Tag Archives: fountain pen

Tools of the trade: Lamy Petrol ink review

As anyone who follows me over on Instagram knows, despite being deeply immersed in the digital world, I use analogue tools for creative planning. This applies to both books in development and business outlining or note taking. Therefore the items I use have to meet three criteria. They must be:

  • Attractive to use, so they make me want to write
  • Portable, so I can use them at my desk, office or coffee shop
  • Flexible, so they are appropriate in multiple scenarios

Lamy seem to be making waves in the stationery world this year, both good and bad. On the side of good, the Limited Edition Lamy Petrol collection has generated a fair bit of hype.

I’ve always been a fan of deep colours, so when I popped back to England recently, I visited Paperchase on the hunch they would have some cartridges available. They did (and probably still do), so I grabbed a couple of boxes.

Although they didn’t have the limited edition Lamy Safari Petrol fountain pen available, I have inked up my Safari medium nib, as this will be roughly the same experience. After nearly a month of constant use, I thought I’d share what makes this a good ink from my perspective.

Lamy’s official description is that Petrol is a dark teal. Teal, for those wondering, is defined as a medium to dark greenish blue. Having used it in a variety of notebooks, my experience of it has been that it is a very dark colour, with few traces of blue. If anything, it is green-black.

To an untrained eye in the boardroom, looking at regular writing rather than a swatch, I suspect that most people would label it as black ink:

It does have some variation and shading, but in most instances, you would need more than a medium nib, plus some good lighting, to bring it out.

Like many Lamy inks, it is quite wet, which works well for me. It means I can write long form quickly without it stuttering to keep up. As a bonus, it’s not so wet that it completely destroys a standard Moleskine page.

In summary, I really enjoy using this ink. It passes the portability test; I don’t hesitate before picking it up, no matter what notebook I have with me. It’s dark enough to switch between personal and professional use without being boring. However, if you’re more of a fan of a lighter, bluer teal, then you are quite likely to be disappointed by this.

At the time of writing, you can still buy Lamy Petrol Cartridges on Amazon but the prices are going up due to the limited stock, so shop around if you can. The Lamy Safari Petrol is still available over there too.

Follow Up: Using A Bullet Journal For Creative Projects

One of the most popular posts on my site is this one about how I use a Bullet Journal. The other, in case you are interested, is the one weighing up the pros and cons of using a Moleskine versus Field Notes, which also has a Bullet Journal influence to it.

Given I started using a Bullet Journal approach when it was a new thing and not the hugely popular and artistic thing it is now (check out the Instagram bujo hashtag if you want to feel inferior about your artistic skills), I thought it would be a good time to do a follow up. Specifically, how to use a Bullet Journal for creative projects.

Firstly, the thing to remember is that the bullet journal methodology is not set in stone. Right from the start, it was a system designed to be modified to meet individual needs. For me, this has resulted in two separate notebooks: one for planning and the other for creative writing projects.

A creative Bullet Journal, by definition, will have different requirements to a notebook containing everything. But why did I separate them? Quite simply, I wanted to have all my book outlines and ideas in one place. When it’s time to pick a project to move onto, this dramatically reduces the number of notebooks I have to work my way through. Because it is specifically for longer outlines, rather than aha! on-the-go snippets, I can stick to an A5 size that is just large enough.

What to remove

Because I’ve got a specific use case in mind, I can ignore any features that relate to the calendar. (Side note, because I’ve stripped out the creative writing projects, I can use an actual diary in a modified Bullet Journal approach that is just as effective. If you want to know more, I’m using a Moleskine Agenda as described here). This means the Future Log and the Monthly Log disappear for me.

What to keep

The Index is the core functionality of the Bullet Journal system that is so simple, yet life changing. This is particularly important in this instance because I want to be able to easily review the contents at a later date. I can’t help but call it Contents though, rather than Index. Sorry!

Underpinning the index is the use of page numbers. This is a feature that makes the Leuchtturm 1917 brand ideal for Bullet Journaling as they are pre-completed. I find manually numbering the pages at the start of a new notebook quite therapeutic, so don’t worry if your notebook of choice doesn’t have them.

 

Because I might plan a story over the course of several weeks and have more than one in development at any given time, when it comes to review I don’t want to keep flicking back to the index to find the related project pieces. Instead I use a simple arrow system when linking larger blocks of related text. It is a simple thing to do before starting, but saves amazing amounts of time when reviewing:

This chapter continues on page 37

This continues from page 17

What about topics, bullets and tasks?

