Non-Negotiable: Eleven Days of Morning Pages

Documenting a dream

A couple of friends and I were talking at lunch the other day, how making something non-negotiable—whether it be getting to the gym, changing the dog’s water, or sitting down to write—takes all of the mental chatter out of the equation. A thing needs to be done and you do it. Simple. No need to burn energy mulling over the pros and cons or deciding if you have enough energy. You just do the thing. Every. Single. Day.

In just eleven days, Morning Pages have become my non-negotiable. I wake up at 5:55 am. Get up. And write.

The other day I had to leave the house by 6:30 am for an out-of-town doctor’s appointment. The old me would’ve said, “Morning Pages can wait. I’ll just write Evening Pages instead.” Or I would’ve skipped them altogether. But, nope, I got up at 5 am and wrote out those three pages—admittedly bleary eyed, but I wrote them.

Morning Pages pens

Just like I make my lunch and iron my clothes the night before, I pick out a pen and set it on top of my journal right before bed so that I can get up and immediately put nib to paper. I know me. If I didn’t do this, I’d be futzing around with all of the options, burning precious morning time. With that decision made, I find myself looking forward to using that day’s pen and ink combo which makes it just a little easier to sit down at my desk while the rest of the house is asleep.

Morning Pages

I worried about having something to write about, but that hasn’t been an issue. I tend to dream movie-length, technicolor dreams, with involved plots and a large cast of characters. In the past, these dreams would be hard to shake, causing me to walk around exhausted all day, suffering from a kind of dream hangover. But last week, after a dream that had me stranded in a foreign city with someone else’s cellphone (no stress there!), I sat down and wrote out the entire dream. Doing so, caused it to retreat in my head, so that, yeah, I remembered it, but I wasn’t living it all day long.

In addition to dreams, I write about petty chores, big and small worries, the high highs* and the shitty stuff a day can throw at you; the feelings that are rooted deep inside my heart and all the teeny tiny stuff floating on the surface. This is what has surprised me the most. That I’m never at a loss for words. And how good it feels to put those words—those inconsequential thoughts and heartfelt emotions—into a journal, all in a jumble as they flow from my pen. Line after line. Day after day.

Morning Pages

Another bonus—my pens are getting used in a big way, and I am plowing through ink. The pens you see above are the four that I’ve been rotating through lately—a Kaweco Liliput Fireblue [Kaweco blue cartridge], a Franklin-Christoph Model 45 XLV in Coco Pearl [Kaweco sepia cartridge], a Jonathon Brooks Charleston in Combustion acrylic [SBRE Brown ink], and a TWSBI ECO [J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor]. As I empty these, I’ll ink others, slowly making my way through my collection. I’ll identify true favorites, and maybe set aside some that need new homes. I’m writing. I’m really writing. Man, this feels good.

Namami Paper Writer journal

This Nanami Paper Seven Seas “Writer” A5 journal is a dream. Its Tomoe River paper is well-suited for any nib and ink combination I might use. There’s no feathering, no bleed-through, and very little show-through. There are plenty of pages—enough to keep me going for 160 days at 3 pages per day. Admittedly, I have a long way to go (149 more days!) before I need another “Writer,” but that didn’t stop me from ordering a backup today. You know, so it’s waiting in the wings.

I’m hooked. Eleven days in and I’m hooked. What’s ridiculous is that it took me 57 years to give Morning Pages a try.

Now there’s no going back.


*I had an appointment with my neurologist last Friday to go over the first set of MRIs I’ve had done since my MS diagnosis last year. While there are two small lesions present (one brain and one thoracic), and I still have strange electrical sensations in my feet, there aren’t any new lesions. And one that was “iffy” last year is now GONE. He feels that we caught this very early and kept saying that I will do “really well,” as long as I keep doing what I’m doing—eating well, exercising, stretching, and taking my medication. Talk about a high high.

Thank you to the folks who contacted me after I wrote this post, to join my fledgling Morning Pages group. Knowing that you’re writing right along with me gives me the shove I need when I have the urge to linger in bed a little too long.

 

 

 

 

Accountability: Morning Pages

A friend and I meet at the gym twice a week. Week in and week out. I’m there for her. She’s there for me. Sometimes our schedules don’t quite mesh, but we do the best we can to keep each other on track. It’s been a game-changer for this “always picked last in gym” person, who used to avoid the fitness center like the proverbial plague.

Our current workout program ends with either extended lunges or  prolonged squats. Twenty seconds doesn’t sound like much, but when your thigh muscles are screaming, it feels like an eternity. Twenty seconds times four rounds. We push each other through this part. Honestly, she’s better at that than I am. She’ll remind me to breathe, while I’m thinking “How can you talk??!!” Point is, left to my own devices, the odds are significantly higher that I’d make an excuse to give up.

