Many people who collect fountain pens sometimes have trouble using them as often as they would like. If you are not a student or in a profession that requires you to write very often, you might struggle to use your pens at all! In this series of articles I want to make some suggestions that should help you use your fountain pens more often.
Write In A Stream Of Consciousness Style
Stream of consciousness is a great writing style if you don’t know what to write. At its core, you are simply writing words and thoughts as they pop into your head. The way that it is different from regular writing is that you don’t stop writing. When you don’t know what to write, you stall, maybe even by writing “I don’t know what to write”. While the end result might not make much sense, it is a great way to quickly fill up a page and use your fountain pens.
The term “stream of consciousness” was originally coined in the late 1800s by William James, when he said
“…it is nothing joined; it flows. A ‘river’ or a ‘stream’ is the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let’s call it the stream of thought, consciousness, or subjective life.”
Stream of consciousness typically refers to a specific literary writing style, but has also been adopted to refer to a style of writing where you keep writing, like in the above example. It’s harder than you might think, especially if you don’t want to be repetitive in the way that you stall. It is fun to practice and see what happens!
Write Individual Words
Sometimes I don’t feel like writing what’s passing through my mind. When that happens, I just write individual words. I find that this is a great exercise in both listening and in writing. If my wife is watching a movie or I’m listening to music, I’ll write words that I catch in the background. For example, one night we were listening to a podcast and this is a selection of random words I wrote down: Intention. Barrista (misspelled it when I wrote it). Universe. Noise. Campaign. Arbor Day.Other times I write random words that come to mind, but in alphabetical order. I typically try to think of longer words to write, so I get more practice. Going alphabetically also ensures that I write each capital letter at least once. On one occasion, I started out with these words: Albatross. Beautiful. Courageous (misspelled it when I wrote it). Demented. Everything. Flatulent. Gregarious. Humongous… and continued until I got to Zoetrope. Hopefully this helps the next time you want to write something but don’t know what to write. Just put pen to paper and let the thoughts and words flow. Or, listen to what’s happening around you and write random words. You might be surprised at the variety of words you write down and, when you look back at them in the future, will wonder what the heck you were listening to!
Sometimes I get out my inked pens and write the name of each pen, the name of the ink, then “potatoes & onions”. (I like the ampersand). It helps me to associate the colour of the ink with it’s name. Also, I have found that the colour of the ink depends on the pen. Diamine Damson looks like a bluey-grey in one pen but in another it’s darker than black. That may sound daft, but most blacks I try are more aptly described as dark grey – example, Platinum black cartridges.
I have many pens inked at any time, and can easily fill a page of A4 with one line per pen. I’m trying to reduce the number of inked, but then I am sent pens to review and I’m back to square one.
If you’ve got a lot of pens inked up, that’s a great way to fill up a page, Noel. How did you ever come up with the phrase “potatoes & onions”?
Great article, John! I use the random word list myself sometimes for practice and try to think of the most obscure words I can recall, in the hope that it will keep my vocabulary somewhat expanded.
Thank you! It’s definitely challenging trying to come up with obscure words, but always interesting to see what bubbles up to the surface of one’s mind.
Nice article! I have often done this – just writing down what comes to mind at the moment. Song lyrics, snippets of conversation from the television, my favorite movie quote, etc. Now that it I know there is a name for this ‘exercise’, I can use one of my empty journals/notebooks instead of random pieces of paper. Oh wait, that means I have to actually USE some of those just-gotta-have-but-don’t-want-to-ruin-them-by-writing-in them notebooks!
Thanks! I find it really relaxing just listening to what’s going on around me and writing random things. Dive in and use one of those notebooks! I can pretty much promise they’re more fun to write in than to look at.
It’s been a few weeks now, and I thought I would let you know that I have been using those notebooks! For anyone who’s thinking of jumping in, don’t be shy. I have found that now that I have been doing it for awhile I actually look forward to that time of day when I can sit down and write a page or two. Some days it is a short 1-pager, while on others it ends up being 3 of 4. It’s a great way to practice your writing, and it is fun to cycle through all of the currently inked up pens. And an excuse to ink up a few more, just because.
Hey, that’s great! Glad to hear you’re using some of those notebooks and are looking forward to writing!
What is that gorgeous violet ink you are using in the first sample?😍
That is Iroshizuku Yama-budo. It’s a great ink and I highly recommend it.
sorry the second sample 🙂
I do “brain dumps,” essentially words or phrases that stick out. I doodle a bit & sometimes come out with a piece of art worth framing. Love both of those inks🤩
That’s a great phrase, Vj. I like the idea of a brain dump and just writing whatever comes to mind. Isn’t it a great feeling when a doodle turns out well and you want to look at it on a regular basis?
Hi again John, you very kindly got back to me yesterday privately after I’d seen and signed up to your website. I must be onto something, because after reading your ideas here it turns out that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, pages of ‘stream of consciousness’ writing and occasionally just words I love to write, switching pens to see how they look.
I’m fortunate in that I work for a Japanese company and adore copying kanji script (although there are only a few symbols I can make out) however I love writing the company name in English as well (Yamamori) in block capitals and flowing, elaborate cursive. And the patience required even copying kanji, or hiragana and katakana is a pleasure in itself.
So now I’m doing the same with some Japanese ink brand names, which are all new names to me, and even Japanese whisky brands like Yamazaki, Hibiki, they’re great to write (and drink).
I speak pretty fluent Italian after having lived there 14 years, there are some fabulous words I love to say and write, and there are some very lengthy words in Italian with several syllables, so I find that a good exercise. Thanks so much for being so thoughtful about these points, which many others may not have thought about.
Hi Will, copying kanji sounds like a great way to use your fountain pens, and even better if you have some idea of what they mean. I would imagine that Italian words would be a lot of fun as well. Does the way you say a word in Italian influence how you write it?