The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors – Flavorwire

The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors – Flavorwire

Just like it says on the tin. I had forgotten the fact that Mark Twain made his own (very handsome and smart) notebooks.



Make a point to acknowledge what you did, how things are going, and where you plan to focus your attention next. As they say, it’s not only reaching the destination, but the journey you can learn from, as well. Journaling the journey is one way to look at your best efforts, and make them even better.


Low-tech Skilcraft pens endure in a high-tech world

Low-tech Skilcraft pens endure in a high-tech world

For more than 40 years, standard black pens have cluttered the desks of thousands of federal employees, hung on a chain at post offices across the country and slipped into the pockets of countless military personnel. Yet few have realized that this government-issue pen has a history to rival that of any monument.

Absolutely fascinating. I had no idea. Now I want to get my hands on some of these pens. Need to talk to some friends in Dot-Gov.

Taking note: Some Criteria for Buying a Fountain Pen

Taking note: Some Criteria for Buying a Fountain Pen

What would be some of the criteria you should employ? Well, it seems to me that they should (i) either be piston fillers that draw ink from an inkwell, or fountain pens that allow you to use a converter. The first are few and far between nowadays, the second are plentiful. Almost every fountain pen that uses a cartridge can also use a converter. And (iii) it should be a fountain pen that allows you to change the nib or nib section easily and without any fuss, so that you are not stuck with the nib you with which you bought the pen.

On that last item, some very good suggestions are made. Worth checking out. Especially if you are new to the world of fountain pens.

Record, Don’t Recall

The trick to a daily diary is to “record, don’t recall”. You’ll forget things that you wanted to remember, so take notes and organize them later. That’s how I’ve managed to keep my diary going.

— Masazo Takenami, a man in his nineties who has kept a sketch diary for sixty years.

Talking About Tools – Chase McCoy

Talking About Tools – Chase McCoy

Are you using the best pen for you? What about the best notebook? I come at this from the perspective of a writer, but the tools are anything that helps you to do the work. Ignoring our tools will only do us a disservice. However, spending too much time evaluating them takes away from the work.

It’s a difficult balance to find. Heck, I had the perfect “inexpensive-yet-good always in my pocket don’t even have to think about it” pen up until a couple of weeks ago when I encountered something I like even more. The danger comes when you spend so much time always seeking something better, that you don’t settle on good enough and get to work.

BBC News – Writers’ notebooks: ‘A junkyard of the mind’

BBC News – Writers’ notebooks: ‘A junkyard of the mind’

A full notebook potentially contains the rest of your writing life. Or nothing of value at all. It is transitional. Work passes through it on the way to becoming something else.

I love everything about this essay by author Lawrence Norfolk. He really captures the spirit of the place that a notebook fills in the life of a writer.

Filling a Notebook – Sanspoint. – Essays on Technology and Culture by Richard J. Anderson

Filling a Notebook – Sanspoint. – Essays on Technology and Culture by Richard J. Anderson

It might not be a complete portrait of my day, but it’s still a great aid to memory, and when I settle down to journal in Day One at the end of the day, I have reference, and something that will last long after all the stuff in Day One has become unreadable due to the march of technology.

I find it always a good feeling to fill a notebook and start a new one. Like beginning a fresh chapter on life.

Mod Notebook Review

by Patrick Rhone

Mod Notebook

Let’s get the basic facts as they stand today out of the way first: The Mod Notebook is a paper notebook that, for the price of purchase, comes with a pre-paid envelope and special code in back that allows one to send it in, have it scanned and made available “in the cloud” — with the option to either have the notebook itself sent back to you or recycled (i.e. not sent back to you).

The reason it is important to start there is that there is a lot of mis-information, confusion, and misconceptions surrounding this product. Most of it of the company’s own making. I won’t go into great detail here. It is an interesting story though — one worth reading. It’s an example of how a good idea can be so poorly thought through, launched, and communicated that — even though you address and fix nearly every mistake — it may just be too late. Most people go on believing what they heard the first time — that you subscribe to get this notebook, fill it up with weeks/months/years of stuff, send it off for scanning to get it “in the cloud”, and never see it again.

The company goes to great lengths to shed a good light on where they were and where they are now (while kind of glossing over what a complete mess they made of a product launch) in these two posts:

So, with that out of the way, I really want to get to the heart of what truly matters to me and the only thing I can evaluate right now: How does it work as a notebook?

Mod Notebook 2

Basically, it’s OK. It’s not great. It’s not terrible either. What I’m about to say below might make it seem terrible, but I have used worse. I’ve also have had (and still have) lots of way better notebooks too. This is on the high end of the low end.

If one were to ask me how it feels I would say it feels like a better than average knock-off of a Moleskine (with my personal benchmark of Moleskine being a “good enough” notebook). This is not something that screams quality or even does a great job of faking it. I had to press in the center of the pages to get it to lie open flat. Though it is stitched bound it felt glued. The cover feels like the stuff three ring binders were made from when I was a kid. Even the bookmark ribbon feels like average dime-store ribbon. The elastic closure will probably wear out, break down, and lose elasticity as fast as all elastic generally does — if not faster.

The paper is OK, if a little scratchy. I drafted this using a Lamy Studio with an EF nib that writes perfectly smooth on really good paper. It was not as smooth on this paper. But, hey, some might like a bit of tooth. No bleed through though (I bought the blank/unlined version). So, that’s a plus.

The size is OK. They claim it is the same dimensions as the iPad. It’s close but not quite. Close enough I guess…

Overall, I feel just so very “meh” about it. And, maybe that is OK for some. I mean, who would want to take a really nice notebook that they have poured their life into and stick it in the mail to people they don’t even know with the promise they will have it scanned and returned safely? Maybe you want a “meh” notebook for that. But, here’s the rub…

It’s $25.00 (!).

OK, I get that they are doing a fair bit with that $25.00. You get the (meh) notebook. You get the prepaid shipping. You get the scanning and cloud app that syncs with Evernote, OneNote, and Dropbox. You even get it returned if you want it. But, at the end of the day, I’ve spent $25.00 and received a notebook that feels like a $5.00 (and I’m being generous) notebook.

Now, I’ve only just started it so I have no idea how well the other aspects of this product work. The digitization, app, and all of the rest may be worth the remaining $20.00 to some folks out there.

In fact, I would likely be all in on the idea if they offered just the service/app part for any notebook you already owned or preferred to use. Say, for instance, if for that price you could print off a pre-paid shipping label, send them any notebook up to a certain size, they scanned it and made it available in their app, and then sent it back to you. That, I might buy.

In all, I would only recommend this to a very specific person. Someone who cares less about the quality of the notebook and more about the service, app, and the possibilities that might provide. Because, that is what you are really paying for here. If you are looking for a great notebook that also has the rest of that stuff attached to it, well, you’ll have to keep waiting (or hope they read this and adopt the free good idea I just gave them above).

A Look Inside Gramercy Typewriter Co.

I came across this interview with Paul Schweitzer, owner of Gramercy Typewriter Company, from 2012. Paul sold me my Smith-Corona last year. His shop is the size of a postage stamp, but so much history has been squeezed in there over the last several decades and I’ve been waiting until I can afford to go back and buy an old Underwood or Royal.

And be sure to read WNYC’s interview with Paul from 2011.