It’s all about accountability. I show up because she does. She shows up because I do.

Over the weekend, I dug out some books from the “to be read” pile, and settled down on the patio during a steamy Sunday afternoon with Julia Cameron’s Finding Water- The Art of Perseverance. In it, she lays out what she calls her “basic tools”—Morning Pages, Artist Dates, and Walking. I skimmed one of her other books, The Artist’s Way, years ago, where the same tools were described. The idea of Morning Pages has intrigued me ever since, but do I ever get up and write? Nope. Never.

Morning Pages

I have this terrific Seven Seas “Writer” journal with 480 pages of exquisite Tomoe River paper, well-loved and inked fountain pens at the ready, and yet, when I wake up, I screw around on my phone. Then it’s time to shower, cook breakfast, make my tea, and zip off to work. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So I’m putting this out there. I need an accountability partner (or partners) for my morning pages, just as much as I need one at the gym. Anybody game?

Pens In Real Life: The Jar of Awesome

I’m doing the Whole Life Challenge for the sixth time, and, as promised, it continues to change my whole life. While diet and exercise (and sleep and water consumption) are a big part of the challenge, each week we’re also given a lifestyle challenge—things like meditation, leaving our digital devices behind, or de-cluttering. This week’s challenge, the Jar of Awesome, is brand new and has me really fired up. Why? Because it combines, pens, paper, and gratitude in a very simple and meaningful way.

Jar of Awesome supplies

To assemble a Jar of Awesome, all you need is some sort of jar. I happened to have this “Limited Edition” (???) Ball jar on hand, but you could easily use a washed out mayonnaise or peanut butter jar. Any jar will work. The jar itself need not be awesome.

To put the “awesome” in the jar, cut up some paper and grab a pen or pencil. Any paper. Any pen. Any pencil. I’m using Tomoe River paper and a couple of fountain pens today, but I plan to mix things up as time goes on. The tools don’t matter.

Jar of Awesome

Every day, write down at least one thing that’s made your day awesome. Simple, funny, heartfelt…whatever it is…write it down. I plan to use the Nock Co. 3×5 DotDash cards I always have with me to jot down things on the fly as carrying a mason jar seems like it could be a little…ummm…cumbersome. Then, later, I’ll transfer the awesomeness to my little pieces of paper.

Jar of Awesome

Toss the slips of paper into the jar. I’ve chosen to fold my paper so that I can catch glimpses of what I’ve written, rather than folding the paper so that the words are hidden. How cool and uplifting and inspiring it’s going to be to watch the paper slips, and awesome things, pile up inside the jar. It’s like a time capsule of all the good things that come into our lives—many of which we barely notice. The Jar of Awesome aims to correct that by showing us how much awesomeness surrounds us every single day.

Jar of Awesome

This simple project has also made me ask myself, “What can I do to be included in someone else’s Jar of Awesome?”

God, I love this.

Pens In Real Life: Taking the Gross Out Of Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is a necessary evil. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, either. We go once a week, usually on Friday evening, to avoid the dawdling hordes that descend on Saturday. We like to get in and out as efficiently and quickly as possible. But then, who doesn’t?

DotDash grocery list

Oops…I wrote cherries twice. I must really want them.

I use a program called MacGourmet to digitally organize recipes on my desktop iMac. What’s really great is that I can export the recipes from MacGourmet to DropBox as .txt files so that they’re easily accessible via my phone. So even if we’re eating out, as we often are on a Friday evening, I can quickly pull together a grocery list for the coming week. As we brainstorm our needs and wants, I record the list on a Nock Co. DotDash 3×5 card, while also sketching out a tentative menu plan on the back of the same card. We do this every single week. And if we can’t, because of a Friday night event, we feel off-kilter. Creatures of habit, is what we are.

A packed Nock Co. Sinclair

The pen I use to write out the list, and to make my OCD checkboxes, varies from week to week, but it’s often selected from the stash of pens I have stored in my goes-everywhere-with-me Nock Co. Sinclair. I have a lot of stuff packed in there because I like to cover a lot of pen bases for whatever pen need or mood comes my way. Gel ink, liquid ink, fountain pen, and ballpoint options are all represented. It’s a clown car of a pen case. The Nock Co. DotDash card easily handles whatever type of ink I throw at it. Plus the grid is the perfect guide for drawing the checkboxes. I find them comforting. (Is that weird?)

Grocery list and Karas Kustom's INK rollerball

The pen I chose to write out my list this Friday was the INK rollerball by Karas Kustoms. (Huh. I’m not seeing the rollerball version on their site at the moment.) The Schmidt P8126 liquid ink refill is bold and smooth. The INK rollerball is a great writer that’s as fun to look at as it is to hold and use. All of this pen goodness distracts you from the fact that you’re preparing for a chore. The INK glides. Your mind goes to a happy place. I’m pretty sure endorphins are released. This is a good thing.

