Sunday, 30 January 2011

All change on the Filofax front!

You know your filofax needs a diet when you can’t actually turn the pages in it.

That was the problem I faced with my home filo a week or so ago. As well as being so full that the pages could barely move, it was heavy. I have never got on with a personal sized filofax. I wish I had – I would have been snapping up one of these beauties off the Filofax France site – the Baroque! In fact, some of me still wants to snap one up if I’m being honest, just in case I could persuade myself to downsize!

Anyway, because I have never got on with the personal size, I carry an A5 Finchley – not that it goes out and about too often, but it does have the occasional trip away from the desk. It’s my ‘work from home’ filofax, combined with lots of book reviews.

Until the crisis, it was arranged like this:
A year planner for seeing overall, big-picture deadlines, a month to a page, for medium-sized overviews, and a WO2P (horizontal – pinched from my A5 Domino) diary.
Following that was a set of cheap, coloured A5 dividers arranged like this:
Green – writing competition details (printed on home-designed sheets) and other writing deadlines/info; Blue – short story outlines and ideas; yellow – notes for novels; purple – blog ideas and notes and finally red – finance (some pages for writing and some for the charity I work for).
After that came 6 cream dividers (unlabelled) with, in order: stuff relating to the charity, blank notepaper; blank blog/ideas paper; personal goals sheets (A4 and Z-folded) along with other pages such as Christmas/present lists; a list of books to look out for and then at the back, a list of all the books I read in 2009 and 2011, and a set of reviews for all these books, filed in an A-Z, by author.

To even start to be able to use it, I had had to take out half the diary and two sets of A-Z (one containing addresses relating to home and writing and one to the charity). The personal addresses were rewritten and re-filed in an old personal filofax from the 90s, the writing ones and the charity ones were reprinted on different coloured paper (they are adapted contact pages) and filed either in behind the competition pages or in with all the other charity stuff.
But… it was still unusable. I could either remove all of the diary or remove all of the book reviews. If I removed all of the diary, I would have to carry another one and that was mad. So, all of the book reviews and lists have come out and are sitting, tied up with a ribbon, awaiting a new filofax!
The lovely bunch at Philofaxy persuaded me (it honestly didn’t take much) to get a jade Finchley from the French filofax site (see it here). When it arrives, the work domino will become a book-o-fax, the red Finchley will probably become my work filofax and the jade will become my new home filofax.

Now… do I get a personal Baroque ‘just in case’??

Monday, 24 January 2011

What makes a good notebook?

I’ve been thinking about “What makes a good notebook?” partly because, after years of teasing me about what he refers to as my 'book fetish', DH asked me if I had a spare notebook he could use. He wanted something really small so he could carry it around with him and it not weigh much. Of course, the Notebook Emporium (a large box of notebooks I possess) yielded the perfect notebook for him, but it left me wondering why so many of my notebooks were lingering unused in the Emporium.

I came down to three main qualities: functionality, size and feel.
Functionality and size are pretty linked. What is the notebook for? For jotting things down on the run, a large A4 Moleskine would not be the one you would choose, whereas for long, involved notes and plans, perhaps an A4 Moleskine would be perfect. To me, the sizes fall into three: pocket, handbag and desk, linked to their functions. To others, I guess pocket and handbag are one category, but I think a true pocket sized book is pretty small.
Other aspects of functionality would include – does the book lie flat (and does it matter if it doesn’t?). If it sits on a desk, be that at home, work or on a train/in a cafe etc, yes, it absolutely has to lie flat! If it’s for scribbling in on the run, not so vital. My filofax has to lie flat (but thankfully I haven’t had to resort to rocks to ‘train’ it yet, unlike Yvotchka and her pocket Finsbury!)
Then there’s does it have a page marker? Many nice notebooks do, but not all. Quite often I need to marks several pages, so in many ways it doesn’t matter as I have generally resorted to post-it notes anyway. For a diary/journal – yeah – you need a page marker.
Does it have a closure? And what’s the functionality of it? What do I mean – what’s the functionality of it? It keeps the book closed of course! Ah, but does it also hold a pen against the closed pages like the Ciak books do? If it’s horizontal, it can. But then you can’t open one cover out and slot it into the pocket of your filofax. If it’s vertical, it doesn’t hold loose papers tight against the cover securely. Do the closures get in the way of you writing? If the book is large, do they seem a little slack after a bit?
Loose leaf versus bound. This can be the killer. A loose-leaf book is useful for re-filing notes. Bound books are nice for posterity and keeping things securely together. But if you don’t use all the pages in a bound book before the project is completed, what do you do with them? Start another project in the book? I guess it depends on the use of the book. I don’t like to have lots of projects in one book, but I also hate having spare pages at the back of a book.
So that leaves feel. How does the book feel? How is it covered? Does it have a nice texture or colour or design? Is the cover hardback or softback? What’s the paper like to write on? Is it smooth, thin, thick, hateful to fountain pens, dreamy to write on? If the cover feels horrible in your hand and your favourite pen blotches and weeps through all the paper, the chances are the book will not get used.

