A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Handwriting and the creative process

There is an interesting essay in yesterday's Wall Street Journal: The Powers That Flow From a Pen, in which writer Paul Theroux explains why writing with pen and paper is an essential part of his creative process. His advice to a woman who sought his comments on her typewritten novel is telling. He only got through the first 50 pages:
In the pages I read of the woman's novel I did not discern any close attention to a word or phrase. "How can I make it better?" she asked. I had the answer. I advised her to put her computer away and to get a pen and a good pad of paper, and then to sit down and copy the 50 pages in her own handwriting—slowly, studying each word.
This advice is unquestionably based on his own creative process. He notes, "The speed at which I write with a pen seems to be the speed at which my imagination finds the best forms of words." Granted, not everyone's mind works the same way, but there is something to be said about the theory that reliance on computers can result in users focusing more on the process than on the content.

Sometimes my mind is racing with so many ideas that I feel I must use a computer to capture them all. When I do, capturing the ideas and expressing them becomes a single step, but not necessarily for the better. Perhaps it would be better for me to brainstorm my ideas on paper, then make the attempt to express them in words a distinct second step. I have a feeling it will be much easier to keep these tasks separated, and to do a better job on the second, by using pen and paper.

It's a short essay, so I won't post any more of it here. Just go read the whole thing. It makes me think there might be hope for me to write something worthwhile.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Kokuyo Inspiración Notebook

Kokuyo Inspiración Notebook - LogoA Japanese notebook with a Spanish name. Well, that's an interesting start.

The name of this notebook is the Spanish word for "inspiration," which makes it rather unsuitable for me, or at least to the use I put it to. I used it mainly to keep my timesheets — oh, how I hate tracking my time!—and occasionally for meeting notes. Nothing inspiring there. ("9:06 a.m.: telephone call from client re deposition scheduling." See what I mean?)

Well, if the Kokuyo Inspiración Notebook doesn't provide inspiration, what does it provide? Plenty. And I know, because it took me about three months to fill this thing up and I really got a chance to evaluate it. Usually, I review new products while they're still new — this time, I can tell you how it holds up over the long haul.

Kokuyo Inspiración Notebook
After three months, it's not too beat up
Start with sturdy cardboard covers that make it real easy to use in your lap or on the fly. The covers held up real well over the three months it took me to fill up this notebook, which include getting lugged back and forth to work everyday in my Levenger Briefolio and the occasional use on the road. You can see the edges are are still in fairly good shape.

The twin rings also held up fairly well. By the time I was done with the notebook, the end rings were bent a little, and a gap had started to develop, but the cover material is thick enough that it was never at risk of coming off the rings.

Jet Pens, from which I purchased this notebook, calls this "semi-B5" sized paper. It measures about 7 in. x 9.8 in. It's nice and portable, and very thin. Since I use a briefolio instead of a briefcase, space is at a premium, and this takes up very little space. Personally, I like the size 7 in. x 9.8 in. size, but it's always a little troublesome to put anything but letter-sized paper in a file. (I don't mind, but everyone in the law office has to use the same file, and odd sizes of paper can be tough to find.) I also like that the pages are perforated. Although I removed very few pages from this notebook, it was nice to have a smooth edge when I did. I hate handling non-perforated paper that's been pulled from a spiral or twin-ring notebook.

Kokuyo Inspiración Notebook - Twin Rings
Inside the front cover is a two-sided document pocket, which I found very handy. In this size notebook, the pockets easily handle letter-sized paper folded in half, unlike the pocket in the back of a typical A5-sized hardcover notebook.

The the 7 mm - ruled paper resembles what I've seen in other Japanese notebooks. It seems a little thin, and very smooth. It handles fountain pen ink wonderfully. I must have used a couple of dozen pen and ink combinations, and not one of them bled or feathered. There is a good deal of show through, so if that bothers you, stick to the less saturated inks.but it is very smooth. And something else that seems common among the Japanese notebooks I've tried: some nibs will actually squeak a little on the paper. Weird.

The notebook is a bit pricey at $14.00. So I picked out a whole bunch of notebooks at Jet Pens and ordered them all at the same time to hit the $75 threshold for the 40% discount. At that price ($7.40), it is much more fairly priced.

Bottom line: this is a very nice notebook, and I like it while using it, especially the document pockets. If you're not bothered by showthrough, or tend to use lighter inks, it's got a lot going for it.