What pens are these

Baron Fig, on what must be a weekly schedule, announced a new product, this time a stainless steel version of the Squire pen. I already own the Squire in grey, purple, and brass. It’s a great design, though the ink cartridges flow a bit heavy for my style of writing, and the pens are always slipping out of my hands or rolling off the desk.

I own lots of Baron Fig products, including the softcover notebooks and pencils, which are in rotation with the Field Notes notebooks and Blackwing and Calepino pencils that cover my desks and fill my Tom Binh backpack. The purple Baron Fig canvas backpack I got through the Kickstarter campaign; my first Baron Fig product was the company’s first, through its Kickstarter for the Confidant hardcover notebook.

I’ve used this Confidant notebook as my personal journal, since my previous Moleskine notebook filled; my first entry in the Confidant was on July 12, 2014, and started with this:

Saturday morning visit to Carrboro Farmers Market for the tomato tasting. Malia and I just canned apricots. Mellow Mushroom Pizza on patio last night with family. Lebron James announced his returning home to play with Cleveland again, which is another reminder to me and Erin about how that city continues to call us home.

My entries in that notebook, a few each week, are written with a black Muji gel-ink .38mm ballpoint pen. For the first few years, the entries were mostly straightforward reports of my activities. I was writing for myself, to emerge from a time of tumult and burnout, replacing my public blogging with these personal pages. When I ran a race, I recorded my time. When I saw a movie or started reading a book, I’d note the title.

One of the books I read was The Rural Life, by Verlyn Klinkenborg. This book collected some of the short essays Klinkenborg had written for the New York Times editorial page. The essays were almost always about small details or activities on his weekend farm in upstate New York, and invariably they were full of reflection and they were observant and they were insightful and they were meaningful.

This, this was the writing I wanted to have done. When I first started my blog, in 2000, I wanted to be able to write essays and blog posts that reflected my powers of observation. I tried really hard, but in all those years, I don’t feel I wrote any truly insightful things. I’d written a lot about what I had done and seen and tasted and tried, but I had very little of the ‘what does it mean.’

Klinkenborg is also a professor of creative writing, and he wrote another book called Several short sentences about writing. This book aims to help writers learn to write as clearly as possible. The book is very zen, and it is very instructive.

Be observant, reflect on what interests you, and above all, notice what you are noticing, says Klinkenborg.

As I read Klinkenborg’s books, I realized I had missed my Observations mark for all those years because I hadn’t really noticed much.

Looking back through my journal, though, I can see how slow living and slow writing was helping me to look up, relax, be attentive, notice what I am noticing, observe meaning, find insight. Writing in the Confidant has helped me get back to a confidence in my life. It’s helped me become more emotionally intelligent, I think.

Anyway, I’m nearly to the last page of the Confidant. I have a new one ready, and its first post will come right about the time we move into our newly renovated house surrounded by oak trees. Cleveland will always have a special place in my heart, but Chapel Hill is going to be home.


I’ve long had the habit of writing the phrase “For the asking” on the first page of my journals. At the #GIA18 conference I attended last month, keynotes by Jia Jiang and Patricia Wilson reminded of the importance of having the confidence and courage to ask. Both speakers had me in tears from laughter and hope.



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