Sunday, August 23, 2009

Managing the Paraphernalia

This blog posting by Little Flower Petals has me interested in discussing the mundane ways in which we manage our writing process. Specifically, how do we hold our pens?

I used to place my favorite pens in a special pen cup on my office desk, but this didn't answer the question of how best to manage writing implements when on the go. I do have a favorite travel bag with which to carry my writing paraphernalia, a PacSafe MetroSafe 200, but merely throwing an assortment of writing instruments in a pouch seems, well, disrespectful.

So one day I began thinking about this pen problem, and started remembering elegant eyeglass cases that women used to carry. I figured that I could find such an accessory at one of several antique and thrift shops in town, so off I went, in search of the ideal pen case.

I ended up with this case, a Lanvin Studio aluminum eyeglass case, at a thrift shop. I think I paid around $8. Now, this case isn't the largest object for containing pens, so I have to decide on just the essentials of what I want to carry.

Here's the contents, from left to right:

A refill cartridge of 0.7mm Pentel leads, for my mechanical pencil.
A red Pilot felt-tip marker, for redline editing my writings. I tried using a red ballpoint pen for this purpose, but the pen ended up leaking ink in warm weather.
A 0.7mm Pentel mechanical pencil. The writing on the barrel of the pen is obscured, due to use, so I don't know the exact model number. I find the 0.7mm size leads the ideal compromise between fineness of point and durability from breakage.
A Parker ballpoint pen, my favorite type of ballpoint. I don't often write with ballpoint (I mean writing write, not just write write -- know what I mean?) but when I need one, it's there.
A blue Pelikan M100 fountain pen, medium nib.
A marbled green Pelikan M100 fountain pen, medium nib. I really don't need a second fountain pen, since I also carry a bottle of refill ink in my bag, but you never can have enough fountain pens!
A refill pack of Pentel mechanical pencil erasers.

I should also mention that, inside my MetroSafe 200 I have a bottle of Parker Quink blue/black fountain pen ink, wrapped inside a ziplock baggie (but I've never had issues with leaks).

My writing process seems to work best when I'm writing with fountain pen, in some place where I'm not distracted by conversation (coffee shops work best it seems, despite the background noise, which works for me like white noise). Then I redline edit the writings, sometimes as I'm still composing. Then, when the handwritten draft finally gets typed into the computer (or onto a manual typewriter) I'll sometimes do minor revisions along the way.

I also get ideas that are worthy of sketching, which I lay down in a journal using mechanical pencil. I've been doing this since the early 1990s, and I've filled several notebooks full of what I call camera sketches, ideas for box cameras and other homemade photographic projects. This is how my falling plate camera ideas came to fruition.

How about you? How do you manage your writing paraphernalia?


Blogger Elizabeth H. said...

I carry the British Khaki version of this bag with me most days. I love the thing. It's admittedly not a perfect briefcase, because it has no shape and doesn't stand on its own with just papers in it, but it'll hold a good-sized stack of books, letter sized notebooks, etc., and the pockets at each end and on the side are great places for a phone and my pens and any other little things I want to carry. The pen wrap I just posted about will fit (rolled up) in one of those end pockets, and in a tidier way than just stuffing pens in and letting them rattle around, potentially ending up capless and leaking (yes, it has happened).

I'm working on becoming more methodical about what I carry. In a perfect world, I would probably carry two fountain pens with two different conservative colors for the bulk of my writing (I like to switch off each day so I can see at a glance how much I've written that day), another pen with a contrasting / bright color like Waterman South Seas Blue for marking up, a gel pen or two for when I need one of those, and a few pencils. Oh, and a pencil sharpener and eraser. That covers the writing instruments. I don't carry ink with me...I know my own luck, and know it would be a Bad Idea. I fill them when I get home. That's another reason to have two primary pens.

For paper products, on a typical day I have my current journal (comp book in the Renaissance Art cover with the Parker 51 in the pen loop), the current fiction composition book, a Circa letter-sized notebook for short stories and blog posts and for carrying typewritten material, a small Moleskine with random story notes and random scribblings, and a standard sort of pocket briefcase for lists and jotted thoughts and what-have-you. Also my wallet, which is another pocket briefcase--the bigger "international". That also contains a Parker I guess I do have one more pen.

Some days I also have the Alphasmart or the Samsung NC-10, chucked into the center section of the bag with everything else.

Hm...I should take a picture of my "kit," shouldn't I?

10:22 PM  
Blogger Strikethru said...

I recently got a plain old pencil case from my husband. Just a pink bag thing. It was kind of a revelation. Before that, I just chucked pens in the bottom of a huge and highly disorganized purse.

The glasses case is pretty clever!

8:37 AM  
Blogger speculator said...

The tried-and-true, old-fashioned pencil boxes! (In French, they are called "plumiers." "Plume-bearers!") They really protect the points, and survive well in messenger bags and backpacks!
You might like this, especially the lead picture:

8:33 AM  

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