Category Archives: Writing

The Things We Avoid

I have a project I swear I’m going to get to.

I’ve thought about it quite a bit.

I’ve done  a lot of research on it.

I’ve even scribbled some notes about it.

Then I sit down to do it and just stare at the page. (Note: I still do a lot of stuff long hand because, well, I’ll get to that.)

If I don’t stare at the page, I stare at the front of the notebook. Then I open it, grab a pen, write something, usually related, sometimes not, then look for something else to do.

What I like about these daily bits of blather on this blog is that, with a few exceptions, they are safe. At 1250 posts (this is 1251) they are safe. Some are honest, some are interesting, some are meaningless enough that they don’t even qualify as blather. They are Mere Filler, or something like that.

I have a lot of material and have been assembling it into something resembling a book, but that’s where I start staring at notebooks and blank pages.

In my case, that deep fear we all feel about certain things we know we could do manifests as laziness and distraction. I’ll get to it later, after I play a bunch of games and then research a topic that might be useful in the future. For something.

All writers, actually, everyone who attempts a new hobby or project reaches that point where things stop being easy. Where beginner’s luck gives way to a novice’s failures.

There are several topics that I listed when I began this bit of blather that I’ve been avoiding. I thought I was just putting off interesting stuff, but I realize I’ve been avoiding them.

I think I’l put them in the book. But first there are other things I think I might do.

Revisionist Curses

Progress is slow.

Thus far I’ve kept up my daily goal of typing my old manuscript for at least one hour every day. However, after an hour, I often find I’ve only added a page or two to the typescript. The problem is that not only do I have to translate my handwriting, I’m also revising on the fly.

In a couple cases I’ve revised a section only to find a second, better version of it already in the manuscript. This happens because as the original brain dump happens I just let words flow and that means I’ll write something and then write it again. Usually when I do the initial read through I find such sections and cross out the bad ones or cut and paste the better ones.

However, today I hit two sections that I’d apparently skipped over during the initial read through. After uttering some bad words and generic curses, I had to un-revise and then re-revise the sections and although I’m reasonably pleased with them, I still have a lot of things to type.

I’ve thought about hiring someone to transcribe everything for me, the trouble is that after a few hours with my handwriting they’d be cursing me as they slowly drifted into madness.

I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Once More, the Breach

Today, I worked on a manuscript I’ve been avoiding for a while. I like to put a manuscript aside for a while before I attempt to edit it, but even for me the time I’ve waited on this one has been ridiculous.  I’ve been avoiding it for two reasons: 1) The subject matter borders on personal and I want to handle it correctly; and 2) I’m lazy.

Actually, the personal stuff isn’t that bad because it’s been morphed and modified enough that the parts based on actual events are now fiction. It’s the lazy part that’s the problem.

Because I hand wrote the original (it is literally a manuscript) I now have hundreds of pages to type into the computer and that means I have to translate my own handwriting. As I’ve written before, this is a horrifying thing.

However, as I did the transcribing today, I found myself getting back into the spirit of the book. I remembered what my goal was and I had ideas for organizing the mess.

I also had to do some research on Scotland to remind me what in the story was true and what I was making up. At one point, I was confusing myself.

One of my summer goals is to spend at least one hour a day transcribing the manuscript so that I can eventually print it and do a proper edit.

I suspect the boost I got from today’s restart will keep my energy and focus on the manuscript for a while. But eventually my own handwriting will annoy me and I’ll put it away for a while longer.

Overwhelmingly Overwhelming

Today, in fits and starts, I worked on my latest project. Fits is the most accurate description.

Because I tend to be a discovery writer, which means I just start writing and let things happen as they happen (which frequently explains this bit of blather), I tend to resist the phase where things have to be organized. In fact, this phase tends to be an extended phase of denial and distraction that keeps me from finishing.

Today was no exception. I spent a lot of time watching random nonsense whilst occasionally doing some work.

Eventually, I did some work, but I tend to find this part of the revision process to be fairly intimidating. There are darlings that need to be killed and decisions that have to be made. I have to resist the urge to line edit because if I don’t I’ll never actually finish the project. Instead, I’ll have highly well proofed opening chapters but nothing after that.

Today I managed to make a rough outline, defined a character better and changed a few nicknames.

The latter doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it helps me defined the characters which helps me with the next phase. Whatever that turns out to be. A


Parts of Three Equals None

Today I’m going meta as I managed not to finish three different projects for this daily bit of blather. In my defense, I did actual work, which is not something I usually do on days off.

My plan was to go out and do stuff but eventually I realized that all was planning on doing was going to lunch. Instead I stayed home and worked on a couple worksheets for the school where I work (and for future house arrest days).

I also took some photos for this bit of blather but only wrote part of the actual text. Granted, I wrote part of the text for three different posts but didn’t actually finish either of them.

This is the curse of enjoying your days off a little too much. Eventually I finish all the posts. Eventually.