Uni-Style Fit Multipen

The list is made. We head to the store. Time to get down to business.

As we pick up each item on the list, I color in the little checkbox with red or orange ink. Yes, I could just check the box. I suppose. But the completely filled in boxes appeal to me, AND I get to use yet another pen. This week it was my Uni Style Fit 3 Color Multi Pen outfitted with brown, green, and red 0.38mm gel refills…a super sweet and customizable pen that I’ll write about in more detail before too long. (Thomas Hall got me hooked on these. Thomas, Master Enabler.) The Uni Style Fit refill colors are strong, and the ultra-fine point is wickedly smooth. The colored boxes make it abundantly clear what we’ve loaded into our cart and what we’re still trying to track down. Plus it’s fun to color, even if it is just a little box.

If we have to hit more than one store, as we almost always have to do, I jot the alternative store name next to the item. You know, for fun.

Grocery shopping gear

Despite this post’s name, I don’t really find grocery shopping all that gross. Unless it’s on the Saturday of a holiday weekend. Then, ick. But it is a chore that will always be there, week after week. The trick is to make it as palatable and efficient as possible. Using my pens and favorite 3×5 cards, I’ve nailed down a system that works for me, while injecting some fun into the process.

Grocery shopping tools

Now to find those elusive cherries.

 

 

 

A Micro Review: On The Fly with a Fisher Space Pen

Commencement Notes

At Hamilton College’s Commencement ceremony yesterday, the student speeches were clever, funny, and meaningful enough that I found myself wanting to take notes. I ushered at the event so I had virtually no belongings with me, except this Fisher Space pen and the Commencement program and my lap. Problem solved.

My handwriting is rushed, the paper was a stiff program cover, and the ink was just a simple medium point Fisher Space pen refill, but it all got the job done.

One student spoke about pineapples, and how we are like them. Prickly and weird on the outside, we need to find the right tools to get to the sweet delicious fruit inside. Hamilton College, he said, provided those tools. I loved the fact that he propped an actual pineapple on the podium as he spoke.

Another student said, in effect, that our lives are like Tetris and we should stop playing them like chess. Whereas chess is all about protecting and saving yourself, Tetris is about taking the random experiences that fall into our lives and looking at them from all different angles. We should be rotating those experiences, thinking about them, making them fit.

So my handwriting is sloppy, and the Fisher Space refill, though quite good, is not my favorite. But I had this pen in my pocket and, with it, I was able to capture these thoughts from a couple of creative and thoughtful young minds.

I made it work. Like Tetris.

Rainbow Fisher Space Pen

This particular Fisher Space pen was fully reviewed HERE.

Time is hard to find lately, so I’m planning to post more of these micro reviews—quick posts about pens in use in real life. You like?

The Write Tools

Write Notepad Pocket Notebooks

Back in November I sang the praises of the newly released pocket notebooks from Write Notepads & Co. I’ve been a fan of their products and aesthetic from the company’s infancy, when I first met Chris and Mark Rothe, and saw their spiral notebooks, at the 2013 DC Pen Show. The pocket notebooks are so good (durable binding, fountain pen friendly paper) that I’ve decided to let my Field Notes subscription lapse, in favor of a Write Notepads pocket notebook subscription. Field Notes are fun and cool, but I have plenty on hand (HUGE understatement) and feel like spreading my notebook wings. (Okay, there isn’t any such thing as “notebook wings,” but still.)

Lenore notebooks and pencils

Their first quarterly offering—  the Lenore pocket notebooks and pencils you see above— blew me away. As subscriber #16, I look forward to seeing what Chris dreams up for the next release. The bar has been set very high right out of the gate.

I’m so drawn to their notebooks and pencils when I’m browsing on their site, that I didn’t immediately notice the perfect little accessories that they offer alongside their notebooks. But once I saw the “made in the USA” Pocket Linear Measuring Device ($7.99) and Folding Pocket Scissors ($9.99), I had to order both.

Pocket Scissors and Measuring Device

The Pocket Linear Measuring Device is made about 40 miles from my house, in East Syracuse, NY, by Gaebel. It’s stainless steel, features a sliding pocket clip, and includes four units of measure—pica, inches, points, and metric. I’m a compulsive underliner (yet another quirk), and I like my underlines to be straight, so I use this tool every single day in my daily personal and work pocket notebooks, and even on the index cards where I compose my grocery lists. I keep this perfectly sized ruler in my Nock Co. Sinclair, so it’s always at hand.

