Perhaps M is for Madness

M craziness
Montblanc M ballpoint in Ultra Black

The Montblanc M series of pens.

Are there reasons so compelling we’d happily open our wallet and forgo several hundred dollars for the privilege of owning one? Perhaps some of us may waver a little in answering that question, others definite one way or the other.

Now substitute another make, model and type of pen in the AUD$500 plus price bracket and ask the same question. Heck, substitute another product instead – leather goods, watch, anything you care to think of. Same answer? Maybe, maybe not.

I recently bought one and I love the damn thing. I guess the kicker being I bought the ballpoint.

An obscene amount of money to spend when you won’t even find a nib on the end? Sure is, though if that’s the language we’re using, I’d suggest it’s probably no less obscene regardless of what hits the page at the end of the barrel. Once in the world of pens, we’re really into respecting choices rather than providing judgement aren’t we?

Now is the time to nod if that isn’t what you’re seeing in the reflection of your screen at the moment.

Outlining the rationale of such a purchase to a longstanding office cupboard company-supplied plastic throwaway user? Perhaps a little more challenging. That same challenge probably becomes insurmountable when having the words “oh I just really like using fountain pens” not available to you in said conversation.

Mind you, I have not actually had such a conversation, and were I to find myself in it, probably see it ending fairly quickly as I wandered off with a trailing “ha… yeah, oh well I like my pens, so you get that I suppose…”

I guess that’s why we write about them instead. Looking around, there are many interests, passions, or even vices to indulge us and lighten our wallets a little – or a lot. The online community then provides most of the conversation. So while I do not seek approval for adding a ballpoint pen to the stable, I find it interesting to think about how I ended up here, and what better way than to put you kind people through a blog post.

So what the heck happened?

In the latter part of last year my pen buying plans were non-existent, as they often are at any given time. Being lucky enough to own some outstanding fountain pens, contentment remains the first word that comes to mind when I think about them or what to use next. I have no pending “grail pen” as many do (which more often than not seem to be of the fountain variety, and fair enough), many recent acquisitions have been rollerballs (with the exception of a kindly gifted Lamy aion fountain pen), and as I’ve alluded to, my pen thoughts usually run to next use rather than next buy.

Having said that, there remained a gap to be filled. Not in my collection per se – more so a tool for a specific job. So I regret to advise the remaining applicants, for now at least – the role has been filled.

Working in Brisbane’s CBD, I am lucky enough to have two pen stores, the Montblanc boutique, and Dymocks, all within a couple of blocks from the office. Add to that some outstanding specialty coffee establishments, and the hobbies/interests/passions category of my existence is well and truly catered for within the radius of a 5 minute walk.

I happened to find myself perusing the wall of leather goods in the Montblanc boutique (you know…as you do on any given day), and upon turning to leave, those astute Montblanc marketing people had placed the M Ultra Black series display firmly in my eye-line.

Now, in the original (and high gloss) precious resin upon its initial release, the M design definitely appealed to me, however I have a bit of a thing for matte black and/or brushed type finishes. If you then add accents of silver rather than a gold, I’ll find it extremely hard to resist simply walking past your display.

Seed firmly planted, or if I am entirely honest – it had sprouted.

Do I really need a why?

Here, it would be easy to say no (particularly if I refer to some of my comments above), though in reality, spending not insignificant money on something as self-indulgent as an expensive pen (or alternatively say, an espresso machine) requires at least a few ink smudges in the yes column.

When I bought my first fountain pen (the Montblanc Meisterstück Classique I’ve written about before), I’d always planned to buy a ballpoint “in a few years time” to use as an everyday work writer. Well, a few years turned into twenty, and for the money, it was never going to be a priority any sooner than that. I guess nothing in the category had ever really caught my eye either.

Any list of this is why it isn’t a fountain pen I provide here can easily be refuted, however know that I’ve already considered any options and already done just that myself. In any event, I’m not here for the hard sell – you will no doubt have very good reasons for making your own choices, even if they are a 180 degrees from mine. Put simply, a half-dozen signatures on a document sent around a meeting room table; a number or note scrawled on a Post-It; annotating a folded document or taking meeting notes with a book perched on my knee; a brief comment on a 20 page document quickly closed.

