Most writers have some method for recording ideas, making location notes, or maybe even sketching out a scene. What’s yours? Mine must be portable as I never know when a good idea will start rattling around in my head. I go for walks and just think about my current project. Scene ideas will pop into my head, a whole new story idea might come up, or maybe I’ll have a great dialog idea. I’ve got to write it down.
For most, the tools are a notebook and ball-point pen, though I’m not alone in being particular about my writing utensils. What makes me anguish a bit more than most over this idea is that in addition to being a writer, I’ve got a fountain pen fetish. If I’m going to put ink to paper; it’s got to be done with a fountain pen.
Fountain pens generate special challenges. Those of us afflicted refer to the perfect triad of paper, pen and ink as though it were some magic potion, and I suppose it is, as a great pen only writes well with the proper ink on the proper paper and finding this combination is much of the fun of writing with fountain pens.
I’ve tried many combinations and I’ve found the ideal combination for my needs. The goal is actually more complicated than just finding pen, ink, and paper that work together as I’m a guy. I have no purse. Some might say I have no brain. So in addition to the general need for pen/ink/paper compatibility, I need:
1) The pen needs to be cheap because I’m prone to losing them.
2) The notebook must be small enough to fit in my back pocket.
3) The ink needs to dry quickly as I need to be able to make notes and shove the notebook back in my pocket without smearing.
Here’s my solution. All of this stuff, except for the Moleskine notebook, is available from my favorite fountain pen store, Goulet Pens. Nicest people on the planet and they provide a fantastic online shopping experience.
Cheap Pen & Quick-Drying Ink
Platinum Preppy pens are simply the best bargain ever. With a street price around four bucks, they provide a smooth-writing pen and a natural for a portable, cheap pen system. If you lose one it’s not a burden to replace it.
Platinum cartridges have a small ball inside them that help to keep ink flow even when the pen hangs out in my pockets for long periods of time. The problem is the ink, which isn’t bad, but I’m fussy about my ink. Goulet Pens has a tutorial that talks about converting a Preppy to an eye-dropper pen (you fill the entire barrel with ink) and I’ve done that. While I’ve never had one leak, I don’t like the idea of carrying them in my pants pocket and elimination of the cartridges also means elimination of the small ball in the cartridge.
But it’s easy enough to use a syringe to fill any cartridge and that’s the approach I use. My ink of choice for portability is Noodler’s Bernanke Blue (also comes in black). It flows well from Preppies and it dries almost as quickly as I can lay it down.
Small Notebook size
The critical dimension for my portable notebook is that it must fit in my back pocket. Thus, Levis determines my notebook size. I use a Moleskine notebook as it fits well. I have tried a Rhodia Webnotebook as the paper is superior but it’s just enough larger that it’s uncomfortable to carry on my butt. If that’s not a problem for you, I highly recommend this notebook. So, for me, Moleskine it is and my ideas are captured and I get to enjoy writing with a fountain pen. What do you use to record your thoughts?