Barack Obama, no stranger to controversy, waded into an extraordinarily contentious area of American life on Wednesday when he revealed his pen preferences. The former president told the New York Times that when composing longform writing, including his recent book A Promised Land, he prefers to sketch out his first drafts by hand, rather than on a computer. What’s more, like all true stationery nerds, Obama is “very particular” about his writing tools, preferring the combination of yellow legal pad and black Uni-ball Vision Elite rollerball pen with a micro-point.
It started off normal. I had a planner party in November last year, where a handful of friends brought their stationery over and we all decorated and prepped our planners for a productive year. Welp. That was the last time I had a gathering of friends, and all the plans we planned went awry.
This, I believe, resonates with us all.
As far as I can tell, they were never sent through the post (if you know of any examples, please comment). They were just hand-delivered notes containing informal invitations, short apologies, brief questions, little flirtations, and so on. In the 20th century, their function was taken over by the phone call, and in the 21st century, by text messaging.
I had no idea of the long history behind notes like these. Via Alan Jacobs most recent always excellent newsletter.
When paper fails, memory; when memory fails, paper
— Alan Jacobs, Paper and Memory • Buttondown
The Work/Life Task System (WLTS) allows you to keep your professional and personal tasks separate in the same notebook, while accounting for how most tasks come into our lives in the first place: email.
New analog task system from Harry Marks (who used to be a contributor here). Worth checking out and seeing if some of these ideas might work for you.
Imagine being so well-known for your craft that letters addressed to “Mr. Typewriter, New York” would get delivered by the Post Office to your door. Imagine you mount a letter wrong while crafting a typewriter, and it causes a country (Burma) to change that letter to accommodate your mistake. Or that, through decades, your expert testimony about the accuracy of a brand of typewriter and the characters it types means the difference between guilt, incarceration, freedom or the swapping of fortunes. Such was the life of Pearl and Martin Tytell, of Tytell Typewriter
Here’s how I set up my notebooks. I like cheap notebooks with that thin, shattery glass paper texture — nothing fancy. I don’t do any complicated bullet journalling stuff, although I’m totally happy if it works for you! I just haven’t gotten into it. This is the method I’ve found that’s the best intersection of simplicity and reference points.
One particularly interesting idea I like is item #5:
5. Finally, when I start a new notebook, I go back through the last one and pick out the most important ideas and mindset changes I want to carry through to the next one. (This is the best part.) I write all of these highlights at the beginning of the new notebook.