The list of course is not exhaustive, and as I mentioned – yes, all of those and more could easily be the domain of a fountain pen. Personally, for the sake of smudge-free, simple and efficient, I’m simply more comfortable in my office environment for it not to be.

psychedelic purple peeps
B is for ballpoint… not boring

So did I necessarily set out to hunt down and buy a high-end ballpoint (if that in itself is not a contradiction in terms)? No I didn’t, however with my fondness for the M design (with that Ultra Black finish!), those specific (non-fountain pen) requirements, and a sale to boot – the Montblanc stars (well snow-covered peaks at least) were aligned to make this a compelling purchase.

It’s all Monty Python from here

Now as much as I enjoy wandering around the Montblanc boutique, my next port of call a few days later was to discuss my options with Mal and Melissa at Pen and Paper – my absolute favourite establishment in the CBD. For the warmest embrace into the stationery and pen family, a visit is a must if you are ever in Brisbane.

I’m not going into details here (this post is long enough), but let’s just say my decision tree wasn’t functioning in all its efficiency the day I went to actually buy the pen. Or maybe it was, and simply took every ounce of my willpower to stay on track for what I needed. Without the understanding of the two fine people I’ve mentioned above, I would have left the store, not looked back, and never returned. I’m almost not joking either.

You see, I had a torrid time deciding between the rollerball and the ballpoint. Maybe that’s laughable, I mean it’s not as though we are talking about fine tuning a custom nib grind are we. Anyway, it was an excruciating 20 minutes or so for all three of us I’m sure. Open this, can I see that again, how about the medium, no sorry – I mean the broad, actually can I try the rollerball again? Wow… I don’t know – what do you guys think? (Blank stares). No, no its okay… err, ummm…

And so on, and on… and on.

As someone who likes to think they are at least a little knowledgeable (though I’ve now learned perhaps not always rational) about pens, it was an absolute shambles I tell you. “That’s because you weren’t buying a fountain pen – it was a sign!” I hear you screaming. In many instances, I’d agree with you – but that wasn’t it, and I keep coming back to (as I held myself to on that day also) the right tool for a specific job.

I do thank Mal and Melissa from the bottom of my heart. It wasn’t a transaction that day – it was emotional support. Speaking of support – that’s Pen and Paper in Brisbane’s CBD (or online at the link above) – you know what to do.

Signing off

So what about the pen?

I’ll get to that more specifically in an upcoming post. I’ve kept you long enough this time. For now, I’ll just be content with ticking off quite a few boxes associated with filling that specific need, acquiring something I’d planned many, many years ago, and having something on my desk at the office with a design I very much enjoy taking the occasional moment to pause and stare at.

Just to be clear though – I love it. Yes, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, however as a hardworking writer both in and outside the office – it is an outstanding pen. Sure, there was an emotional draw and I love the design, and if design didn’t matter we’d all simply be using nondescript nib holders instead of fountain pens.

To sum up this whole surprise, joy, turmoil, and utter contentment experience, I’m very pleased I managed to be objective enough about what I needed, to come away with what is now in use every day at work.

If, after reading all of this, you looked at me and said “Pete… really? It’s a pen mate?!” I wouldn’t disagree with you – yet at the same time that’s precisely the point isn’t it.

 

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A Pen Index Page

With the number of pens in my collection growing substantially over the last few years, I’ve put them all together in an Airtable database as an attempt to keep them in some sort of order. Although the database is far from complete, and will perhaps be the subject of a post in its own right — my thoughts came around to the blog and how things are organised in terms of the pens and reviews I’ve put up so far.

I’ve decided on at least creating a basic pen index list for the blog, which will hopefully provide readers with a general idea of where I’m coming from as far as my fountain pen thoughts and opinions are concerned, along with a simple index with links to the posts I’ve managed to get around to writing so far.

Looking at the list, I feel incredibly fortunate to have the pen collection I have, which was largely brought about by a very kind and generous friend downsizing his own collection at about the same time. Although I’ve thanked him many times, it is a generosity that I will never be able to fully repay.

There are certainly some pens in the list I find myself coming back to, filling, and using more often, though at the current time I’m not ready to either put them in rank order or into a best/top type list. Perhaps that might come at some point in the future.

