Writing Tools

New Renaissance Art Circa Giveaway

Our friends at Renaissance Art wanted me to pass on the word that their latest giveaway involves a new Circa cover.

For our 40th giveaway, we’ve got a Classic Size Leather Cover with flap and D-ring snap closure for your Rollabind or Circa brand notebook with 1-inch rings. The Rustic Brown cover features three interior slash pockets and a pen loop. Makes me want to get organized, how about you? Check out the personalization: B.G.C. = BeGone Clutter.

To toss your name into the hat for a chance to win, go visit the Renaissance Art blog and read all about entering.

A Peek in the Pack

Day Runner + D*I*Y Planner

So, a few people have emailed me about my current productivity tools. They want to know if I'm using Circa, if I've given up on fountain pens, if I ever use software, and so on. One even deduced that the reason for my absence from DIYPlanner was because I had crossed from analog completely into the digital world. The latter is certainly not the case, and my forays into the land o' ones and zeroes have typically resulted in my throwing up my hands in frustration, wondering how some people live without paper. (Keep in mind I'm an IT professional and gadget freak, so I don't say this lightly.)

So, read on for a little summary of my daily gear at the moment....

Quick Tip: Loosen Your Grip

Man WritingHand getting cramped when you write more than a few paragraphs? Loosen up! Many people middle-age or younger are used to having to grasp pens and pencils very tightly to make lines. After a page or two of writing like this, the hand and wrist may begin to hurt. However, with gel and fountain pens such a tight grasp is rarely necessary. Train yourself to write looser by consciously slackening your grip, especially when you notice pain or cramps starting. It's not an easy habit to break, but it can be done. Soon writing can be a pleasure.

Weekly Pick: The Art of Letter Writing

In these days of Twitter, texting and five-second Facebook comments, it seems as though there's also a bit of a backlash against "quick and dirty" digital correspondence. Many find that the humanity seems to be missing, and so on the bookstore shelves can now be found scores of books on hand-written notes, love letters, travelogues, greeting cards, and --above all-- honest-to-goodness pen-and-ink letter writing. There's a renaissance afoot.

So for this week's pick (actually our very first weekly pick) we'd like to highlight a thought-provoking article from The Art of Manliless by Brett and Kate McKay entitled The Art of Letter Writing, an overview of tools, expression, style and etiquette:

Man writing[...] But when it comes to sharing one’s true thoughts, sincere sympathies, ardent love, and deepest gratitude, words traveling along an invisible superhighway will never suffice. Why?

Because sending a letter is the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door. Ink from your pen touches the stationary, your fingers touch the paper, your saliva seals the envelope. Something tangible from your world travels through machines and hands, and deposits itself in another’s mailbox. Your letter is then carried inside as an invited guest. The paper that was sitting on your desk, now sits on another’s. The recipient handles the paper that you handled. Letters create a connection that modern, impersonal forms of communication will never approach.

Read more: The Art of Letter Writing

Quick Tip: The Index Card Shuffle

Going into a meeting with a lot of people, and you just know that the topics will jump around quite a bit? Bring in a small stack of index cards, and create one per note-taking topic. When a previously-discussed topic comes up again, simply shuffle back and keep adding to the appropriate card. By the end of the meeting, all your notes will be topic-specific and as coherent as possible.

Introducing DIYPlanner Quick Tips

ScribeThere's plenty of little things we think of here that aren't meaty enough for a full article, but that might help the odd reader and perhaps instigate a little discussion. To that end, we'd like to introduce a new feature here on DIYPlanner: Quick Tips. These will be posted several times a week, and will run the gamut from pens and notebooks to creative techniques to digital productivity. (Hey, we analog luddites do occasionally use computers, too, or else you wouldn't be reading these words.) So, our first official Quick Tip:

Like the freedom of writing on an unlined page, but your words start tipping to an angle the further down the page you write? Take a tip from old-style blank writing pads. These generally come with a lined page you could slip under your current page, and there would be just enough hint of lines to keep your writing even and on track. If you don’t have such a lined page for your paper or journal, use Ygor’s dynamic templates to generate lined note pages with the line spacing and thickness that works best for you.

