I Love Office Supplies.

IMG_0294Within the pages of my journal lies a whole new world. In so many ways, it is like our own. I love speculative fiction for so many reasons. I enjoy taking the comforting familiarity of our Earth and transforming it into something new, into something to be discovered.

I love taking what we know and asking questions about it–and about what could be. What if the United States had a caste system–an actual one, such as those found in India and other Asian countries? While caste systems are fading from our reality, the symptoms of caste still exist, even in the United States. Some might say especially within the United States.

Speculative fiction has always been about testing boundaries and learning new things–about people, about science, about magic, and about ourselves.

What does this have to do with office supplies? Nothing, yet everything. In a technology-driven world, writing by hand is a dying art. There are students who are being negatively graded if they write in cursive. This happened to the child of an acquaintance of mine. She took a picture of the graded paper, which stated the teacher had already warned the student–my friend’s daughter–she wasn’t to write her name in cursive.

My beloved craft of writing by hand is quickly becoming the subject of fantasy and science fiction. I am writing this post because I feel like we’re losing touch with a very important part of our history. Two hundred years ago, owning ‘office supplies’ was an honor. It was a privilege of the wealthy and powerful.

It is now something we take for granted. I think because so many are educated we forget what a privilege having knowledge is. This has worked its way into the DAE PORTALS books. What if something–like knowing how to read and write–became a privilege of caste? What if the informal castes existing within the United States and other countries became a hard-set reality?

What if we circled back to how we had been in the past, where technology and caste systems replaced the need for good education? The DAE PORTALS books delve into so many of my questions about the nature of society and people. It’s ironic that I’m working with a society where the varying education levels don’t guarantee knowledge on how to read and write–or even paper at all. To create such a world, I use a lot of these supplies.

And I want to introduce you to them all.

paper, paper, paper!

Paper-1It has been discussed, at length, how a country can succeed without strong education backing it. I present to you a partial sheet of paper. Levenger makes it. It’s a heavy stock paper designed for use with their Circa disc system. The Circa system uses rings. The way the paper is punched allows users to rip out the sheets and replace them into the rings at will. To be able to do this, the paper stock has to be thick and strong.

This is my paper of choice, as the ink doesn’t bleed through, the paper is durable, and I can reorder pages whenever I want. This is a big deal for me, because I move things around in my journals a lot. In a way, using technology to manage my notes would be smart, but nothing compares to the feel and smell of a fresh sheet of paper waiting for me to write on it. There’s zero difference in the value or quality of what I write, be it by hand or on the computer–but there’s a certain satisfaction in filling real pages and watching the ink dry as I work.

Long ago, the making of paper was considered the job of an artisan–someone with a high level of training and skill. Paper was valued more than many things–and those who could use paper were considered near the top of the education hierarchy. Oh, how things have changed. Now, a paper maker is considered someone of a lower tier job. The entire process, from lumber mill workers to paper producers, have faced a decline in prestige. The art of creating beautiful, durable paper is gradually going extinct.

The art of writing is, too. I go to an office supply store and look at the paper students are given to learn on, and I flinch. I won’t buy it for myself as a general rule. If I had children (I don’t) I wouldn’t buy that crap for them–even if it means I have to cut out play money for myself to give them good paper. Why?

It doesn’t last. It’s thin. It’s often coated in such a way pen ink won’t stick and pencil easily smears. I understand it’s cheaper to make paper this way, but children aren’t exposed to beautiful writing supplies. They’re introduced to cheap ones, and it lowers the appreciation of such a critical part of our education.

And yes, children are completely capable of appreciating nice things… if they’re taught those values.

It probably won’t be much longer until paper once becomes an artisan’s tool, created for lovers of the craft and few others. Digital isn’t bad, but there’s nothing quite like a good sheet of paper–and the skill to be able to transform a blank page into something filled with knowledge or creativity. Paper is a tool. Soon, it’ll once again become a luxury only the rich and educated can afford–or will want to afford. That’s a future I hope never comes to pass, although I expect it will soon enough.

I’m getting used to paying a lot of moment for good paper–and I now buy erasable ink so I can make the most of every sheet.

pens, pens, pens!