At the current time I’ve also limited things to fountain pens, having not decided on the exact nature of how I might include other types of pens I own without the index becoming a little too all-encompassing and unwieldy. I also debated on whether to include budget pens such as the Pilot Petit1 and Platinum Preppy, however having written a post on the Petit1, the decision was made to include them as well. After all, there are some solid pens at this end of the market, particularly at the price point they sell for.

If you’d like to take a look at the index, it is sitting under the Analogue Tools category of the site’s menu, or click the following link:

Current Pen Index

As I’ve mentioned, the list contains links to posts I’ve written on some of the pens. If you are looking for other reviews around the web, the best place to start is the magnificent Pennaquod pen blog search site run and maintained by Ian Hedley, of Pens! Paper! Pencils!

And the Airtable database I mentioned in the introduction above? That’s not a database — check out the one David Brennan of Too Many Inks uses for his pen and ink rotation. Now that’s a database.

In closing, I do hope to slowly get around to transforming more of the index to links, however of course that means finding time to write the posts.

I’m sure I’ll get there — eventually.


Generosity

Time, money, objects, advice — to name but a few. Generosity can be demonstrated in many forms.

You might usually find greater expression of it amongst friends and family. Between complete strangers? Perhaps less often, yet a little more likely where there are common interests.

What follows below continues to amaze me as I write and read through it, yet also reinforces to me there are some wonderful people out there, and I have been indeed lucky enough to recently become acquainted with one.

Initial contact

Readership of this blog has built slowly and steadily over the two years I’ve been writing here. I do receive feedback occasionally on what I write — not a lot — but enough. Some offer encouragement, others push me to think a little differently about what I have written, though it is always well-intentioned and respectful. I consider myself very lucky in this regard.

Earlier this year I received some kind words from a reader on a couple of my pen related posts. I of course responded with thanks as is usually the case. Thankfully, he also reached out via email, through the contact page of this blog.

What the email contained is something I’ll never forget.

A most generous offer

Earlier in the year I had concluded I would be satisfied with my current pen collection in the short-term — and convinced myself I wouldn’t be making any significant purchases (perhaps only a bottle of ink here or there) until the second half of the year.

Not long after, I received the email which contained an offer I must admit left me somewhat stunned upon my initial reading.

I know what you are thinking — the email contained an unbeatable deal and I broke my current and future planned budget restrictions all at once.

No. It was much more than that. Way more.

The writer of the email mentioned owning a number of pens, and considering himself a user rather than a collector — was looking to pass on some of the pens he no longer regularly used to someone who might use and appreciate them.

Somewhat more significantly for myself, he went on to say he enjoyed reading this blog and would like to do something to support that. Very kind words and encouragement which in themselves already more than made my day. Being offered these pens was… well — you can imagine how that felt.

I continued reading.

The list of pens here was nothing short of amazing — particularly to someone like myself looking to expand a fairly limited collection. An endeavour that was to date progressing — though fairly slowly. Remember we are talking about doubling my fountain pen collection overnight — with each of these pens worth more than any (bar one) I already owned.

Needless to say I was somewhat flabbergasted.

A few emails back and forth later — and I had provided an address for the pens to be sent.

Arrival

A little excited at this point.
A little excited at this point.

Needless to say, an exciting few days wait ensued before an express post package arrived at my desk in the office. Being the somewhat private person I am, waiting until people were off in meetings and such for a quiet time to open it was one of the hardest things I have done in recent times.

Again. Totally amazed.

Although through the previous email exchanges I had known what was coming — actually having them in my hand was unbelievable.

At no cost to me, I had just received: a Pelikan M400 (green; EF nib); Pelikan M215 (black and rhodium; M nib); Pelikan M205 (red; F nib); Lamy 2000 (F nib); Tombow Object (red; F nib); Platinum Multi-pen; and a selection of ink cartridges.

IMG_3170
In all their glory.

 

I think anyone familiar with pens will see the value in those above, and anyone who isn’t — well let us just say we are looking at a significant amount of money if I were to buy them.

What can I say?

Having received the pens in the middle of March, I have only now been able to sit and write some thoughts on this act of kindness, with the extent of my good fortune having finally sunk in.

To me, it goes way beyond the monetary value which can be calculated from the list above. The kind gentleman who made contact can certainly be assured the pens have been warmly welcomed into my collection, and no amount of thanks could ever be sufficient, though I will indeed give it my best shot.