Monokaki Pocket Notebook–End of Book Review

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: There’s this really cool notebook that claims that it’s the notebook of Nobel Prize winning writers.

Although the way a  famous notebook brand uses this story is somewhat dodgy (and is most accurately described as “famous people used a notebook that looked kind of like this”) in the case of Masuya’s Motokaki notebook, there appears to be some truth to the story. The notebook was, as near as I can find, made in 1939 for Fumio Niwa, author of The Buddha Tree. Since then it’s been used by other Japanese writers.

Note: Please keep in mind that none of this impresses me. In fact, when I learned about the story behind the more famous notebook, I felt kind of sad, as if I’d been duped, even though I hadn’t read the story beforehand.

Two Monokaki Pocket Notebooks. The one being reviewed is the one on the right.

The Monokaki Pocket Notebook I used was terrific. It is one of the most fountain pen friendly notebooks I’ve ever used.

The notebook contains 128 pages of Masuya’s cream colored, acid free Kotobukiya paper. I used the version with a light grid, but it also comes in blank and ruled versions. The off-white cover is made of thick Japanese washi paper with a woodblock print inspired pattern designed by Ryo Takagi. The end pages are black (charcoal gray?) paper and help add some support to the notebook when you’re holding it in your hand as you write.

Detail of the fountain pen and ink bottle on the cover. Also, detail of the wear on the spine.

At 140 mm (5.5 inches) tall and 85 mm (3.35 inches) wide the notebook is roughly the same length as a Field Notes Notebook, but slightly narrower. Because it’s made of eight sewn signatures, it lays flat when it’s open, which is not true of many smaller perfect bound notebooks.

Detail of the end pages and the notebook’s construction. If you zoom you can see the individual signatures.

Although the paper is thin, it handles fountain pens extremely well. There is a lot of show through, which might bother some people, but very little bleed. In fact, the only ink that bled consistently was Wancher Matcha, which is always a heartbreaker. It breaks hearts.

Wancher Matcha bleeding through the page. It is a heartbreaker. It breaks hearts. Also, nice detail of the grid pattern.

The only real complaint I have with the notebook is more a matter of taste than a problem. As a rule, I don’t like solid grids on notebook pages as they break up the lines. Yeah, you have to look fairly close, sometimes, to notice, but it bothers me. Ruled pages I don’t mind as much because I don’t have to cross the lines, but I prefer blank pages in small notebooks. (Actually, in all notebooks, but more on that in a future post.)

The Monokaki Pocket Notebook has entered my top five pocket notebooks. I have a blank version yet to use, and I may bump it forward in my notebook queue.



Passing On Three

It just dawned on me that this bit of blather started three years ago today. Unfortunately I have nothing profound to say about that.

Starting it at the end of the school year puts me in an odd time for recollection and reflection. When I started there was a lot of energy and that pushed me through the end of term stress. Now, it’s just another thing I need to do when there are other things I should be doing.

Soon after I started I developed a fairly stringent set of rules about length and the amount of time I could spend writing. Over time those rules have changed to allow shorter posts and shorter writing times which has led to lazy posts.

As always, when I’m writing about work, unless it’s particularly funny or lengthy, you can be confident that I’m being lazy.

Now that I’m not working evenings or Sundays, I have a lot more time to put things off, but have been doing rough drafts of various reviews. I’ve been mostly lazy about the the photography and processing the photos.

Going forward to the plan is to put together some kind of collection of expanded versions of posts I liked and organize them around pens. That has also been stealing a lot of time, which makes me default to “Today at work, things really sucked” posts.

I’ll write more about that in another post, though. Probably. Someday.



Field Notes Lunacy–End of Book Review

For some reason, this song seems appropriate:

The Fall 2016 Field Notes Limited Edition looked really cool, then I started using it and things changed slightly. I liked the paper, but the gimmick is annoying, at least on the one I used.

The Lunacy, released about the time of the harvest moon, is a moon themed edition. The unique feature is covers cut in ways to reveal different phases of the moon. The three-packs available to the public contain the full moon, last quarter, and crescent moon. Subscribers received a fourth, uncut version representing the “new moon”.

Bad, so to speak, moons rising? #fieldnotes #notebooks #penaddict @fieldnotesbrand

A photo posted by DL (@d.e.lively) on

The covers look great, and have an interesting texture, but I found that with the full moon, as I flipped through the pages, my finger slipped through where I usually press. Or, it would flip at first but then the cover would bend and it would slap closed. It’s not a big deal, but it disrupts what should be simple process. I also don’t like the glossy end pages, even though they are necessary to pull off the gimmick and provide lots of interesting information. I’d rather have more pages I can use.

Detail of the cover showing the nice texture and the hole for the moon. (Also a Pen Addict Edition Retro 51 Rollerball.)