Folding Pocket Scissors

Tucked inside a 3-3/4″ vinyl carrying case, the Pocket Folding Scissors measure just 3-1/4″ when completely folded. To deploy the surgical stainless steel blades, just pull the handles apart…

Folding Pocket Scissors

then press the handles down until they meet. Voila— sturdy and adorable scissors are at the ready.

Folding Pocket Scissors

Made and hand-assembled in Sweet Home, Oregon, these small but mighty scissors have become a favorite pocket carry. Once you start carrying scissors, you realize how often they come in handy. I receive and open a LOT of packages in my job, and while I use a box cutter to do the heavy cutting, these are the perfect tool to cut into the inner packaging. I’ve use them to clip coupons, to cut sign up forms out of the church bulletin, and to trim a pulled thread. They even made an appearance at a recent baby shower, where I lent them to the mother-to-be to snip a particularly stubborn ribbon on a gift. Carry scissors and save the day! Amaze people with your preparedness! Who wants to walk all over the house or office looking for the full-size (and often misplaced) scissors when you can have this cute little pair tucked away in your pocket?!

Write Notepads Accessories

The Pocket Linear Measuring Device and Folding Pocket Scissors, available from Write Notepads & Co., are quality, USA-made, everyday carry accessories. They are the Write tools.

All Write Notepad & Co. products shown and discussed in this review were purchased with my own funds. Chris did not twist my arm to write a review, and I haven’t been compensated in any way. I just love his products and can’t wait for the next pocket notebook subscription installment.

 

Namiki What?

Namiki Pencil Boxes

When you start venturing into the world of fountain pens, you don’t have to stroll too far to run into all kinds of Pilot-Namiki pens. From the disposable Varsity to the very affordable MR (Metropolitan) all the way up to high-end Maki-e works of art, there’s a Pilot-Namiki pen for every taste and budget. I own several Vanishing Points, a couple of Preras, a handful of Metropolitans, and a Custom 74 and have yet to be disappointed by any of them, no matter the price. Pilot-Namiki is a brand that I trust implicitly.

Namiki Grance

A week or so ago, an email arrived from Anderson Pens featuring an intriguing photo and a link to some Namiki mechanical pencils. Namiki what?? Pencils?? Yes, pencils. I clicked the link, and tumbled down THAT rabbit hole headfirst.

Namiki Impressions and Grance

Isn’t that how it goes? One minute you don’t even know a thing exists, then the next minute you HAVE TO have it. Especially if it’s gorgeous. And New Old Stock. And Namiki. And sold by the Andersons.

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The Namiki Grance mechanical pencil (0.5 mm) features burgundy marbled lacquer over brass, so it’s nicely hefty (28 g), despite its slender body (9.4 mm, 0.4 in).The lead is advanced by pressing down on the upper half of the pencil. The action works smoothly and easily.

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The Andersons describe the Sapphire Impressions (27 g) as having “gorgeous colors set in clear cellulose resin,” and they’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. This thing is a stunner, which is something we’re used to in the fountain pen world, but not so much in mechanical pencil offerings. I fell hard for the depth of color in the resin.

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I’d never really seen mechanical pencils that excited me as much as some of my fountain pens. Maybe I don’t get out enough—maybe these are all over the place—but they’re certainly new to me. I have enough wood cased pencils to choke a small horse (as my mother would say), and plenty of mechanical pencils that are perfectly fine, but none of that was going to stop me from picking up both a Namiki Grance ($25) and Impressions ($85). These look and feel like heirloom quality pencils, and came with price tags that seemed more than fair.

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Branding is wonderfully subtle which is very much the Namiki way.

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Tucked under the “cap” of each pencil is a tiny but usable eraser, still in fine shape despite the fact that the pencils are circa 2000.

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When the current leads are used up, I may swap in something just a touch softer—maybe a 2B or 3B. Or maybe I’ll leave a harder lead in one and a softer one in the other. The 0.5 mm line is crisp and fine—perfect for use in my Hobonichi or just for jotting down notes. This size lead is a little more prone to breakage, but I still prefer it over the thicker 0.7 mm option, at least in these pencils.

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I’m still trying to rein in purchases, and am, for the most part succeeding. (I even gave up my place in the waitlist for a Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 in Antique Glass as I just don’t need—well, want— another pen right now.) BUT, I caved on these mechanical pencils. Namiki’s stellar reputation for quality writing instruments coupled with my trust in the Andersons, and the fact that these New Old Stock beauties aren’t readily available made this purchase an easy one to talk myself into.

Namiki mechanical pencils?!

Yes, pencils. Now you know.

At the time of this review, Anderson Pens has some Namiki Impressions in stock in Amber (0.5 and 0.7 mm) and Sapphire (0.5 mm) finishes. The Grance pencils appear to be sold out.

Both Namiki mechanical pencils reviewed here were purchased with my own funds. There are no affiliate links in this review.