Pontificating about pen prompts

It's another prompt list from Gentleman Stationer this time. I'm pretty dead inside from work right now, so I've been enjoying finding things that spoon feed me stuff to write about.

I did another round of stationery-related questions last month at Hotel Kalefornia. This set of questions encourages longer-form answers, which is why it's here and not there.


Why do pens and stationery continue to play such an important role in your life, especially in an age when everything is supposed to be going paperless and digital?

I've spent most of recent history doing all my planning and notes and stuff digitally. I used to buy planners, but I'd always fall off the wagon and give up on them halfway through the year, so I stopped trying because I hated wasting so much paper.

I picked pen-and-paper notes up again for a pretty stupid reason: fountain pens are fun to write with! I needed an excuse to use them! I've been writing a lot more in general now that I have writing implements that don't make my hands cramp after half a page. I also like watching the ink dry — not for any pretentious reason, it's literally just fun to watch it go from shiny to not shiny after a few seconds. My standards aren't that high.

A less stupid side effect of all this is that it's forced me to reluctantly abandon some bad habits I had. When I was in school, I wasted so much paper writing and rewriting notes until they looked clean and perfect. I transferred this behavior over to my digital notes in college, which at least allowed me to write and rewrite and rearrange everything without throwing away paper.

Now that I'm back on paper, I've had to make some adjustments. Paper and ink are expensive, which makes it significantly harder to justify throwing a page away just because I drew a letter slightly wrong. Even if I could live with that, I can't tear pages out of a homemade notebook without it falling apart. So, I've had to start accepting the occasional scribble or suboptimal page layout. This was initially unreasonably hard for me psychologically, but my tolerance levels have been gradually increasing. I've changed my planner layout 3 times this year, which is a level of inconsistency that would have driven me nuts at one point.

What do you view as the key benefit of writing by hand?

I don't think that hand writing is superior in general, and I view anyone who claims otherwise with a lot of skepticism. I had to write a lot of papers by hand when I was in school, and I did not come out better for it.

Still, I do like to write. I'm biased as a math person because there is very little you can do in that field without writing by hand, but I feel like I can get thoughts on paper more fluidly by writing them down. I also have difficulty retaining information if I type it.

Even while I was doing my notes digitally, I was hand writing them on my tablet. I'd still take notes on my tablet if I was in school now because the portability of digital notes is unbeatable, but I do like the tactile experience of physical notes for smaller things!

What is your favorite thing about the pen/stationery hobby?

I like the variety. It's fun to write in different colors and try out different writing modalities.

I've also gotten interested in the vintage pen sector. I love finding old things that are still perfectly usable, and it's fun to hear people's stories behind their heirloom pens. (I myself am an heirloom pen owner.) My favorite vintage pens are the ones that have wear and tear on them — pens that have history are way more exciting to me than old pens that are still in mint or near-mint condition.

What is your least favorite thing about the pen/stationery hobby?

I'm not a fan of the rampant consumerism. Fountain pens often get advertised as "sustainable" (both from companies and their adherents), but it's such a load of shit when the same companies and people are active participants in the neverending hype/FOMO cycle. I do feel good having pens I can refill infinitely instead of throwing out, but they're only having that impact if you're actually using them. It looks to me like a lot of pen collectors buy stuff just to have it.

There's also the weird, slimy sense of pretentiousness that I get from a lot of stationery and journaling "influencers." It's all brand-name notebook setups, expensive pens that adhere to their strictly-curated aesthetic, perfect bullet journals that conveniently have as little identifying information in them as possible so they can be shared on social media... I wouldn't be nearly as annoyed by all this if it wasn't shared under the guise of authenticity or mindfulness or (insert therapy-speak buzzword here).

If you could choose one combination of stationery items to use for the rest of your life, exclusively, what would those be and why?

I've tried a lot of papers, but all roads lead back to Rhodia. It's paper that gets shit done while still showcasing ink well, and it is nice and smooth and fun to write on. If I had to pick one pen to use forever, it would be either a medium Platinum Plaisir or a soft fine Platinum 3776. It's surprisingly difficult for me to pick between those two because Platinum's nibs are fantastic on both ends of the price spectrum.

For the ink, either Diamine Evergreen or Sailor Shirakashi. They're both great murky greens, with Evergreen being a true get-out-of-my-swamp green and Shirakashi being a delightful gross browny-olive.