Some of the information. I would be 14.85 kg (32.73 lbs) on the moon and would rather have extra page.

I  like the embossed dark side of the moon on the back and would rather have seen the full, half and crescent moon done that way on the front.

I used it as my mini-planner for a couple months. The 60# paper was excellent and handled every pen well and almost every ink. (Wancher Matcha is the heart breaker. It breaks hearts.) I liked the gray reticle dot pattern, even though I generally prefer blank pages. The paper has a gray wash to it that I was worried about at first, but it didn’t cause any problems except to my eyes when they tried to adjust to what they were seeing.

I wouldn’t mind getting more copies, but I’d probably give away the full moon version and since my favorite, the new moon, isn’t available, I’m not sure getting only two notebooks for the price would be worth it.

More or Less Formal

About the only form of writing I hate doing is formal letters as they are the written equivalent of trying to do complicated business over the phone (something I also hate). The language is stilted and artificial and I always feel uncomfortable writing it.

This is especially true if the formal letters are recommendation letters for students.

I don’t like that my students’ futures possibly lie somewhere beyond my typo-ridden fingers. For example, I was almost done with the first letter today when I realized I was misspelling the name of the school.

I hate starting letters with “To Whom It May Concern” as this is horribly impersonal and makes me appear to have done no research whatsoever on who to apply to. Granted, I had done no research whatsoever, but it would have been nice if my students had, just to make me look better.

Since certain details are the same for different students, I have to be careful about any material I recycle from one letter to the next. He becomes she becomes her becomes his.

(Random But Slightly Related Aside: since it is trendy to adopt a gender/sex neutral method of being addressed, I will no longer be Mister Lively or Sir. Instead, please refer to me as “You Sexy Thing Lively” or just “You Sexy Thing”.) 

Complicating matters today was that I wrote a letter for a student who didn’t actually deserve a recommendation because he had a habit of plagiarizing on assignments. Instead I wrote a tonally neutral missive describing the course and how he enjoyed doing internet research as part of his writing process.

Now they’ve been sent off to someone who will probably, if it’s even possible, make them better.


Hobonichi Techo Cousin Planner–End of Book Review

The size of the Hobonichi Techo Cousin didn’t put me off as I only intended to use it as a desktop item but the color did. Unfortunately, for reasons involving expensive covers that are sold separately, the Hobonichi Cousin comes only in Caucasian flesh tone beige.

The Cousin is an A5 sized planner with 544 pages of Tomoe River paper. The pages include daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly planners with several black pages at the end for notes. Each day has a quote (in Japanese, though) that is supposed to serve as a source of wisdom, inspiration, contemplation.

The Cousin filled the role of my daily log and it was nice to replace the average paper of the MUJI notebook I’d used before, with the terrific and fountain pen friendly Tomoe River paper in the Cousin. I ended up using the monthly planner to keep track of days I actually wrote and the daily pages to write my log entries. I also used the blank pages as a scrapbook for random stickers and labels.

The paper was terrific, with only a few pens and inks bleeding through. My Noodler’s Ahab flex nib scored the paper and caused lots of bleedthrough and Noodler’s Apache Sunset ink is oily enough that it tends to soak through. Wancher Matcha, as good as it looks, laughs at pages made of any paper and makes them cry.

Noodler’s Apache Sunset bleed through.

Noodler’s Apache Sunset from the above bleed through staining a third page.

Wancher Matcha laughs at Tomoe River, even from a smooth M nib.

My biggest problems with the Cousin was that it simply was trying to do too much. Out of the 544 pages, I left about 100 pages unused. This isn’t so much the fault of the planner as much as it is a testament to the way I used it. However, I don’t see why it needs monthly, weekly and daily planners under one cover.

As for the cover, despite being on my desk, it showed a surprising amount of wear and tear. It is glossy card stock, but a year of being pulled in and out of a slot next to my PC wore both sides of the cover, including the side that wasn’t against the metal. A fellow Cousin user has dubbed this as “Hobonichi Cousin patina”.

The “patina” (aka scuff marks) on the Caucasian flesh tone beige cover.

I also noticed that the end tape started to peel and that the cover that was against the warm computer began to separate from its backing paper.

Another example of the “patina” spots and of the peeling end tape.

It is a good planner though, and most of my problems with it are a matter of personal preference. It has a lot of space for recording events and even writing follow up, which is nice. I find the daily quotes to be useless, though. After a while, I didn’t even notice them, except when I wished they weren’t taking up so much writing space.

I would recommend the Cousin, especially if you’re willing to splurge for a cover, or just make one yourself from some construction paper. (Alas, gone are the days of making book covers from paper grocery bags.) Even if you’re ballpoint pen user, you’ll like the paper.

However, as I’ve written before, sort of, this year I’ve decided to pare down some of what I’m using by combining my planner with my log. I’m also not going to keep the log in the same way. (But that’s fodder for a future post.)