Hen’s Love for Pencils.

We love Rad and Hungry at Pencil Revolution. Those good folks are continually spreading The Pencil Message and gathering pencils from afar to share with Like Minded Individuals. Plus, Hen sent my daughter a box of really cool pencils last year that Charlotte still uses and talks about. So my ears were already open to Awesomeness when this was posted, and I was, well, moved. Please, Comrades, read Hen’s post about how she got into pencils. It will strike a chord with a lot of Comrades.

NaNoWriMo First Days Pencil Update.

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So far, I have been using each pencil until it is blunt and then I switch to something different. Like many readers, I suspect that I am subconsciously in search of The Ideal Pencil. I have had good experiences thus far with my pencils. This is not surprising, since the NaNoWriMo pencils I put into my box weren’t exactly chosen at random.

To name a few: I used a Chinese Dixon Ticonderoga right after using a General’s Cedar Pointe Friday — felt like butter! That Cedar Pointe put down nearly 1,000 words before it even hinted at needing a sharpening, though. Also, I’ve noticed pencils that have surprised me with their smoothness on the semi-cheap paper of a Carolina Pad composition book: Staedtler Noris (HB) and Musgrave My Pal. A Ticonderoga kids’ pencil was a nice break when my arm started to cramp, though the point retention was not very good — also for the round PaperMate Earth Write “Premium” (the black one). I have also been impressed by the smoothness, if not the darkness. of General’s Draughting pencil.

This gives me good testing grounds for some upcoming reviews of the Noris, Draughting and Earth Write.

As of Sunday evening, day three, I am at 5,874 words, even with a busy weekend. I hope I can keep this up. Hemingway’s advice — to never stop at a stopping point, always stopping when there is more to come, so that one can pick up the next day — has been working so far. Probably also a steady stream of coffee and Irish breakfast tea.

NaNoWriMo 2013.

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Comrades might have noticed from the right-hand “badge” that I am planning to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. I should be saving up on rest or ideas. But, being the kind of person who keeps a pencil blog for all of this time, I have been — literally — gearing up. I will not embarrass myself with my stash for this year, not all of it. But here are a few nice items.

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These are a dozen Mount Tom notebooks from Bob Slate in Cambridge that my family gave me in August for my birthday. They are worth their own post. But if you’ve spent time studying or writing in Boston, you might already have some.

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Pictured: A dozen each of General’s Cedar Point and Layout and Ticonderoga Beginners*.

Honestly, with a toddler at home and an infant, I’m not sure where I am going to find time to do this. But find it I will. Hopefully. I suppose there’s not much difference between 3 1/2 and 5 hours of sleep, right? One must abide by my Rule of Twelve: The number of pints (!) of coffee and hours of sleep one experiences must add up to twelve. It works. I think.

Wanna be Writer Buddies on NaNoWriMo’s website? Look for me: jfgphd.

Also, check out some old posts, from my last attempt in 2010 on paper and on pencils. That year, I wasn’t used to the whole Never Sleeping thing yet. I’m old hand now. I wouldn’t know what to do with six hours of sleep if I saw it.

*[I like Big Pencils, and I cannot lie....er.....]

Bullet Journal.

The stationery blogosphere is spreading the word of the Bullet Journal. While I go through notebooks too quickly to organize them (and perhaps this would make me a good Bullet Journal Canditate), this system looks like it could do some folks some good.

So, in the interest of doing good, and with much respect, I feel I should correct something that, as a pencil blogger, seems absolutely vital to me:

“For the most part, I use pens because pencils fade. One of the great benefits of Bullet Journaling is that over time you create a library of them. The only time I use pencil is when I’m sketching or adding items to my Monthly Calendar’s event page, because all plans are subject to change.”

Indeed, pencil marks are graphite, which is carbon. Pencil does not fade. Ink fades (most inks). Soft pencil marks that get fondled a lot and graphite marks which fall victim to Nefarious Weilders of Plastic Erasers can lose their marks. But, generally, pencil marks last longer than marks made by some smelly ballpoint, bleedy rollerball, greasy gel pen or pricey fountain pen. Water, dirty hands, UV light and time can damage most inks.*

That is all. That said, is anyone trying this out who might like to share her/his experience?

*(Yes, I know, there are bulletproof inks like some Noodlers and Microns. But those are not most inks. If we include those, let’s include pencils which are not erasable also.)

Hemingway Scrapbooks Made Public!

EHC385tApologies that this took so long to get out (and many Comrades probably already know about it, but just in case…). But, as Brian tells us, Hemingway’s family scrapbooks are not just available to the public. They are digitized and available to view for free online via the JFK Library, home to the Hemingway Collection! Check out the scrapbooks, where it looks like many passages are written in pencil. (And look at how that ink has faded!)

[Image credit.]

Pencil Revolution Turned 8!

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With a few long-term lapses in posting*, it feels odd to outright celebrate 8 years of this here Humble Pencil Blog. We were not posting for at least half of that time, not regularly. But I think this little anniversary bears mentioning, if for nothing else, because a lot has changed in 8 years:

1) Many muchly far-too-big-numbered less American-made pencils.
2) Smartphones.
3) The role and popularity of blogs.
4) Social media, etc.
5) Etc. etc. etc.

I think we’ll celebrate this week with some blasts from the proverbial past.

Today is also Hemingway’s birthday. We celebrated at a wedding last night with mojitos.

*[Notably, summer 2006-2010 when Your Humble Editor was writing a dissertation and "doing" two years of National Service in AmeriCorps.]

Chuck Talk Panel Discussion.