So, why is the Notebook Emporium so full of intact notebooks? Well, DH would say that it’s because I keep buying them (and he would be right!) but also, although they are functional in size, most of them fail the feel test. I just don’t like writing in them because they are not beautiful enough and they don’t fill me with joy.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Writing wouldn't exist without pens...
A good pen feels comfortable in your hand, won't make your hand cramp-up if you write for a long time, flows beautifully across the page without snagging or blotching and makes you happy to write. Well, that's what I want from a pen!
Of course, how your pen works is hugely dependent on the paper you're writing on too. I love to write in fountain pen, but only if the page is smooth and doesn't snag the nib; that there isn't feathering, or bleed-through. If the paper makes the pen or the writing play up, it ruins the flow and anhiliates my enjoyment of writing, and despite my love of FP and ink, I will reach for one of my reliable Parker ball-points (I have one in each filofax and several in my desk!).
I have on my desk right now three fountain pens, with another few knocking about in my desk. My favourite to write with is probably an Osmiroid flat-tip medium nib which I must have had for about 20 years and still adore. I'm currently on blue-black Quink in it. I'm not a lover of washable blue ink as its insipid colour makes it look like it's not quite sure about being an ink and is keeping its options open. Black or blue-black have the courage of their convictions and hell mend you if you get them on your clothes! I like that!
I also own a few calligraphy pens and nibs, but for the most part these are hobby/treat pens rather than something I use every day.
I don't care much for biros - I find the writing tips just a bit too pointy and 'diggy-in'. That said, I've managed to half-inch a few from people and they are okay. It's mostly the ones in hexagonal cases I dislike. Maybe I just don't really like cheap biros??!!
Gel-pens are something that I like the sound of then don't enjoy using. They are smoother and slicker across the paper than a biro or a ball-point, but with most of the disadvantages of bleed-through on various papers and the 'diggy-in' feel of the tip. However, my out and out least favourite has to be a fibre-tip pen. I see no advantages to them and lots of disadvantages - they scratch on anything but the most expensive paper, bleed-though like crazy and the points wear down into little stubs. Yuck. Yuck, yuck, yuck.
Although the blog (and this post) talks about pens, I have to say, I have no qualms about using pencil and always have a pencil tucked into the other filofax loop. I don't know why so many people have hang-ups about adults using pencils. I find the writing is smooth and straightforward (and erasable!). I don't much care for hexagonally shaped pencils as they dig into my fingers - I like the wood to be unpainted, smooth and round.

No, give me a fountain pen, some sticks-to-its-principles ink and some fine paper and I'm a happy lass. I'd be interested in what others use though. Does it relate to the writing you're doing or your job or is there a deeper 'feeling' also dictating what you write with?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Hand-written letters

Following on from my post about what makes a good paper, I want to talk about hand-written letters, which you don’t always see a lot of these days. I think that’s a shame, not only that people don’t take the time to write to each other, but because the biographers and historians of the future might be scratching about, trying to find evidence of what people said, thought and did. Will emails and text-messages be kept as long as some of the great letters have (Pliny, older and younger spring to mind here!).
There’s something very special about getting a letter. I love collecting the post up and seeing a hand-written envelope, knowing it will have a letter inside. I need to make time for this letter; put the kettle on, make myself comfortable. Then I can unwrap it and feel the paper crinkle as I open it. There’s nothing hurried about reading a letter – you have to pick your way through the writing; but you can feel the emotions of the writer from the pen strokes and really live the moment. This is especially true with airmail letters! That wafer-thin paper that rustles so beautifully and which feels like Braille on the reverse sides of the pages! Wonderful!
A hand-written letter means that someone has taken care and time over you. They have sat down and put pen to paper, thought about things, thought about what you want to know about, bought stamps and been to a post-box. For you. Doesn’t that make you feel special?
A hand-written letter conveys so much more than just the words it contains.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

What makes a good paper?

Well, since the blog is called Paper Pens Ink, I thought I would share (in turn) my thoughts and feelings on each of them!

What makes a good paper? It depends on the function of the paper I suppose – what makes a good paper for your laser printer might not be the same as for a nice handwritten letter. Since my love is of writing and not necessarily printing, I’ll focus mostly on the kind of paper you write on.

A big issue (for me at least) is, is it fountain pen friendly? There are a lot of papers out there that aren’t. For a fountain pen nib, you need a silky-smooth surface that is neither like blotting paper and sucks up ink like a camel refilling at an oasis, nor is so non-absorbent that the ink sits about on the surface for a week, smudging and making a mess. The paper also wants to prevent feathering – making the edges less crisp – and not bleed through to the reverse side.