I still use these as a creative feature. There is much more to writing a book than plotting it out. There may be research tasks that need to be completed prior to writing and these can form topics in themselves.

Personal Opinions…

What is the best size for a Bullet Journal?

For creative projects, the A5 size works best. For ‘on the go’ notes and ideas capture, a pocket notebook is best (such as a Field Notes)

What is the best brand for a bullet journal?

Leuchtturm 1917 is the closest fit for the Bullet Journal system. Prebuilt Index and page numbers, as well as a paper quality that works for a wide range of pen types, including fountain pens

What is the best paper format for a bullet journal?

Plain paper allows for the most freedom, but I’m a huge fan of graph or dot grid. The key is that any ruling is subtle enough for it not to be limiting 

You can find the official Bullet Journal site and more information from Ryder here.

Moleskine Weekly Planner vs Hobonichi Techo – 2017 review

This year needs to be a very big year for me in terms of personal productivity. I will transition from full-time employment to being entirely self-employed within the next few weeks. I’ve always found it easy to be productive in the daily 9-5 job, but being entirely accountable for my own goals and planning is a new challenge. One that I knew my setup in 2016 simply wouldn’t be able to handle.

Last year, one of the problems I encountered with my productivity was a surfeit of notebooks. That’s really the best way to describe it. I used the Hobonichi Techo to record my daily events but not my daily tasks. They were instead recorded in a Field Notes book using a modified Bullet Journal method. I never actually adhered to the full Bullet Journal system because several features, such as calendared events, simply do not work for me.

hobonichi techo

Hobonichi Techo: great paper but no overview

In a larger A5 size notebook, such as a Moleskine or a Paperblanks, I wrote my daily gratitude journals and morning pages. On the road, this felt more like a burden than a productivity asset as it was always a minimum of three daily notebooks.

As much as  I loved using the Hobonichi, I realised this was less about the layout and much more about the paper. As a huge fountain pen fan it was great knowing it could take literally any pen and ink combo that was thrown at it. I enjoyed the variety that different form factors provide. But pleasure aside, it just wasn’t practical. I was doing less, not more, and friction in the system became a problem in itself.

As part of my 2016 yearly review, I decided to very consciously choose a planner that would suit my changing circumstances. After considering all the options, I settled on an A5 Moleskine 12 Month Weekly Planner.  I’ve been using it consistently for 8 weeks, so now I’ve got enough information to provide a fair review of how this is working.

Key Features

Of course, it starts with the obligatory information page. I have no idea why these are included anymore, as no one ever fills them out surely? In the age of widespread fraud, the Field Notes approach of email address and reward waiting checkbox is all you need.

Moleskine Weekly Planner

Passport and credit card numbers? No thanks!

The planner style is more than just a ‘space per day’ diary. On the left hand page there is a daily spread, but on the right hand side there is a lined page. This allows free space each week to make notes or, in my case, to plan out additional goals. If you need to record lots of meetings and appointments, then this might not work for you.

Moleskine 12 month weekly planner

Daily and Weekly planning combo – ideal for modified Bullet Journal

There is also a monthly spread at the beginning. This is quite similar in size to the one I used last year in the Hobonichi, so it allows for bigger picture planning. Unlike the Hobonichi, there is more space at the bottom of each page for additional notes, taking advantage of the larger A5 size.

Moleskine Weekly Planner

Monthly overview – ideal for larger project planning

By far the biggest downside is the number of lined pages for additional notes at the back. With just 4, I already only have 2 lined sides left. Given that this book is narrower than a standard Moleskine A5 ruled book, this is not due to a thickness issue. Cost saving? Quite possibly, given that the usual address book pullout section wasn’t included this year either. I’ve spoken to other people who have Moleskine diaries in other formats and they didn’t have one either. So it is slightly disappointing if they are doing that, given they don’t exactly sell these as inexpensive items and they’re certainly not reinvesting the saving into better quality paper.

Moleskine Notebook

Seriously, no more pages left and February isn’t even over!

So far, with the caveats mentioned above, I have found this system to be working absolutely perfectly for my needs. Though the paper is nowhere near as good quality as the Hobonichi (understatement of the year) I have found that by sticking to a fine nib and a relatively dry ink I can still use some fountain pens with this. But on reflection, I’m approaching this year with functionality over fun and beauty.

