Why Did You Stop Writing?

Recently, I was given boxes full of my childhood memorabilia from my mother’s attic.  I was surprised and delighted to find notebooks filled with my childhood ramblings, beginning in 3rd grade. There were cute stories, embarrassing love letters to crushes that were never sent, a few diary attempts, and some seriously angsty teenage poetry. As I read through it, I was impressed at my younger self’s ability to put pen to paper and open up an introspective world through writing. And then it struck me- for the vast majority of my 20s, I didn’t write at all

This is especially true of my college years, when writing felt like a chore to get through the countless classroom assignments. I was involved in campus groups, had a part-time job, and a full social calendar. Post-college, I was living abroad in South Korea and exploring seemed more important than spending time alone writing. Later, it was work, familiar obligations, friendships… as I got older, my life just seemed to be constantly on hyper drive. Looking back, it felt like something else was always more important than sitting down and putting pen to paper- a constant hustle to do more, see more, be more.

But is this constant go-go-go grind that seems to be so prevalent in this day and age a reality, or is it the choices that I’m making? Did my younger self simply have more time or was she just wiser with what she did with it? Could I make different choices and tap back into my more introspective and thoughtful self?

Strangely, fountain pens have been the impetus for reviving my love of writing. It seems silly- that a simple writing instrument could inspire me to turn back to something I loved so much when I was younger. Simply because I love feeling the way my fountain pen glides across the page, I started writing to-dos for work, making art for Monday Matchups, Bullet Journaling, and making home made cards for friends and family. I was able to tap into my creativity and reconnect with a part of myself that I didn’t know was missing.

Flipping back through my 2016 journal, I’m able to get a grasp of the work I’ve done, the places I’ve been, and the exciting things I accomplished. It is physical proof of the progress and changes that have unfolded in the past year. For the first time in about 10 years, I have a written record of my life to look back on.

People talk about taking time, or making time, for the things that you love. I’ve found that sometimes it’s making a small change to your daily habits that can change the balance of your day, and from there, your life. For me, finding fountain pens has been more than just a hobby- they have been a tool to help me enjoy my life at a deeper and more meaningful level.

I’d like to invite you to, yes, slow down, and think about it a moment. If you aren’t currently taking time to write, why did you stop? Was it a conscious choice or did it simply fade away as other things crowded in for your time and attention?

If you did start writing again, how would that impact your life?

Maybe you should write about it.

Write on,
Madigan

2017-10-11T02:00:51+00:00 February 22nd, 2017|A Goulet Life|37 Comments
  • PiperTL

    i often sit with pen and paper writing things to do, wish list, goals and ideas. Blogging is something has recently became an interest but not know how to really get started.

  • Judy

    Like you, I used to write all the time when I was younger. And then I stopped for many of the same reasons you listed. Three years ago I decided I wanted to start journaling and writing creatively again, but I was having a hard time starting and keeping up with the habit of writing daily. It wasn’t until I bought my first Pilot Petit fountain pen (I wanted to start with something cheap in case I didn’t like writing with it) that I discovered my love of putting pen to paper again. Now, I feel like something’s missing when I don’t write every day. And I also have a great excuse for all the fountain pens and inks and journals I’ve collected since then.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      What a great way to reconnect, Judy! I’m so glad you picked up the habit again.

  • Kathy

    I can really identify with Madigan’s well written piece. I wanted to be a journalist when I was younger (also an actress and singer–though I had no talent at all– writer, lawyer, professor, bum). I’d write all the time. In college I had to write so much that it seemed like work. Started my career and had to write even more. I’m just getting back to it, and the fountain pens help so much. I’m trying to journal everyday, but forget more than I remember. Still I’m getting better. I am keeping all of my moving notes in one notebook, and keep the Nock Sinclair loaded with several pens (too many pens) and a small notebook. Last year I started using the Rhodia day planner and love it. For some reason my Apple products weren’t as integrated as I thought (iPhone, Ipad and MacBook Pro), and occasionally an appointment would disappear. Not good. So Rhodia to the rescue. It’s small enough to carry everywhere I go, and it’s another excuse to use fountain pens.

    Thank you, Madigan, for such a thought provoking article!

    • Tom Johnson

      Kathy, I’m surprised that your career choices didn’t include beachcomber!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      I am so glad your Rhodia was able to serve you that much better than the technology. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing your story, Kathy!

  • Tom Johnson

    Madigan, I love reading about your writing background and how it has come back to writing for pleasure and personal accomplishments. Growing up writing was something we did every day in school: essays, class assignments, math. High school through college: copious note taking, assignments, etc. Just no desire to write outside of school. Before we got out of high school my brother and I had taken a 1/2 year typing class and our parents bought us wonderful vintage cast iron Underwood typewriters from the 30’s. Used that for the last year or two of high school on through college. But, I don’t remember writing for pleasure at all, it was work, something you had to do. I wish I had kept a journal, I’ve forgotten so much from those days in my life, important things – the details have faded away.

    Then my first job. Before personal computers, complex technical reports were prepared by hand, the secretary transcribed my handwritten pages into type written pages. Then editing, cut and paste was just that. Again, except for birthday, sympathy, and Christmas cards there was very little hand writing at home.

    Fountain pens were “rediscovered” in ’97 and used at work – note taking at meetings was much more pleasurable. Handwritten notes and short memos. Reports were typed on computers. Very little use of fountain pens for much else until I retired, but I did start a small journal at home in Dec 2003 using my fountain pens.

    Only when I discovered Brian and Rachel’s videos 3 months into retirement (June 2013) did my passion for fountain pens soar! The “dam” burst open, Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Midori Passport TN, pens flowed in and I was writing for pure pleasure – letters to friends & family, journal updated more often, cursive writing practice. And it has been growing with Goulet Pens, inspired by videos and the blog entries, ever since. My Midori is a constant companion and used as my memory bank. Later events and thoughts are transferred to my journal, Clairefontaine notebooks. Pen pals! A pen club. And I write just for sheer pleasure too – what you say above Madigan, “. . . because I love feeling the way my fountain pen glides across the page, . . .”. Your advice is perfect, and recommended for everyone. Thank you for such an wonderful blog, this may be my favorite of all time.

    • Laura Krause

      Tom, you summed up most of what I was thinking! So thank you. And thank you Madigan for such an honest post. Your sincerity and passion are inspiring.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      I am so glad you found us, Tom, and the fountain pen bug got you so securely! I look forward to many more discussions in the blog comments ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Beverly

      “I wish I had kept a journal, I’ve forgotten so much from those days in my life, important things – the details have faded away.”

      Start a memoir. Begin writing what you can remember, and let the exercize itself allow access to at least some of those memories. The more you do this, the easier it will become to recall moments and events in your past, and your reaction to them at the time. You’ll have the benefit of a mature perspective, and an affection for the younger person you were.

      I kept a journal for many years, and an invaluable exercize for me is reading entries made in the past. Doing this consistently showed me patterns of reaction and behavior I kept repeating, and not learning from. Perspective showed me *I* needed to change, which has helped improve my experience of life.

      A handwritten journal is invaluable: as a record of experience, a reflective tool, and a simple sensory pleasure the tap of keys can’t reproduce.

  • