One strange habit

I’ve been an addict at different points in my life.

I have collected comic books, baseball cards, even stamps and coins. And there’s always been music CDs.

But my longest-running addiction has been with paper.

As my wife would tell you: I have way too many notebooks.

They live in plastic boxes in the closet or stuffed into drawers. Some of them go back nearly 20 years, though many more have come along in the last two. And these are just a fraction of what I have used ever since I started making up short sci-fi stories in the fourth grade, because I have discarded so many in my numerous moves as an adult.

But even as I bought a lot of notebooks at different times, I felt I wasn’t getting the writing experience I longed for in your run-of-the-mill Meads, cheap Borders journals, or all the fake Field Notes on Amazon.

This changed about a year and a half ago when I got into sketching, influenced by seeing my young daughters drawing, and discovered the wonderful world of art supplies.

I became a bit obsessed with finding the perfect pencil and paper combination. My frequent trips to Blick Art Materials store were a pilgrimage into a land that felt foreign and new, but also wonderfully familiar.

I still can’t draw worth a lick. But I can put words together when I try, which has brought me back to the foundational obsession. But with a twist.

And it’s all Brad Dowdy’s fault.

Dowdy is the Pen Addict, whose blog and podcast I found in April 2020. I’m not sure how I landed on it. But I got into it right away. It tapped deep into that stationery love I’ve always had but never knew how to access in a satisfying way.

“It’s a strange habit,” Brad says in a 2016 episode.

It’s been a great mental health balm, a lifeline in these crazy times. That’s for sure.

At the moment I have maybe 10-15 fountain pens. Some of those are Platinum Preppy/Pilot Varsity disposables that cost $3-$5, while the majority are of the $10-$30 range like a few TWSBI Ecos and a couple Lamy Safaris.

Curiously the most expensive pen I’ve purchased—a transparent blue Kaweco Student—is not my favorite. It’s beautiful but I don’t go reaching for it as often as the Ecos or the three Chinese-made Jinhao pens I have.

It’s a bit of a haul–and it’s all been since April 2020! Before that I had never used fountain pens.

A Pentel Twist Erase mechanical pencil hanging out with most of my fountain pens circa August 2020.
A collection that has grown a bit since!

But it’s really always been about notebooks. And now I have many more. That’s probably where I get in trouble the most. I do love me some good paper.

I quickly fell in love with Rhodia notebooks, which I actually first “discovered” at Blick. I love their different formats; their Dot Reverse books are great for throwing ideas together. And fountain pens glide on the smooth Rhodia paper.

More recently I’ve been using a Clairefontaine Triomphe lined A5 pad. Fountain pens and pencils both work beautifully on it. So now I want more of those, of course!

I also have a growing collection of pocket notebooks. I’ve been an infrequent Field Notes buyer for several years and have missed out on their cool limited editions in years past (I do have an unopened pack of the Three Missions from summer 2018). But I have purchased more of their regular and in-stock limited editions since April.

There are many other options in this segment. I love the Doane Paper Small Utility Notebook. I have their amazingly designed Boxcar Notebooks, though that paper is a bit coarser than I usually like.

I do also love the flip-top DotDash Pocket Notebooks from Nock.co, which is owned by none other than the Pen Addict himself. I used a couple of those in a hurry once I got them, and I still have several to go through.

But first I want to check out this three-pack I got from Story Supply Co.

And there’s a couple pocketbooks I have from Life.

And well—it’s a lot of stuff as you can see! And this is with me trying to exercise some spending discipline!

That’s what an addict always says, right? I can control it! But honestly—do I want to?

A lot of guys like cars or motorcycles. Others like to buy clothing or watches, or play videogames.

I like notebooks, pens, and pencils. And I’m finally learning to be ok with that. And I know there’s a lot of you out there who feel the same.

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