So, to recap, the pros and cons of the Moleskine Weekly Planner…

Pros

  • Good layout for weekly goal setting
  • Monthly view for high level planning
  • General sleek and professional form factor you would expect from Moleskine

Cons

  • Paper quality (I’ve heard Leuchtturm1917 do a similar style, so this may be a better choice if paper really matters – if anyone has tried this then please let me know in the comments as I’ll consider alternatives for 2018)
  • Not enough lined pages at the back for additional notes
  • No address book section

The layout has been the winner for me. Without masses of daily appointments and meetings to keep track of, I can use a modified Bullet Journal system within the planner itself and feel like I’m keeping all my work plans and goals on track. But I’m not blind to some fairly significant weaknesses in the product.

Everyday carry for a writer

Over the past year, I’ve become endlessly fascinated by people photographing and describing their everyday carry. Of course, because I don’t live in America, I still find it odd to see so many knives and guns as part of that. The knives I can understand from a practical sense, but the prospect of having a gun as an integral part of your everyday life still baffles me.

Anywho, I am a person who has a few items with them 99% of the time. I might not have them with me when I go out for a special occasion requiring a little black handbag, but that’s about it. So below is my everyday carry:

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I adore my nockco holder. Whenever I have an idea I just pull the whole thing out, rather than having to ferret around in the bottom of my bag to find a fluffy pen and an old receipt to scribble on. I have three notebooks with me most of the time: my current notebook, the Shelterwood Field Notes which contain details of a series I’ve been working on for a decade and the black nockco dot dash contains all the notes for the manuscript I’m currently submitting. For the writing utensils, a mechanical pencil, a retro 51, my sheaffer, pilot metropolitan and a lamy safari. I love to have a reliable selection of varying nib sizes and colours.

I also carry a set of worry dolls down around that were made for me by my sister a looooooooong time ago. They’ve travelled quite literally around the world with me and have huge sentimental value. No matter where I am or what is going on, I always have my family with me that way, all tied up in a little bag. Wait, that sounds sinister. Never mind…

The other things are purely practical: Swiss army card (has got me out of a few scrapes over the years for sure), a wallet ninja, lip balm, ear plugs (a sign I travel so much) and a USB stick, because you never know when you might have to grab documents on the go.

So, no guns or knives, but still the tools of my trade!

Making Notes: Emerald of Chivor

It’s no secret that I find any creative project starts out best when I put good old fashioned pen to paper. The majority of my first drafts are then created in Scrivener, but I’ve never found that plotting and discovering characters really comes alive if they’re not discovered on paper first.

Most people have creative slumps. I know authors, actual real life get paid to write books for a living people, who have found themselves with writer’s block. There are so many ways of getting out of it, but one of the things that works best for me is to find a really engaging tool that makes me want to write something – anything – down. That can be pen, paper or ink. As long as it’s decidedly analogue, I’ll give in to the temptation to try it.

So without further ado, my latest inspirational find: J Herbin Emerald of Chivor:

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This ink has taken the pen world by storm and from the moment I saw the samples coming out, I could see why. That sheen! That colour! The hints of red were more intriguing than the flecks of gold. All better than I can capture on an iPhone, but I refuse to buy a better camera for the sake of doing blogposts. Anywho, I needed to go back to an old project and work out some knots that were bogging the whole thing down. So, with a trusty NockCo DotDash black pocket book (I’ll definitely be telling you more about those at some point in the future) and a TWSBI Eco 1.1 Stub (again, a pen worth knowing about), I started to tease apart the strands of my story to work out where it was going so spectacularly wrong:

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This is where having such a fascinating tool to play with comes into play. I was so distracted by wanting to put words down, to try and create the different flow using the stub nib, that I worked out what was annoying me the most without even thinking about it. I was too busy thinking about how there were differences when you shook the pen up a little first, how the red wasn’t as strong in my sample as I’d seen in some others and not about the fact that it was a point of view issue I was having.

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So, for me, it’s a big thumbs up for Emerald of Chivor. I want to use this so much, I’ve already decided that tomorrow it will be part of my morning pages routine. I think that J Herbin have got this one right (being the fourth in the series of inks using this gold flecking), and so far I haven’t had any issues with it clogging my pens. That being said, I think it definitely needs to be used with at least a broad nib if you want to get full enjoyment out of it.

