Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Howdy! My name is Shawn Mihalik.

Some of you may know that Patrick is currently on a year-long sabbatical, during which he’s refraining from publishing to the web (if that isn’t analog, I don’t know what is). I’m very excited about what Patrick is going to produce during this period, but as someone who finds a lot of value in The Cramped, I didn’t want to see the site sit stagnant for a year. So I volunteered to take over editing duties while Patrick is doing his thing. He was generous enough to accept my offer.

Here are a few relevant and fun facts about me:

  • Way back in 2014 I wrote a guest essay for The Cramped called “Longhand.” I’m happy to report that, since that essay was published, I’ve successfully written a book’s first draft entirely in longhand.
  • I’m the author of four works of fiction.
  • I’m editor-in-chief at Asymmetrical Press.
  • I’m a big fan of analog tools. My daily carry is a Baron Fig Confidant and Faber-Castel Extra Superfine PITT Artist Pens in black (I order them in bulk from Blick). I’m also a fan of the Superfine nib in sepia, but wish it came in the Extra Superfine option.
  • I read paper (that is, dead-tree) books almost exclusively. I even still subscribe to a couple paper magazines. My home library is both more extensive than and not as extensive as I’d like.
  • I have a cat named Worf, after the Klingon warrior.

I’m looking forward to sharing plenty of links, posts, and essays here in the coming months. I hope to add as much value to this site as it has added to me.

Review — Pacific and West Notebook


The Pacific and West Large RefillableNotebook.

I’ve long been a fan and user of disc-bound notebooks. Going back to my first Levenger Circa purchase almost 20 years ago. Such notebook systems are great for those cases where you need to be able to easily rearrange the pages. So, when Pacific and West reached out to me to ask if I wanted to check out their take on the concept I accepted the opportunity.

The quality is decent and it looks attractive. The disks are a solid brass which pairs nicely with the walnut wood cover. The cover was unexpected in that it is a very thin veneer that is sturdy yet very flexible. One can almost roll it completely up without feeling the wood is going to crack and it pops right back into shape when released.

In the model I received, the paper is blank and the paper quality is okay. Only okay, though. Fountain pen and gel inks feather a fair bit. Ballpoints, pencil, and non-gel rollerballs will fair much better. As a fountain pen user and paper nerd this is the most major knock against it. One other minor knock, that is some what related, are the dimensions. The large I received is 5.75”x7.7“. If it was, say, a more standard 5.5” x 8.5’, one could replace the paper easily with that from another manufacturer or easily cut their own.

Price wise, while it may seem high at first glance, it is actually on par with similar quality offerings from the other major players who make disk-bound notebooks.

In all, it’s an attractive initial offering. If the paper quality could match that of the other materials I’d be able to recommend it more highly.

Rough Book – A Thinking Man

Rough Book – A Thinking Man

Just before the start of a new school year, my father used to pull out all the class work and home work notebooks I used in the previous year and tear out all the left over pages from them. He would then cut all the pages to the same measurement and take them down to a binder to get it sewn and bound. This book would have on an average 300 pages, some of which were single rule, some broad rule, some double rule and some plain. This book then would be my ‘rough book’ for the new school year. A book in which I could do all math calculations, doodle, or write notes (when I forgot the main notebooks). It used to be the book I could fall back on.

I love this opening idea. Sai goes on to tell his story about how he moved away from using a “rough book” and what has led him back to using one now. Some good general notebook tips as well.

Embracing Simplicity and Familiarity — Lane Changes

Embracing Simplicity and Familiarity — Lane Changes

I’m always doing a little bit of tinkering with my daily journaling approach, but these days I’m more focused on simplification than on finding the perfect journaling workflow. I have a tendency of overthink things, and the search for the perfect paper-based system led me to a place where I was thinking more about the system, pen, and paper than about what I was actually trying to accomplish each week.

I think this is a common problem. I always recommend that people find what works and stick with it versus a never-ending search for the “perfect” tools and methods. There is no such thing (beyond what is “perfect” for you). Ultimately, he settles on Field Notes. Why?

While there is something to be said for the superior paper options and on-page real estate that larger notebooks bring, Field Notes books offer two big advantages. First, they are easy to carry with me at all times. And second, if I use them daily, they fill up quickly. Filling up notebooks feels very satisfying.

I can’t argue with that.

The Guidance of Notebook Papers | Todd Sattersten

The Guidance of Notebook Papers | Todd Sattersten

It is easy and common to offer a blank page, but we seem to prefer a set of markings to organize our work. Sometimes, the markings serve a general purpose of alignment and coordinates. Other times, the forms are specific to the task.  And sometimes, they are just whimsical.

It’s always amazing to me the vast variety of different page rulings. There are more than a few here I’ve never seen in my travels. Conversely. there were many that came to mind not mentioned.