I love my fountain pens, but recently I started using my stash of Field Notes for individual RPG projects and since Field Notes have (mostly) terrible paper, a pencil was the way to go. I’ve really liked the results — the little notebook gets creased and scuffed, the pencil gets worn down. It feels like progress. I then discovered I liked using pencils on nicer paper. I trade pencil ghosting for ink smudges and overall it’s a sideways move, but pencils are erasable and resistant to spilled tea.
A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend in New Jersey, and spent my Saturday walking around NYC looking for RPGs (the Compleat Strategist) and stationery (C.W. Pencils), then drove out on Sunday looking for pizza and more stationery in Chester, NJ (The Pen Thing), which by the way is lovely and green and nowhere near the NJ turnpike and fantastic drive for soaking up Chuck Tingle’s podcast.
At C.W. Pencils I scored some Baron Fig Archer pencils and their Lock limited edition notebook as well as a selection of other US and Japanese pencils:
The Archer pencil is fairly thin and light, and it feels an awful lot like the Leuchtturm pencil I’ve been using. Since the Archer is apparently made in Portugal (by Viarco?) perhaps the Leuchtturm is as well. Its dimensions are very similar — no eraser, fairly narrow, light, rounded painted end, silkscreen (as opposed to imprinted) printing.
The ones I really wanted to try are the Mitsubishi 9850 and the General’s Semi-Hex which are basic Japanese and American office/school pencils respectively. General’s is made in Jersey City, and one of only three manufacturers left in the US apparently (I also scored a Musgrave test pencil which is very interesting).
Just as a vibrator can’t replace a good man but a man can’t replace a good vibrator, a pencil won’t replace my fountain pens but the reverse is equally true. The way the pencil gets consumed by the act of writing is very satisfying, and I enjoy making little screaming noises as I sharpen them at my desk in the open-plan office.
Among other chores this weekend I’m rolling over to a new bullet journal. I’ve been using this approach for a few years but in 2018 I tried something different: rather than just use the BuJo for tasks, I’d use it for everything, including work meeting minutes, creative RPG ideas, daily tasks and so forth. This was a conscious departure from how I’d done things in the past, namely several notebooks on the go (e.g. one work, one home) plus brief episodes of going completely digital, embracing GTD with multiple lists, and trying to make Filofax work for me.
Thanks to my vacillating my last BuJo (one of the official Leuchtturm black embossed ones) lasted more than a year, this one (in blue) has been filled in three months. It’s filled up so quickly because I’m not using the system perhaps in the minimalist way Ryder Carroll does it; instead of a single day taking half a page, my working week might fill up to 20 pages. But while I write a lot more the principles are the same:
- rapid logging; write everything down and bullet them according to information or tasks
- monthly (or more frequent) task migration
- one place for everything
Some changes to the BuJo approach, with varying levels of success:
- I’ve developed a few new bullets but the only one that’s been useful is the cross for sub-headings within meetings
- I have thought about doing weekly task migration as I generate a significant number of tasks daily, which are easy to lose
- The one other thing I tried but ultimately didn’t need was a much more complicated Future Log which I laid out like a calendar. For the next book I’m going back to the minimalist Future Log layout and keep it to a single page spread (given how quickly I’m likely to use up the journal).
I’m sticking with Leuchtturm1917 journals for now. The outgoing journal was squared paper and unlike Rhodia’s violet 5×5 grid on bright white paper the Leuchtturm square grid is very subtle grey on off-white, and doesn’t make it hard for me to read my words later. The Leuchtturm also has a prompt for Date at the top of each page which is both good and bad — good because I got in the habit of starting a new day on a new page but bad since I write across several pages, so the subsequent ones waste some space. This time I’m going back to a dot grid with one of the special edition Red Dots books which look fantastic — although the index has shrunk down to a 2-page spread which would not be enough if I were not indexing the BuJo way.
(still using Field Notes for gathering RPG project notes though)