Time to go back to paper and ink

One of the challenges of being a writer and the father of a young child is when and where to write. When is its own special kind of difficulty, and involves orchestrating time with the kid(s), time for the SO (if any) to not have the kids, and other activities that keep you paid or sane. It also depends a lot on how the child is feeling. Sometimes a pre-schooler or toddler just want you around, like a home base they can come back to from time to time. They don’t necessarily want to play with you, or need you to feed them, or anything else right then. Other times they require 100% attention.

Where ties to when. If your writing is tied to a particular place or device, then that place can’t be used when you’re watching the little one, unless it’s kid-safe. Using a computer, I’m of the opinion that such places are never sufficiently kid-safe for writing. For one thing, little kids are fascinated by lights and buttons, and will turn your computer off without warning. Not a good thing for a work in progress. In my office, there is also a craft desk covered with beads, pens and ink, and soon an easel and oil paints. Nowhere a toddler can be left to play without constant supervision.

We own a laptop. I could use that while watching the toddle play, but I tend to hurt the tendons in my elbow when I use it in my lap for extended periods. Go go gadget RSI! Plus, my daughter uses it for homework and my wife uses it as well. It’s not something I can just lay claim to when inspiration strikes. Similarly, writing on my tablet is untenable. So what’s a guy to do? I want – no, I need – to write more frequently.

Once upon a time while having difficulty developing momentum for scripting my graphic novel, Celerity, I switched to pen and paper to do my writing. The change in format seemed to break something loose, and I got a ton of writing done. I filled up a couple of notebooks, and finished the first draft of the story. I decided that would work. I can always grab a lap desk, TV tray/table, or just the dining room table to write on. I can also carry a notebook to places where a laptop wouldn’t work. Plus, it gives me an excuse to use my fountain pens more regularly.

Poking around in my office, I found a few quality notebooks and pads. You can’t really use generic binder paper or school spiral notebooks with a fountain pen. They bleed through the paper, and out, ruining your lines and legibility. Also, part of the joy of using a fountain pen is the extremely smooth, effortless writing experience. The rough surface of cheap paper ruins that. So you need a fairly tight-woven paper with a light tooth to it. I turned up a Clairefontaine notebook, a leather bound Italian notebook that I tried to use for painting class, a Moleskine, and an A4 sized Rhodia pad which would meet my standards. The Moleskine was mostly filled up with the first draft of the first novel I wrote. The leather-bound book is nice, but it doesn’t like to lay flat, plus I hope to go back to painting soon. I’ll use it for more notes. The Clairefontaine had been chosen to be a personal journal. So that left me with my Rhodia, which is not a bad thing to be “stuck” with at all.

For pens, the main contributor was a no-brainer. My best pen, and my favorite to write with is a Pelikan m600. It’s got a nice italic ground nib customized by Richard Binder. It writes incredibly smoothly, and results in an interesting, calligraphy-like hand. I wanted to have at least two pens with me, though, in case the Pelikan ran out of ink. (It’s a piston-fill, which means no swapping cartridges.) I have a small collection of pens, and there isn’t one that I dislike using. In the end I ended up going my an antique – an Eversharp lever-fill pen with a slightly flexible nib. I loaded them both up with Noodler’s “bulletproof” black, in case of spills, rain, or other disasters.

It’s already working out well. I brought them with me to work today, and in between tasks an on breaks, I can jot down a sentence, a paragraph, or an idea. It’s not as fast as the word processor, but the output seems to be more steady.

Pens and notebook

Rhodia pad, Pelikan m600, Eversharp lever fill, pen case, and blotter.

Pen with written notebook

Looks like it’s working so far.

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