In my hoard of papers and notebooks, there are a few angels and quite a few devils with respect to writing in fountain pen in them. I won't bore you with a list of all of them, but focus on the ones I use all the time.

My Moleskine notebooks (A4) are great to write in FP in! The paper is smooth, the ink doesn’t feather or sit on the surface for too long and although there is some bleed-through to the other side, it isn’t enough to make a meal of it.

My Ciak Journal (A5) isn’t quite so friendly. The ink feathers quite a bit and the bleed-through to the other side (certainly on this year’s paper) has made it impossible to write in FP in it. Even a black biro shows quite significantly on the other side.

My large Cartesio notebook (which tucks into an A5 Domino filofax just perfectly! Move the elastic closure off the cover and the cover slots into the vertical pocket as if the two were made for each other!) is silky smooth and has little feathering, but unless you write in pale-blue ink (which I don’t) has too much showing on the reverse side of the paper to be bearable, which is a shame because otherwise it is lovely to write in. Perhaps Italians don’t write in FP?

Paperblanks journals work well – both for smoothness and low levels of feathering, reasonably quick drying and little bleed-through.

Incidentally, The Journal Shop has a facility for getting a couple of sheets of a paper from a book/journal to test before you buy the notebook and there are great reviews of the different papers, posted here.

Okay, so beyond FP usage, what else?
The other main factor affecting whether I like or love a paper is its colour. I’m not a fan of bright white paper – I find it too harsh. My preference would be ivory or cream, but the cream mustn’t be too yellow. All of the notebooks I use have ivory or cream paper in them. I do have a couple that have snowy white paper in, but they are languishing unloved at the bottom of a box now!

For my A5 filofaxes, I print a lot of sheets myself, so the one place where there is overlap between qualities needed for printer paper and qualities needed for writing paper would be here! I have bought a ream of “Clairefontaine Trophee Colours Paper 80gsm” in cream and it works beautifully in the printer, has a silky smooth texture for writing on, there’s no feathering and almost no bleed-through. FP ink does take a while to dry though, so if you’re left-handed, it might be more of an issue if your hand passes across your writing as I think it would smudge. I also write in biro and pencil on the sheets and for all of them, the texture of the paper is superb. The colour is lovely.

I’m also one of the few remaining people who writes letters – yes, proper, handwritten letters – but that will have an entire blog-post to itself!

Hope you have enjoyed reading my musings on paper. I'm always happy to hear about other notebooks that people love, so feel free to comment!

Sunday, 9 January 2011


Part of my paperphilia involves filofaxes. I love my filofaxes. I have two A5 beauties that I use every day – one at work and one for home/working from home. But…I was asking myself the other day (to circumvent my husband asking it):  why use a filofax? Why not just use a normal ring-binder with pages and dividers? What is it about a filofax that draws me (and others) in?

Is it the format of the pages? No. There are umpteen templates of filofax-style pages out there – check out Philofaxy and DIY planner for some excellent ones – all of which could be printed out in A4 or A5 size and punched and filed far more easily for a ring-binder than for a filofax. Along with many others, I use these templates and put them in my filofax, not a binder.

It certainly isn’t a matter of functionality – a ring-binder would be able to encompass standard-sized pages, punched with standard-spaced holes, and split up into sections with standard dividers, all doing the work of the sections in a filofax, but all cheaper and sometimes more effectively.

So perhaps it is the kudos? A standard ring-binder certainly does not have the same cache as a beautiful, leather-bound filofax. It would not draw the oohs and ahs that a fine filofax does. No-one drools over ring binders, do they? But, my ‘home’ filofax sits on a desk and only me and my husband see it, so if it was just about kudos, why would I have a leather filofax costing 60x as much as a ring-binder I could buy from the local stationary shop? My husband would far rather I DID just have the ring-binder! Then we could have used the money for something equally functional, yet probably less glorious.

I think (in my case, at least) it is a genuine love for magnificent, tactile things. A love of owning something fine and well-made; appreciating the craftsmanship that went into making it and feeling joy whenever you use it.

I could (and did) use a diary and a notebook, but my work filofax combines the two. I could use a fine notebook for writing and organising my thoughts and ideas and days, but there isn’t the functionality of being able to move and to re-file things at will.

To me, the filofax has the functionality of a ring-binder, but is an object to treasure as well as use.

If you use one, why not share your reasons as to why?

Saturday, 8 January 2011

In the beginning...

Long, long before there were electronic devices to write and store and read words on, there were paper, pens and ink. There will hopefully be paper, pens and ink long, long into the future, too.

I love paper. There is something so tactile and so beautiful about writing on paper that I just don't get from typing. Yes, sure - I am using technology to write this. That's not the point at all. I love the advantages that technology can bring to life, but... not quite as much as I enjoy curling up with a real book made with real paper. Or sitting and writing with a fountain pen.

So, my blog will be about the joys of paper, pens and ink.