How To Use Your Fountain Pens More Often: Try The 5 Whys

John Bosley Handwriting 8 Comments

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.

What Are The 5 Whys?

While the purpose of this blog post is to give you a way to use your pens more often, I feel like I should first give a little background on The 5 Whys. It has been around for quite a while, but I first heard of this technique when I read The Bullet Journal Method. It was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used by the Toyota Motor Corporation for problem solving. It is now used by many different corporate efficiency systems as a way to get to the root cause of a problem.

Basically, you start with a problem and keep asking “why”? After asking why 5 times, you should have a good idea of what the cause of the problem is. It may seem very simple, but it is surprising how quickly the answers can be difficult to come by. When applied to an industrial or manufacturing environment, the answers can lead to safer conditions or increased productivity. When applied to yourself, they can lead to staggering insights.

lamy studio writing 5 whys

Sitting down with a pen and paper can help you figure out why you want to do something.

Asking Yourself 5 Whys

If you want to try this, keep in mind you don’t even need a problem. You may simply be wondering why you want to do something. As I have tried this for myself, I find that I don’t always have problems that can be broken down with a simple series of asking “why”. Sometimes I need to ask a why question, but with a bit more context. For example:

Problem: I need a face mask.
Why? So I don’t catch or spread Coronavirus.

Here is where a modified “why” might work better. I’ll give both examples:

Why? I don’t want to get sick and possibly die. (pretty obvious and doesn’t really address the problem)
Why would I need to worry about catching or spreading Coronavirus? I want to go outside of my house and go for a walk. (a much better reason, wouldn’t you say?)
Why? I’ll go crazy if I stay inside for another day.
Why? I am bored.
Why? I have watched too much TV and don’t know what else to do.

So it looks like my problem isn’t necessarily that I need a mask, but that I need to do something besides watch TV. Granted, this may not be the best example since we should all get out of our houses for a bit and should be wearing masks, but you get the idea. A simple “why” isn’t always the best question to ask. Sometimes a little context is required. Keep in mind, the answer can sometimes be found in less than 5 whys.

Problem: I really need a bottle of that beautiful new ink color!
Why? I am seeing it all over social media.
Why? Because it was just released and everyone else just bought it.
Why do you need that particular color? I don’t have that exact color.
Why do you need another bottle of blue ink? Ummmm…. I guess I don’t?
Why don’t you use the ink you already have? Alright, alright, I won’t get it, OK???

It is suggested that, when using this technique, the answers are written down instead of being recorded digitally, which makes this a perfect exercise for using your fountain pens! If you’ve been having any kind of anxiety or unresolved questions during this tough time of Coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, this may be a great way to work yourself through them and use your fountain pens at the same time!

Problem: I have put on 10 lbs in the past few weeks.
Why? I have been eating a lot of bread.
Why? I have been baking a lot of bread while quarantined at home.
Why? Baking bread is something I can control and do to keep my mind off of what’s happening in the world.
Why do you need to control anything? My normal routine has been wrecked and nothing is the same.
Why haven’t you created a new routine? I don’t want to admit to myself that the world has changed.

In Conclusion

I tried to keep my examples fairly light-hearted, but hopefully you can see how powerful the 5 Whys technique can be. Using it on something like buying a new pen or bottle of ink is a little silly, as buying something isn’t really a problem per se, but using it to help you discover why you don’t practice your handwriting every night or call back that friend who called last week can be very eye-opening. Even if you don’t get any life-changing answers, it can be a great way to sit down and write!

Keep in mind, I am no expert on this technique. I’m just a guy who wants to use his fountain pens and maybe be a little introspective from time to time. This technique is meant to be a fun exercise and a way to use your fountain pens more often. If you are having serious anxiety or issues, please talk to someone who knows what they’re doing or get professional help.

If this technique doesn’t appeal to you, check out my series of blog posts for more suggestions on how to use your fountain pens more often.

Comments 8

  1. That’s a great technique! And another writing it down is another nice idea for using fountain pens 😀
    I’m used to scrutinise my own wishes for inks and stationery which leads me to using more of the stuff I already have or even think about using the stuff in a different way… Saves money and trains creative aproaches. 🙂

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  2. Oh, I love this post from you!! I have not tried the method yet and I will. I have modified this idea from Pen Boy Roy: “the good, the bad, and the ugly” for my bullet journal. I do this each day, just noting little items for the day, and then at the end of the day I can reflect on the why’s and how to change things. Using my fountain pens, then all day long. I am ashamed of all the pens and inks I have, I think I will start doing the “why” exercise with that topic, when in the moment I just want another pen, or another ink. Usually the first why is because I watched a pen video. I just love those, watch them instead of Netflix.

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      That makes me so happy to hear, Carol! “The good, the bad and the ugly” sounds like a great bullet journal entry and a great way to use your pens! As long as you enjoy using your pens, there’s no need to be ashamed of them. I have some pretty nice pens, but have to say I almost always default to inexpensive pens like a Lamy Al-Star or my beloved Esterbrooks. And no matter how many pens you have or how nice they are, watching a pen video or browsing Instagram will always make you want more. 🙂

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  3. Hey, John! Great breakdown of how to use the “why” question. I think I already do this to some extent, but I like doing things deliberately, and your article will help me focus. I especially like advice that helps me sharpen the way I think. Mental clarity contributes to a life well-lived.

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