He has made no money, has no blog, Twitter or Instagram account to link back to — and even if there were – I get the impression a link would be politely declined. Also, my query as to whether he wished to be mentioned by name, and to read this post before it went up — politely declined. To me, it is a very real reminder of the kind and generous people in the world (and within the pen community) that we may never see nor hear from. Or at least if we do, not often.

These are the people I write for.

As this piece of writing nears conclusion, something else has struck me you know. I mentioned time and advice in opening of this post. Two very valuable things I have also received far more of from this kind gentlemen than I’d ever hope to receive, and to that end, I look forward to each and every email.

As far as this generous gift I have received?

I can only hope that someday — if I am in a similar position – I would do the same, but it mightn’t be with any of these particular pens. No, these I’ll likely be keeping as reminder of the immeasurable kindness and generosity that still exists in the world.


NaNoWriMo – My Analogue Tools

The tools.
The tools.

With so many words to be written this month as part of my first foray into NaNoWriMo, I feared this blog would be a little forgotten over the coming weeks – and no, I had not planned ahead well enough to have written and scheduled posts in advance.

In a rare moment of wisdom, I came to realise my best chance of putting something up on the blog would be to combine the two. That is, participate in NaNoWriMo, and occasionally blog about participating in NaNoWriMo.

I plan to write a few more NaNoWriMo flavoured posts throughout the month, which is of course assuming the weight of expectation that comes with a 50,000 word target doesn’t crush me first.

So, with a tip of the hat to yesterday’s Fountain Pen Day, today I thought I would share some of the analogue tools I have been using to help plan out, and hopefully get written, the 50,000 words that constitute the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Notebooks

Various notebooks, pads, scraps of paper and even the odd dreaded yellow Post-It Note have all played their part here.

Although I have the overall plot and story outlined, my fear of running out of specific ideas to keep filling scenes, has resulted in a litany of places with either paragraphs, a line, or even a single word jotted down to avoid forgetting that great idea. Though I must admit, the more common scenario seems to be noting down why events written two chapters ago no longer make sense given the turn the story has taken.

This whole novel-writing thing is certainly not easy!

The paper I’ve been using:

Clairefontaine Essentials Notebook and Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite ink written with Pelican M205 EF Fountain Pen
Clairefontaine Essentials Notebook and Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite ink written with Pelican M205 EF Fountain Pen
Clairefontaine Essentials Notebook with Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite Ink
Delfonics Rollbahn Notebook; Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Geen ink (Pelikan M205 EF Fountain Pen)

Pens

(L to R) Pelikan M205; Palomino Blackwing 602; Retro 51 Stealth; Lamy Safari; Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique
(L to R) Pelikan M205; Palomino Blackwing 602; Retro 51 Stealth; Lamy Safari; Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique

Again, this is either dictated by what is closest at hand for immediate idea capture, or what will be most enjoyable to write with for more extensive outlining. The following pens (and pencil) have to date suited either of these scenarios:

Inks

I have found using inks of varying colours quite helpful when going back through my notes to either check off ideas or plot lines I have implemented into the story, or in highlighting areas that may require more thought or detail. The Montblanc Meisterstuck inked with Burgundy Red has been particularly useful given it’s contrast to the Safari’s blue ink, clearly showing notes made as additions to the originals.

Markup in Field Notes Arts Edition; Lamy Blue ink (Lamy Safari M Fountain Pen); Montblanc Burgundy Red (Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique M Fountain Pen)
Markup in Field Notes Arts Edition; Lamy Blue ink (Lamy Safari M Fountain Pen); Montblanc Burgundy Red (Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique M Fountain Pen)
Rhoda Ice No 16 Lined Notepad; Lamy Blue ink (Lamy Safari M Fountain Pen)
Rhoda Ice No 16 Lined Notepad; Lamy Blue ink (Lamy Safari M Fountain Pen)

Summary

The most used of the items outlined above is probably a combination of the Field Notes Arts Edition notebook, the Lamy Safari for note taking, and the Montblanc Meisterstuck for marking up the Safari’s notes.

The Field Notes became the notebook of choice early on as I my initial intention was to keep all of my ‘NaNo’ notes in the one book, and the majority have ended up in here. I found the larger ‘Arts’ edition the ideal size for more extensive notes, yet small and light enough to carry with me.