IMG_0293I have more pens than I do sense, and I’m not ashamed of this. From Swarovski to Pilot, if it’s a pen, I probably have one or have used one–or have lusted for it with every bit of my existence. Pens are a problem for me. I see a pen, and like a moth to flame, I am compelled to buy it. The pens I’m showcasing are my non-erasing go-to pens. These are pens I like signing documents with, writing permanent notes on any type of paper, and the pens I use when I write novels by hand in my various journals. (My go-to brands for novel-writing journals include Moleskine and Spice Box.)

My go-to pen for novel notes is the Pilot FriXion line. You can read my review of these pens here.

Pens matter. Once again, a lot of people aren’t taught how to write. Real Me wrote a handy dandy guide for using pens, and it astonishes me how many people simply do not know how to hold a pen or use one properly.

Here’s a quick crash course on how to use a pen: The barrel should rest near the first knuckle of your middle finger. Your index finger guides the pen, and your thumb supports the pen. Your pen should rest where your thumb and hand meet. When you write, you should keep a light but firm hold on the pen. Clutching it really hard will make your hand hurt, and it won’t help you write neater, faster, or better. Writing uses two motions: your hand/fingers and your arm. Full wrist movement tends to cause muscle problems and pain, so avoid it whenever possible. (Artists are more likely to use full wrist movements because of the length of the strokes.)

If you’re new to writing, practice your letters. Take breaks frequently and stretch your hands. Depending on the type of pen you’re using, a 45 degree angle from paper to pen shaft works really well, but some pens require a higher angle. If you’re using a 45 degree angle, you’ll avoid clutching the pen and write in a more natural, thus painless, position.

Yes, it will make your hand ache when you first start to write. Take it slow, practice until your muscles twinge. Rest, stretch your hand, come back in a few minutes and write some more.

Quick list of things to be aware of:

  • Pain is bad. Muscle aches from exercise is good. Practice helps.
  • White-knuckling your pen is a sign you’re holding to too hard.
  • Holding pen straight up and down from the paper is a sign of clutching the pen.
  • Your hand should be relaxed when you write–just enough grip to keep your pen steady and firm.
  • Move your arm. Your wrist and arm are an extension of your pen. Wrist-only writing can hurt.
  • Posture matters. Good posture helps with all sorts of things.

Listen to your body. If it hurts to write for more than two or three minutes at a time–or any extended period of time, you’re probably doing something wrong. Unfortunately, penmanship isn’t being taught in schools any longer. Penmanship wasn’t taught much when was in school… and that was over a decade ago. I learned by trial and error. I learned by practicing until I found a way that didn’t hurt.

journaling systems

IMG_0289I mentioned way up top about using Levenger’s Circa system for my notes. Journaling systems are ways people can customize a journal for their needs. There are two I’m going to mention, and they’re rather incestuous, really. Staples Arc system is the same concept as Levenger’s Circa system. The Arc system is a cheaper version of it. The Arc system has a larger variety of journal covers, but the rings and paper are far inferior to the Circa system. The Arc system makes far better dividers than the Circa system.

The two systems are completely interchangeable. I will often put a Arc cover over my Levenger covers for the designs and patterns while I use the Levenger Circa journal covers in the interior for durability and longevity. Yes, my important journals have two covers and backs. One for appearance, and one so the pages are properly protected.

A good journaling system, in my opinion, allows users to gather their thoughts and store them in such a way they can be easily found and relocated if necessary. That’s why I love the Levenger Circa system with the Staple’s Arc system augmenting it. Things stay organized and easy to find–just like in a computer.


This is the Circa system in action. The black rings are the standard variety supplied by Circa/Arc’s system; I actually replace them with aluminum rings made by Levenger for durability. The Arc rings are crafted of thinner plastic and are prone to snapping. They’re okay if you’re using them temporarily or do not access the journal often, but I really recommend either Circa’s standard black rings or investing in the aluminum rings. They’re well worth the investment.

If you’re after the hole punches, the Arc system hole punch is cheaper and cuts paper in the same way. I have a single-page hole punch from Levenger, and honestly, if you’re going to spend the money… buy the big one. It’s just substantially better and less of a headache if you’re punching more than one page a month. I often use the pre-formatted Levenger paper, but when I don’t… the single-page punch is obnoxious.

Snake-headIn a way, I am fortunate my addiction to office supplies revolves around pens, papers, and things to hold them in. I also like artsy cups for holding my pens. I do appreciate paper clips, staplers, desk organizers… hell, I just love office supplies.

How about you?

Happy reading, book lovers! And paper lovers, and pen lovers, and…

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