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2B or not 2B

(7) September 5th, 2010

All my life I’ve had a love affair I rarely speak of. Some might call it a fetish. Something so lewd and risqué I keep it secret and try not to let anyone understand the depths of my fancy. But here it is. I have a surreptitious fixation with stationary. I love everything about it. Going into Office Works sends my heart racing, and going into a store like Pepe’s Paperie or Kikki K sees my palms sweat as they involuntarily dive into my bag for my wallet. Resistance is futile as I smell the crisp new pages and attempt to justify the purchase of yet another notebook. My world is being digitised at a rapid rate, I use my phone for basically everything, but I still find myself going back to the old pencil and paper for a few things, and I’m not entirely sure why. At first I thought it was just out of habit, but I think there’s more to it than that.

I have tried and tried to put my shopping list on my phone. The notes app looks great and is easy to use, it’s not the app’s fault. I just cannot walk around the shopping centre using my phone as a list. I keep almost dropping it, I can’t put it down in the basket for fear of getting chicken juice all over it, and it’s annoying to have to keep waking up the phone to check one little thing (especially seeing as I have a passcode). There’s also the issue of walking around the supermarket waving your smartphone about and looking like a total pillock. I’ll take the digital option in almost every circumstance, but his is one such instance that I simply cannot bare the digital version. I always go back to my chicken-scratch handwriting scribbled on an innocent piece of scrap paper that was yanked from it’s natural habitat because it was within reaching distance when I decided to start my list. Digitally I cannot recreate the satisfaction of striking through an item on my to-do list.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about writing smoothly with a pencil on a nice piece of faintly textured paper. Feeling the slight grittiness and tiny vibrations through the pencil, hearing the graphite softly graze the paper, there’s a definite romance in it. Cursive writing resembles a ballet. Handwritten notes are more personal, they have penmanship, they actually bring a part of the person onto the paper. One word written by many people will look different almost every time. A romantic letter written by hand is at least +15 to swoon. I type fast, friends are mortified by my “angry typing” as my hands look blurred as they hurriedly type away, almost in bullet time. I can’t write as fast as I can type, and most of the time this is a good thing as it saves time. But occasionally it’s nice to write with a nicely weighted pencil in my Moleskin as the speed of output gives me time to ponder what it is I’m writing. When it comes to poetry, or creative writing in general, I prefer to write it by hand. The pace gives me time to polish words on the fly and not over-analyse and kill the content. There’s a pace and a flow to it that I dig and cannot replicate in the digital world.

Is it nostalgia or habit that fuels my love for stationary? It could be just a throwback to the joy I felt at the start of a new school year, looking over all my new books, erasers, pencils, pens, post it notes, and highlighters. The love of a new start, a clean slate. Reminiscing the tenderness felt from a handwritten love letter. Or is it the data overload factor? Are we so swamped with the digital world, hundreds of emails, thousands of tweets, hours on FB every week, that we crave a break from screens? You still see people taking old fashioned notebooks in to meetings despite being CEO’s of major tech companies. A notebook in a meeting is quick and says “I’m listening, I’m not tweeting or checking FB, I’m right here and paying attention”. No matter how much we move on and the huge technological advances we face, pencil and paper still has a place in the world. For whatever reason. Why not embrace it and write someone a nice letter today. You’ll be amazed at how much your penmanship deteriorates when neglected… Above image is case in point…

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7 Responses to “2B or not 2B”

  1. Ceylon says:

    Easiest fix for penmanship is a good fountain pen. My I’m-rushed-but-still-writing-neatly handwriting looks vaguely like Elvish, with tiny text and slanted, mildly swoopy ascenders and descenders. ‘Course, I still write with a quill and ink when I don’t have to worry about convenience, so I may not be the best judge…

  2. Leena says:

    Someone who understands the romance all too well, Ceylon!

  3. Laneybert says:

    Dearest Leena, I think we need to start a support group. *SIGH* I too have a stationery problem, the problem being that I just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. When you mentioned Pepe’s Paperie I nearly cried as the one I usually shop at has shut it’s doors and it nearly broke my heart. I love many things but my favorites are good staples like my two Lamy fountain pens (I really do need two, after all I may need to write in two different colours and the turquoise and mauve are just fabulous!), Basildon bond writing paper and envelopes, a great Moleskine notebook (mine has all my random numbers in and passwords for obscure websites, conference keys an stuff I just may need). I write my shopping list then go through an extensive drafting process to make sure I have everything required but also have it ordered to match the layout of whichever supermarket I go to..OK maybe I do need some assistance! Wonderful blog Leena, makes me feel like I am not alone in the world! Dr Ron just rolled his eyes and laughed when he read your blog, but some techos just don’t understand the lure of stationery, it is so personal and you just don’t get the stimulation of your senses with a smartphone that you do with paper.

  4. Wall says:

    I still handwrite, not so often in pencil these days as I’ve taken to felt-tip pens, perhaps for that same sensation of texture; there’s no going back to ballpoints – all that application of pressure feels like dragging a knife over rock.

    For me there are certain things which I must write only by hand, or at least by hand first before translating to digital text, or rather engaging in the ritual of typing. Handwriting is indeed a ritual, a ceremony. I have a love for slow things; slow films, minimal music, building Gundam plastic model kits (#Gunpla! Literally “GUNdam PLastic Model) and going for long walks being among them. It has to do with cadence, with pacing, with the rhythm of breathing as one engages in these activities; it’s certainly something worthy of romanticising, and probably as a result of that, very rewarding.

    Typing seems to me much more of a translational process, whereas the mechanisms of handwriting seem to suit elements of creating, reflection and meditation. Indeed there are quite a few (creative) things that I only type out because my priority is efficient translation. Nevertheless, some things simply *must* be written by hand. It’s magical, powerful and as you say, can be extremely personal and intimate.

    Nice entry!

  5. elroy says:

    mmmmmm, chicken juice.

  6. Nez says:

    Pen and paper still has it’s place but very rarely, let’s face it it’s just not very efficient. The last job interview I was in I thought how impossible it must be to scribble down notes about me to review later when you have to write in short hand or have to write so slowly, it’s probably all meaningless when you look at it later but as you say if they wrote notes into a laptop it would no longer seem so personal. Pen and Paper for shopping lists forever Leena!

  7. Jen Walpole says:

    Love it! I remember my primary school teacher made us all buy 2b pencils to write with, saying they were the best. I still buy 2b pencils, fond memories :)

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