I totally watched this whole video while everyone else in HQ was at the library for summer story time. It’s not about pencils or Blackwings really, but is instead largely about creativity.

I like the bit about limitation enhancing creativity. I had a short fantasy of locking myself in a room with:

1 type of pencil (EGAD!)
1 composition notebook
1 US gallon of coffee

and not coming out until they were all spent, and something was, well, written. Instead, I had a single large cup of French-pressed coffee and made notes to make more (and better) notes.

Moonrise Kingdom Script.

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I have been a Wes Anderson fan since the late 90s. Since my daughter was born in April 2010, I have only been to the movies twice, most recently to see Moonrise Kingdom (and that was June 2012). But it was a great one, especially for a paper and pencil nerd. Being, well, me, I couldn’t help but notice the frequent pencil writing, even on mail.*
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I suppose this isn’t quite a pencil post. But it might be interesting to some Comrades, who can download the script (with photos) here.

*You CAN address envelopes in pencil. They are waterproof that way. I do it all the time.

Writing Makes Us Smarter?

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Via Comrade Brian.

Don’t trade in your pencils and paper for a keyboard just yet.

A new study that compared the different brain processes used for writing by hand and typing has found that there are cognitive benefits to putting a pen to paper. These findings give support to the continued teaching of penmanship and handwriting in schools.

Children who don’t learn the skill of handwriting, like generations before them had to, may be missing out on an important developmental process. Compared to using two hands to type out letters on a keyboard, writing with one hand uses more complex brain power.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

“Keep a Notebook”: Jack London.

7-7-10_jack3I’m not sure how popular Jack London is these days, but I’ve long been a fan. I read a piece today quoting Mr. London on success, and I thought I’d quote from this quotation.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”

JackLondon-office-1916This is also the source of the differently-quoted line about inspiration:

“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it.”

Jack London, “Getting into Print,” 1903, via The Art of Manliness.

Sitting in the Woods.

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We are happy to share a project by Will Hudson in Illinois (300 or so miles North from original 2005-6 Pencil Revolution HQ in Carbondale). Mr. Hudson sent us a few paragraphs that speak for themselves.

“Sitting in the Woods and Why I Love the Revolution”

The fine folks here at Pencil Revolution have been so kind as to ask me to say a few words about my time sitting in the woods, and pencils.

Sittinginthewoods is an idea I came up with in June 2012 and began in earnest on a trip to Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park around mid-July.  The goal of the project is simple: commit myself to getting back in touch with nature by taking time to go out, sit in the woods, and write about it.  I decided to put together a blog, take some pictures too, and try to be consistent.   At the end of the year, meaning, by the time we circle around again to next July, my hope is that I’ll have something to show for it.  What I would love is to get enough material, and enough support, to be able to raise the funds to print up a batch of “Companion Guides to Sitting in the Woods” through Scout Books.  And then I’d like to give them away.

But what of the pencils?  Honestly, at the outset of the project, I wasn’t thinking about pencils at all.  I had my PaperMate Profile, my moleskine, and I was good to go.  Or so I thought.  This changed almost immediately when, sitting in that old-growth forest with Sugar Maple and Northern Hemlock all around, I realized that this plastic pen with rubber grip was wrong – it felt wrong, it looked wrong, and I knew it just wasn’t going to cut it.
Bottom line, I decided, is that you just can’t spend your time sitting around in the woods, reading Aldo Leopold, and expect to compose a communicable and personal version of a Land Ethic with a bunch of disposable plastic pens.

And so I went in search of pencils.  No plastic, not mechanical, but wooden, finely made pencils.  Thus, I stumbled across the Revolution.  I was amazed to discover this community of pencil lovers. I pored over the blogs, read all the reviews, tried to learn the vernacular, and finally settled on a box of Palomino BlackWing 602s.  My writing life has not been the same since.
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These days, I’ve taken to doing most, if not all, of my writing by hand, in pencil, and I’m enamored by the idea of a handwritten hardcopy of everything that eventually makes it up on the blog.  I’m not a purist, by any means, which is fine because that’s not the point.  The point is in taking the time to do this thing.   SITW is about carving out a niche in my life where I consciously take the time to sit still and listen, to reflect, to write, and to share.  It only seems sensible that pencils would be implicated in all of this.

In a way, the pencil and the paper have become as much a part of this project as the woods and fields themselves.  They require time and are markers of time, either through breezes and seasons, or the wearing down of a point.  Attached to a post in the basement of our old bungalow here outside of Chicago is an ancient Boston KS sharpener.  It’s likely been there for 30 years or more; it was here when we arrived, and it has become significant in a way that I would have never imagined.  It’s a great devourer of pencils, but an unexpected treasure nonetheless.  Similarly, I have discovered that there is always something unexpected that happens when you take the time to sit.  You become more aware of the rhythm of the light, the movement of the leaves, and all the living, breathing things that surround you. Every time I’ve gone out, and life does tend to get in the way of this from time to time, but every time I’ve gone out I’ve discovered something new.
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When it comes down to it, and I think that many Comrades would agree, be it with pencils and journals, or sitting around in the woods, it’s all about attempting to create and sustain a space in your day to day that meaning may adhere to, a space apart from this frenetic and incoherent present of which we’re so accustomed.  We all know that out here in the web there are endless paths to wander and spaces to linger; however, there are no places to sit.   What I hope to accomplish for myself, and what I hope to encourage in others, boils down to finding, or creating, your own space, making your own meanings, and engaging more deeply with the world around you.

That being said, seek out quality pencils, embrace your Comrades, and viva la révolution!

(Text, images W.H. Used with kind permission.)

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