Feel like kicking your creativity old school? Then this might not be the cheapest place to start, but it gets a huge thumbs up from me.

Emeraldofchivor

Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook Review

I mentioned in my last post that I had grown to love the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook for journaling. It’s also true for any kind of creative writing. I should apologise now, this post is probably going to have a lot of link love for those of you who are interested.

I don’t use the pocket size. For that, my love of Field Notes and the new NockCo Black DotDash notebook wins out every time. That’s my ‘shove in my pocket’ daily carry.

But using the A5 size Leuchturrm for plotting and planning has been an absolute joy. Anyone who like to write longhand or do their creative outlining by pen and paper should seriously check this brand out.

I’ve written before how I’m a fan of bullet journaling to keep track of things. The biggest pain in the backside about this method is having to number your pages in order to be able to create a table of contents for yourself. Voila! No longer a problem with the Leuchtturm, which is one of the reasons Ryder made it his notebook of choice for his kickstarter.

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The second winning feature for me is simply the page quality. The slightly off-white, creamy colouring is really easy on the eyes. When using a gel ink pen it is like writing on glass it is that smooth. When writing with fountain pen, there is very little feedback, feathering or bleedthrough, even with a 1.1 stub nib:IMG_9258And despite the off-white colour, it still allows the colour to come out, like here with the gold flecking that comes with the J Herbin Stormy Grey ink. A lot of people love this ink concept, but were disappointed by how little it actually stood out on a lot of paper types. The Leuchturrm handled it beautifully, even if my photography is crappy and you can only see it here on the ‘I’. Forgive me, I’m only using an iPhone and the summer weather is once again verging on apocalyptic end of days when it comes to natural light.j herbin stormy grey

I should note that this isn’t a cheap notebook by any stretch of the imagination. It’s also quite hard to find in the UK in any retail stores, but you can always Amazon it. Or go to the airport. That’s where I found mine. If you’re prepared to pay for a Moleskine though, I would suggest trying this as an experiment. You also get a lot of pages for your money (248 in the A5), so it’s going to last you quite a while. They also do a range of sizes to suit your preferences, even if the huge master planner dimensions sound a little bit intimidating!

Writing should be a joy and good tools make this much more fun to do.

Finding my inner calm

One of my goals for this year was being able to meditate for 30 minutes. I am nothing if not ambitious. I think the most I achieved was 4 before getting completely frustrated and distracted. Oh, and really, really uptight and anxious.

I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s meant to happen. It was certainly not what I was hoping to get out of it.

Then I had an interesting conversation with someone at work who pointed out that feeling the state people (other than me) achieve while meditating is more to do with being in the state of flow, rather than specifically being able to put your ankles on your hips and say ohhhmmmmmm.

A lot of people get this state from running. That’s never worked for me either. The only thing I get from running is aching hips and a weird heart rhythm for the next three hours. Again, not relaxing.

That’s when I heard that people were using Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages principles to not only become creatively unstuck, but also to get that sense of peaceful personal insight that comes from meditation. I took one look and realised I had the four things needed to make this engaging for me:

  1. Plenty of attractive notebooks
  2. Even more pens
  3. Even more inks
  4. Also some coffee and candles to create a bit of ambience and a sense of ritual.

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So I decided to give it a go.

I started on the 6th July. Since then I’ve got through nearly three A5 lined notebooks (think moleskine, although I’ve discovered that a Leuchtturm 1917 is much better in terms of paper quality and features. Especially when using my current favourite fountain pen and ink combo, the TWSBI 580 1.1 Stub nib with Iroshizuku yama-budo). Turns out I’ve got a lot of thoughts going on.

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The benefits have been pretty significant. I make sure that I start each set with three gratitudes. Not just in a list form, but really describing what I’m grateful for and why. After that, it’s whatever springs to mind. It can be positive, negative or just really, really boring.

Even though I’ve only been doing it for just over a month, I’ve already found I’m calmer and less responsive to external stress when it happens. I’ve become better at creative problem solving, both at work and play. I’ve become more willing to trust the universe, or whatever it is out there. Slowly, I’m becoming more accepting of myself. With that, comes a growing confidence too. Those last two points are a much gentler curve, but there is progress now where there used to be none.

So I’ve redefined my goal. It is no longer meditate for 30 minutes, but instead 30 minutes of daily meditative practices.

Sometimes, it’s about walking the road that’s right for you, not the one most travelled.