So last time I talked at ludicrous length about my modern writing tools (specifically, Novlr and my Mistel Barocco mechanical keyboard). This time around, I’m going to be talking about the less electronical methods I use to make the words go. They’re more portable, they’re permitted at my job (which looks down upon employees bringing their laptops into work), and they are, as one famous sage might have suggested, elegant tools for a more civilized age.
As before, I’m not trying to sell you anything, no affiliate links, no tasty brand deal cash, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I just really like this stuff and want to share it with my fellow wordmongers.
With that having been reiterated: ON TO THE STUFF
I had no idea a jam like this existed until Christmas of 2015. That’s when I received one of these journals from my dad as a gift, and it’s absolutely gorgeous if you’re into nightmare visions of cephalopod elder gods (which, obviously, I am). I was forced to hold onto it, blank, until I finally managed to finish filling out another journal that had been given to me as a gift that same Christmas. Which, you know. Hashtag writer problems.
My cup runneth over with journals. As I type this I have like, four blank ones waiting in the wings, and SJ Hartsfield just bought me another one that has The Great Wave off Kanagawa on the cover (this is in direct reference to one of the heroines of the novel I finished last year, whose last name was taken from that woodblock print and, by extension, Kanagawa prefecture).
I’m not gonna pretend like I know anything about paper or binding or whatever, so all I can give are my overall impressions of my Cthulhu journal as I’ve worked with it over time.
First off, the cover is literally (sense 1 AND sense 2) metal as fuck. It’s a solid brass plate, the image etched into it, that is riveted to the front leather flap of the journal. The leather is actual leather, which lends the entire beast the feel that you’re about to put down your deathless prose in the writer’s equivalent of a full set of lorica segmentata.
My only worries in regard to the journal quickly became non-issues. The first was that the binding of the pages (there are four discrete packets of nice, thick, off-white paper bound between the covers) to the leather spine felt flimsy. I could run my finger across the cording on the exterior of the spine and move it easily, which made the binding seem loose and unreliable. After about five months of pretty heavy use and a lot of time spent in my bag, though, I’ve seen no indication that the binding is giving up yet.
The other was a minor complaint, which is that the rivets on the interior of the front cover leave noticeable indentations in the first few pages of the journal and some discoloration on the very first page. You also have to work with having to write over the uneven surface of the back of the front cover as soon as you turn the first page (again with the rivets), which makes the initial experience somewhat less than ideal. A few pages in, though, you’ve got enough padding that the influence of the interior rivets on the left-hand pages disappears and it’s smooth sailing from there on out.
Long story short, this is an amazing (if a bit pricey) journal, but it looks like it’s built to last. It’s officially given me a writerly fetish for leather journals that I won’t be kicking anytime soon, as there’s nothing quite like the smell of tanned cowskin and thick paper and free-flowing ink to really make the writing process satisfying to the senses.
And speaking of ink…
Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen and Noodler’s Ink
For several years I’ve considered fountain pens to be a neat idea. An expensive idea, and by all accounts a messy idea, but a neat idea nonetheless. I’ve had various love affairs with pens over the years. From middle school on through college I found myself desperately enamored of Uniball Vision pens with their visible reservoirs of liquid ink. I kept depleted Vision pens as bizarre trophies of my writing exploits, relegating them to a special gallon-sized bag when they were of no more use to me.
Then, at some point after college, I became more aware of the ecological effect of disposable pens. On a whim, I purchased a Pilot B2P, which used G2 gel roller ink and was made from recycled plastic bottles. It took me longer than it should have to realize that B2P pens could be refilled, so several were discarded after they ran dry. Then I stopped being a jackass and began picking up refills to make sure that I wasn’t just sentencing my recycled pens back to the garbage heap every time they were emptied.
Once again, it was someone else’s doing that broke this habit. SJ picked up a straight black Pilot Metropolitan from Amazon (where they’re surprisingly inexpensive). She did this (in my opinion) with the aim to empty out the pen’s cartridge and fill it with human blood, which is her ink of choice for telling ribald tales of lady love.
Shortly after getting the Metropolitan and finding it a good fit for her blood-ink needs, SJ promptly found another one that had a houndstooth pattern—making it intrinsically superior to the matte black version—which she then purchased. With her new houndstooth pen in hand, she gifted the matte black one to me.
After removing the repurposed cartridge of vital human fluid and replacing it with a regular Pilot ink cartridge, I found myself with a satisfyingly old-timey writing instrument.
It was, of course, not long until I began thinking of what other exotic inks could be used with my new pen. Much like I did with my mechanical keyboard, I found myself plunging down a fountain pen ink rabbit hole, researching and reading about the ludicrous breadth of options available.
I quickly decided that I needed my ink to be waterproof, and I was rather surprised at how quickly that narrowed down my options. It isn’t that I expect my journals to be stored in grand archives for aeons to come (though they almost certainly will be), it’s mostly that I have a habit of spilling coffee/Dr. Pepper/water/ichor on my writing materials and it would be ideal if that didn’t destroy all my hard work.
I also knew that the ink needed to be a nice, vibrant black. I found that a lot of “black” inks tend to actually run towards more being really dark takes on other colors. Green is a common one, so you have less a black and more just a forest green that doesn’t look very nice when you’re hoping for black.
With all these considerations (as well as a hope for a relatively low price point) in mind, I picked up Noodler’s Bulletproof Black. As soon as the ink in the current cartridge ran out, I rinsed out the cartridge (I’d had several failed attempts at using a piston converter and I wasn’t a huge fan of the bladder converter that came with the pen) and filled that sucker up with Noodler’s as soon as it was dry (for the refilling process I used a syringe, of which I possess many for medical purposes, but that’s something for another post).
Anyway, the result has been most pleasing.
So there we have it. The primitive utensils that I put to use when I am away from my fancy keyboard and the comforting night mode of Novlr. In all honesty, I’m a big fan. There have been times where I’ve been at home after work, tired of staring at screens, and have decided to just clear everything out of the way on my writing desk and spend some time with pen, ink, and paper, a selection of mood-appropriate music playing in the background.
So far this month, a solid percentage of the 15k words I hope to write before the end of April for Camp have been put down by hand rather than via keyboard. In retrospect, there’s a good chance that the majority of the words I’ve written were scrawled in my indecipherable cursive and then typed into Novlr. It’s been one hell of an adventure.
How about you guys? When you’re away from your desktops and laptops and other computing peripherals, what do you use to make the words go? Let me know in the comments! Or, if you really want to follow through in the spirit of the exercise, write it out by hand and send it to me via messenger pigeon. Just beware of hawks.