Delfonics Rollbahn Grid Notebook
Delfonics Rollbahn Grid Notebook

The Delfonics Rollbahn notebook contains great paper stock for fountain pen use, however the yellow colour is not the best shade to highlight any particularly vibrant inks you may be using. Certainly not a problem for the darker blues and blacks if that is your preference.

The Safari was not necessarily my first choice pen, however is only a fairly recent purchase, and the paper based planning of this project seemed a great chance to test it out. No real complaints here, except it has been a little ’skippy’ occasionally, however I put this down to not having given it a thorough clean before inking it up after purchase.

I am really enjoying the Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink, which is now residing in the Pelikan M205 (EF). Again only a recent purchase, however what a great colour! I am sure it will see quite a bit of use throughout the remainder of November and beyond.

My main (and only minor) grievance has been the extent to which the Safari Blue Ink has faded. Although most likely due to both the ink and Field Notes paper (the same amount of fade was not evident on the Rhodia stock), I would have preferred it to maintain the vibrance it had when first laid down.

NaNoWriMo itself?

With my word count currently just over the 10k mark, I am finding this an extremely interesting challenge. I was falling on the side of “maybe I’ll just do it next year”, right up until a few days before November 1, however would perhaps have continued to say the same thing every year had I not bitten the bullet and entered.

So very glad I did.

Gotta go. There’s an important word count that needs increasing!!

 

Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web by those far wiser than myself:

NoteMaker
Although the Melbourne Writers Festival has now come and gone, some interesting insights into the art itself from one of Australia’s best, Nick Earls. Discussion turns to the new novel Analogue Men, and Nick’s penchant for Moleskine notebooks and a good pencil:
Interview with Analogue Man, Writer and Endless Story Starter Nick Earls

Brett Terpstra
Taken some notes as a plain text list and wished it were a mind map? Develop them further by way of a handy script for converting indented Markdown or plain text to a mind map application of your choice. I also love the integration with popclip, a handy Mac application I use heavily for one click copy and paste (which itself now has 126 different extensions):
Converting Markdown to a mind map

The Weekend Edition
In some decidedly local news, Brisbane is set to see the launch (October 1 this year) of the worlds first NEXT Hotel, on the site of the old Lennon’s on the Queen St Mall. Should we be excited? Maybe, maybe not, however sounds as though there is a nice little bit of tech thrown into the mix:

…guests can download the NEXT Hotel Smart App, using it to adjust lighting, room temperature, music and television channels without needing to leave their super comfy bed.

A perfect place to stay (awake) after the next Strauss coffee cupping evening:
World’s first NEXT Hotel launches in Brisbane

A Penchant for Paper
Although I certainly don’t need an excuse, here are 10 reasons to use pen and paper and get writing by hand. Sketching always seems such a noble and therapeutic undertaking, however it is such a pity I have the exact opposite to a ‘dab hand’, for such an activity:
10 Ways To Use Your Pens and Write By Hand More Often

The Clicky Post
Although perhaps not an everyday colour, the Iroshizuku Yama-budo (Crimson Glory Vine) ink looks fantastic in this Pilot Custom Heritage 92 Demonstrator. A great review by Mike Dudek, and as usual, great photography to match:
Pilot Custom Heritage 92 Demonstrator Fountain Pen – M Nib

Pens! Paper! Pencils!
Speaking of fantastic looking inks, there aren’t too many more striking than the subject of this post by Ian Hedley. If you like your orange with a good measure of substance, check out the link, or alternatively search for “deep orange ink” in Ian’s fantastic new pen blog search engine, Pennaquod:
Diamine Cult Pens Deep Dark Orange ink review

Finer Things in Tech
David Chartier with an elegant piece on…well, the inelegant state of inter app communication and integration courtesy of the walled gardens currently in existence:

But even on OS X, where apps have always had ways to work together, I had to manually copy and paste the title and body of this piece from the Evernote, erm, note where I scribbled my initial ideas into Write. Like an animal. As much as I am a fan of Evernote, it’s a tedious, hindering experience that makes me curious about alternatives.

This is hopefully all about to change with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite – not long to wait now:
iOS, Mac App Extensions offer some hope for walled gardens

Austin Kleon
Not commandments per se, though a list of ten nonetheless. Manifesto?, Declaration? Creed? Call it what you will, though Notes to self was the author’s choice. My picks – numbers 1 and 10:
Notes to self