I am – due to a combination of the way my brain works and the current unprecedented pace of my job, which rewards encyclopedic knowledge of extreme minutia in my field – unable to change gears and slow my mind back down to enjoy my other interests. I’ve kinda always been this way. I suspect there’s a glaringly obvious underlying diagnosis to be found there but I haven’t looked into it since elementary school. Even though I love the subject matter that I call my area of expertise, I also love many other things, and not being able to switch tracks and untangle the mess of thoughts I have besides my work has created quite a trainwreck of agitation and unfulfilled creative impulses. Hell, I’ve tried writing this post three or four times, not to mention about a dozen abortive attempts to put it into 240 characters or less on Twitter. I’ve found no success so far.
This problem has a pretty simple solution – slow down. Historically, that is much easier said than done for me, personally, and my inability to do so is the cause of much frustration.
Slowing myself down through a concerted effort, and removing the potential for distractions which exacerbate the above habits, will have a meditative effect which benefits me and simultaneously allows me to produce something enjoyable and lovely.
My reasoning is simple. I know myself well enough to know I do not take to traditional meditation methods for the most part, but I do recognize the need to be deliberate and slowly reel my brain back in to a neutral starting point, backing away from going 400MPH in one and only one direction. I also know that I am easily distracted, more so than I would usually be, when I am running in this mode. I can’t slow down enough to change directions entirely and complete an idea fully, but I am stressed enough that the attention deficit kicks in and I can briefly sniff at bright and shiny things like social media and websites and chat apps for a few brief minutes at a time to absolutely no gain. I know also that I love stationery, pens, pencils; drawing, writing.
My experiment is actually twofold: can practicing penmanship with slow instruments help, and will people tolerate this blog post?
First and foremost, I have acquired some fountain pens, inks, and papers (a list follows at the end). I once had a Lamy Safari fountain pen I did not understand or appreciate eons ago in high school and I remember considering it fascinating and important; quite beyond my capability to understand and care for but nonetheless enthralling and somehow important. Grown up. It was part of a set sold by a Japanese bookstore near my house, containing a matching black pen, pencil, and fountain pen. I ruined it by leaving a cartridge in it, sat in the sun in a jar on my desk, for eons and I believe I damaged its nib at some point too. Anyway, I digress. I intend to use these accoutrements, which are inherently slow and deliberate objects requiring attention to detail and focus in execution, to write down ideas and thoughts of a dorky variety while I practice cursive penmanship. These relics of a bygone era are not magical talismans of any real sort, but they have my personal interest and, like many, I find the act of physically writing things to be a form of relaxation. I suspect these will slow me down and let me sort through the knotted web of thoughts racing around my mind.
My secondary experiment is seeing just how off-track I can get with this blog and not enrage anyone!
Herein lay my findings from the first part of the experiment:
Not pictured: A few dozen further pages of scribbles, alphabets, notes to no one in particular, doodles of crabs and muscular dudes, swords, maces, many more Satanic inscriptions, and tests of ink colors.
So, to answer to my first query – yes, I believe that this does slow my brain down. It’s not perfect, but I imagine nothing is on your first go-around, right? My meditative practice is to do several tries at the cursive alphabet and some grade-school cursive sentence practice; this was inspired by discussing cursive being mandatory in our youth with Twitter personalities @UngainlySword, @restrepowriter, @followmeanddie1, and @dicepencilpaper. I find that this repetition and rote instruction is simple enough to avoid frustration but complex enough that can work at it calmly to the exclusion of all else. I feel at ease after a few pages of scribbling, and able to write something kind of neat or at least a little bit interesting by the end of things. This blog post, after all, is finally whole, after the many failed attempts I mentioned at its start. Afterward, I really do feel more clear-headed and able to pursue singular thoughts and ideas separate from my “work brain.”
In answer to my second query – well, I suppose I leave that up to you. Does this post benefit anyone, or does it simply distract and annoy by not being strictly related to role-playing games? Hopefully, my Joesky Tax of a few magical items in the drawings helps a bit; but maybe also someone else out there with an extremely obvious personal pattern of attention and frustration finds a clue here too?
I believe I am onto something; I was able to easily concoct silly magical doodads and write a blog post without confusion or frustration caused by my brain going too fast in other directions after practicing with the pens.
I am satisfied with my first try. I think I will get even better at clearing my head as I make a ritual of it. As a bonus, my cursive may become more beautiful over time; I am often complimented on my printing being legible (what a low bar!) but years of writing in my own personal breed of shorthand cursive letter joins and block printing has rendered my school cursive stilted and ugly. I will continue to scribble with obsolete writing implements on my scant few days off to center my mind and give myself a chance to slow down. I likely will not document any further ventures down this road on my blog unless there is a confusing and unlikely outpouring of demand for it, but I may one day share a supplement or a document or something penned by hand, or some similar contrivance!
For those curious, as I am sure many among you are also pen nerds, the doodles pictured were completed with:
- TWSBI Eco demonstrator (black) with a Medium nib
- Noodler’s Nib Creaper demonstrator with a Flex nib
The inks you see are:
- Noodler’s Heart of Darkness
- Diamine Oxblood
- Diamine Oxford Blue
I have Diamine Green/Black besides, but haven’t put it into a pen yet.
I will soon have a Conklin All-American 1.1mm Stub nib pen coming, alongside a Lamy AL-Star Extra Fine with Z28 converter (this is to right the wrong of ruining my Safari as a youth). That should cover most bases!
Best of all, I have a big beautiful glass bottle of J. Herbin 1670 Emeraude de Chivoir here on my desk, which I consider to be a special treasure; its amazing multicolored beauty is not pictured here but is truly transfixing. It’s such a gorgeous, substantial item. It fills me with joy just to look at!
There’s a Rhodia pad here next to me but I dont want to use it up so I am practicing on the occasionally-recommended HP 32lb copier paper, which is quite nice.
I look forward to hearing feedback on this one, for sure. I enjoyed these early steps into playing with these lovely objects and found it to be a good start into a practice of deliberately slowing my brain. Reach out to me in the comments, or maybe over on Twitter @DungeonsPossums. Let me know if this diversion infuriated you or proved somehow useful!
I have recently started writing again, putting physical pen to physical paper, to try and pull out something like a coherent story. By god! I can’t edit! I can’t tweak the margins! I can’t go back! The tyranny of the physical has released me from the binding freedom of the online world.
My hand hurt at the end of it. I’m a lefty, so half my palm was black with ink. It was truly wonderful, and I’ll be doing my best to write down more things. More power to you as well, I understand the full-throttle-brain-condition at a very personal level, perhaps I’ll try more refined inking equipment as well.