up.

Ever since I’ve read the book “Triggers” by Marshall Goldsmith about six months ago I’ve been searching for ways to track the progress of my Daily Questions (“Did I do my best to…”). I tried using my journal for several months, then used a Google Sheet for two months, and in both cases something was missing. The Google Sheet was great for statistics and tracking, but not as satisfying and meaningful as writing my daily scores down (and I didn’t really find the statistics useful). The journal was much better, but as my goals changed it was time consuming to create a new table each time, and I needed a way to for me to justify my daily scores.

Enter tracking system number three: a Moleskine pocket Peter Pan limited edition notebook and an index card. Let’s start with the notebook:

The Peter Pan Moleskine limited editions showcase some of Moleskine’s best design work in recent years. Both the colourful covers, the drawing and the lettering evoke the spirit of Peter Pan without resorting to Disney-esque tropes. They’re naive without being childish, colourful without being brash, and the quotes on the covers are brilliantly selected.

Inside the covers are more illustrations in the same vein and even the famous “In case of loss” is set in a hand lettering like font. The palate of the entire Peter Pan line is limited (navy, orangey-yellow, green and white) but it never feels that way.

The back cover. Again, extra points for aligning the design so well with the back pocket. It almost seems like they’re flying into it:

This edition comes with stickers that are a lot of fun and well drawn in a naive style:

And the B-Side of the sleeve instructs you on how to build paper planes and also uses quotes from the books or that reference the book:

So that’s the review of the notebook itself. I highly recommend all of the Moleskine Peter Pan notebooks — they rank alongside the Denim and some of the Harry Potter limited edition notebooks as my favourites of recent years. I didn’t buy it specifically to try to use it as a Triggers Daily Questions tracker, but it was languishing in my “to use” pile and a used notebook is better than an unused notebook, so I decided to give it a spin.

The idea of writing down my Daily Questions each time was what made me stop using my journal for this purpose in the first place, so I decided to write them down once on an index card (which I would slip in the notebook’s back pocket), and then number each question, and date the card. Every day I would write down a score for each daily question, and a very short justification for the score. The justification is short to make it easy to write them down (if it’s a hassle I’ll have a hard time sticking with it), and that’s why I chose the pocket notebook (it’s also light and easy to carry around). When I feel like I need to change the questions up, I’ll create a new index card, put an end date on the old index card and archive it in the notebook’s back pocket. Every day will be dated in the notebook, and I use the appropriate index card if I really want to reference that particular day in the future. This may seem a little clunky for reference purposes, but as I learned over time, I don’t really go back to reference my past answers, so that’s not a meaningful setback.

I’ll check in a few months and document how it goes, but judging by my previous experience, this looks like a pretty good setup for now.

“Triggers” Daily Questions and a Moleskine Pocket Peter Pan Limited Edition review: All Children, Except One, Grow Up.

Journaling for Instagram

This is just a quick reminder to myself mostly, with the hope that it may connect with others:

  • You are doing your best and your best sometimes isn’t perfect, but it’s still your best. That’s all you can ever do under any circumstances.
  • Your journals and planners and notebooks and sketchbooks are for you. They may not be Instagram pretty, but if they work for you, don’t change them one iota. Some people create BOJO pages for social media, others create messy, working pages for themselves in terrible handwriting. Don’t let the first make you feel inadequate about the second.
  • If you think that tool X, bag Y or pen Z will make you a better writer, artist or human, think again. If you think that they will help make creating more of a joy, then feel free to treat yourself to them. It’s hard enough to sit down and start working as it is, so if you’ve discovered something that will give you joy in the process, feel free to silence any criticism, internal or external, and move on.
Journaling for Instagram