Do you have a quick tip? Email it to diyplanner -@AT@- gmail dot com!

I Dood It (for Shris)

Here's a pair of quick-and-dirty "I Did" list templates for Shris based on the discussion over here: http://www.diyplanner.com/node/6151

i-dood-it 2.jpg
Usage advice: 

Refer to this thread: http://www.diyplanner.com/node/6151

It is an editable template, so if you want to modify it, go for it.

Paper size: 
Classic (5.5 x 8.5)
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
Open Office

Review: Ubuntu on the Eee PC

Eee PC 701 BlackIf what we're hearing in the trade sites is correct, the brand new ultra-mobile Eee PC 901 will be released in the next few days. However, the price point is supposed to be close to the $650 mark, which is a far cry from the sub-$400 sweet spot of the 701. Still, I'm eying that one carefully for my road kit, given how well my own 701 has performed. This is a little follow-up to my original mini-review.

Well, it didn't take me long to realise that I wasn't very fond of the Xandros Linux distribution that comes stock with the Eee PC 701. Don't get me wrong: it's great for newbies to Linux or for those users who want a static system that "just works" without feeling the foolish desire to tinker or to be on the bleeding edge. But, for better or worse, that's not me.

Most of my frustration was the result of a significant portion of the file system where the operating system and installed programs are stored -- to protect newbies from "messing up" the operating system, it's read-only. Yup, can't screw up what you can't change. But I didn't realise my inability to write to it at first, and was wondering why all my free space was rapidly disappearing whenever I upgraded the built-in applications. It seems that the old versions remained hidden and inactive, while the upgrades started taking up huge chunks of the valuable two gigabytes of storage space. For example, an upgrade of OpenOffice.org didn't take up a dozen more megabytes, as it would seem: instead, it took up a few hundred megabytes. Lesson learned: don't bother with any significant upgrades.

A Southpaw's Experiments with Fountain Pens

The first time Doug posted an article on fountain pens, I felt a familiar urge creep up my back. It entered my "office supply junkie" nerve and made me drool. Fountain pens are the ultimate in writing shiny. A delicate balance of elegance and environmental reuse. I recall dabbling with cartridge-style calligraphy pens back in high school and how fun it was to write with them. Thanks to Doug's article, I knew that I wanted to give them a second chance. So a few months ago, I decided to hop onto the enabler bandwagon. I started researching fountain pens and what types would work for me. At this point, you're probably wondering why I said research. You'd think I'd have just gone and ordered the best looking pen right away. However, I'm a left-hander, a southpaw, and not all fountain pens work for us. Therefore, I've written this for those left handers out there who want to give fountain pens a shot. This article sums up what I know and have experimented with.

Fountain pens are not created equally for both right and left-handers. Fountain pens work different than modern pens; they are made to drip ink across a piece of paper when a hand pulls the nib across the page. Whereas a right-hander pulls a pen across the page, lefties drag the pen as our hand moves rapidly across and occasionally into the paper (depending on how hard one presses the pen on the paper). Dragging a pen makes the ink skip out so not all the letters get formed correctly. It can also gunk up the tip of the nib with tiny paper fibers because we have scratched the pen's nib deep into the paper itself. So, not only must the pen we use be a bit more rugged but it also needs to be designed to allow the ink to flow smoothly when the nib drags across the paper. Many manufacturers make special left-handed nibs, often referred to as oblique nibs, that are like a right-hander's pen but offset so that we can write with them. However, the most popular solution I've seen is to get a pen that contains a small rounded ball on the end of the nib. This ball allows the pen to flow when writing at any angle and solves the issue of malformed characters when writing with a standard fountain pen.