Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stationary item

Monday, 15 September 2008. I've had a reprieve! No, no, not from prison, but from a ban on buying pens and paper. To think, that having spent years evaluating the usefulness of conferences by the (a) number and (b) the quality of the freebies I manage to come home with, my "reward" was to be told:

"We've got enough pens to open a stationery shop",

followed by a blanket ban on anything even remotely resembling a writing implement. There's gratitude for you.

Now here's a funny thing. Despite being a technofile, I love the feel of paper, and I love writing with nice pens. When I was 15 I fell in love with, bought, and fell in love with all over again, a clutch pencil that lasted for years. I've even still got some of the leads for it. Relatively recently, I discovered (though not sure how) that I still love a nice pencil. In particular, I love writing ideas for articles in a notebook, with a pencil.

I actually don't know why I like using a pencil, rather than a pen, for this. It is certainly not so that I can erase it or bits of it -- I tend to just cross it through. It just, I don't know, feels right.

A couple of weeks ago I was allowed to treat myself to a special pocket notebook in which to record my ideas. A special, dedicated notebook, with squared paper, that is completely separate from the other notebook I use to make to-do lists whilst on the bus or train, or for note-taking in meetings. But my joy was not complete because I also had to carry around either an ordinary pencil or a cheap clutch pencil that was a freebie at some away day or other, and is so light as to be almost insubstantial.

PencilBut today I had a reprieve. On our travels, my wife and I saw a lovely-looking Cross ball pen and pencil set. Black and silver, not too expensive, and with a lifetime guarantee. Taking a leaf out of our cats' books, I looked at her imploringly. In a moment of weakness, she succumbed to my charms. I am now the proud owner of this wonderful propelling pencil. It has weight. It has gravitas. It has a 9mm lead.

Unfortunately, it is so lovely that I cannot bear the thought of losing it, or worse. And so, it remains on my desk, a stationary stationery item, whilst I sit on the bus with my squared notebook and flimsy clutch pencil.

You'd think, being a technofile, I'd use technology to record my ideas. There's a memo function on my mobile phone, and a voice recording function too. I could use either of those, or a laptop. But it's not the same. There is something about the act of writing an idea that renders it more beautiful than merely typing it, texting it, or recording it. And besides, a notebook and pencil is less fiddly, less likely to be "wiped", and certainly less likely to attract muggers.

So, what are all these ideas for? I'm doing lots of writing at the moment. As well as my own website and a blog I use for writing about writing, I write a blog for Technology and Learning and one for Hot Chalk, as well as articles for the TES now and again.

I just enjoy writing. And blogging. Which reminds me. I'm conducting a survey into what people think are the differences (if any) between writing and blogging. If you have an opinion on the matter, and a spare five minutes in which to express it, it would be good to hear your views.

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