Fountain Pen Journaling

July 20, 2021

Fountain Pen Woodcraft

I bought a fountain pen. I purchased it on a whim at an art festival a couple weeks ago. I bought it from a local wood/pen maker, who crafts curios of a sort: pens made out of bone, crafted from wood, or shaped from a fifty-caliber bullet (really). Most of them were firearms based ball-point pens, but he had a few wood crafted fountain pens. I’ve never used a fountain pen, so under the guise of supporting our local community, I bought one.

It was expensive, as such things usually are, but I later spent far more on paper, a journal, a few types of ink, a nib or two, etc. Pen writing, it turns out, is expensive. It’s also just as much of a geekable world as any I’ve seen. Just looking for custom nibs is an exercise in price shock 1.

To complete my venture, I decided that I would not only journal, but I would journal only with my right (non-dominant) hand. It sounds stupid, and perhaps it is, but there is some reason to my madness. Despite being predominantly left-handed, I can in fact write with my right hand, albeit slowly and with a fair bit of messiness. Legible, though, or mostly.

This was actually a selling point for me. Left-handed journaling usually involves accepting either smears or cramps, or both. Plus, I’ve probably engrained a whole host of bad habits in my dominant hand. Using my non-dominant hand was a chance to retrain myself in that fine art of penmanship. Also, fountain pens are almost exclusively the domain of the right-handed. It’s far better to drag the pen than push it.

It also forces me to write slowly. It forces me to slow down my thoughts to the point where the act of writing becomes a kind of meditation. My mind is often a jumble, and I especially have had a hard time falling asleep. I can loose hours as my mind jumps from subject to subject, whittling away my night while laying in bed. I’ve tried all sorts of things to help this: reading, meditation, yoga, playing iPhones games, sauna… they all fail. But Journaling at the pace of a turtle somehow succeeds. By the time I’m done, my mind is empty, my anxiety has fled, and sleep comes quickly.

I was talking with a friend about it, and he agreed that I’d effectively nerd-jacked myself. This is basically taking something you would not normally do (but feel you should) and turning it into something you want to do by attaching things you are interested in. I find this a much more effective strategy than spending such a valuable and limited resource as my willpower to do it.

Aside from the fun of trying to master a new art, there’s a more existential motivation for me to journal. I’m getting older. Having passed that invisible line people like to call middle age, I’ve found time slipping through my fingers at an increasingly rapid pace. It’s troublesome how five years now seem to pass quicker than six months of my youth. If you think about it, the reason is as simple as it is obvious. Life has become both hectic and predictable. As a child all the way through your teens and twenties, life is new. Possibilities are endless and so many experiences are novel. All of this conspires to force you to pay attention to your life. No matter whether you consider it good or bad, it’s interesting and engaging.

But after some point, that changes. You’ve got a job, a family, and a routine. There are challenges, yes, but the unexpected has fled for greener, younger pastures. It is at this point that I believe a lot of people stop paying attention to their life. Autopilot is engaged while we look endlessly to the next distraction. All the while, the sands of time slip quicker through our fingers.

I don’t want to live a life unobserved.

In the two weeks since I started journaling, I’ve become more aware, not only of myself but of those around me. I notice people more, and my family, what they’re going through. My thoughts have begun to settle, my anxiety has dropped, my sleep improved. By taking the time to observe my own life, I find myself engaging with it. Perhaps it is simply the knowledge that I must write something which drives me to stay alert. Or perhaps I’ve always needed to pay attention to my life. Perhaps not paying attention was me subtly, unconsciously devaluing myself. I don’t know.

Whatever the case, it’s worth it. It’s worth taking the time to slow down and reflect. It’s worth valuing yourself enough to pay attention to your own life.

  1. No, seriously, I don’t get it. There seem to be two price range: $15 to $45 and… well, add a zero to the end of those. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why the jump. Quality of material? Writing smoothness? A sacrifice of virgins to the god of writing? All the comments gushed about how great the $30 nib was, whereas the $150 nib included comments like “had to insert a couple brass shims for it to write okay… 5 stars!” Huh? Why are you buying it then!?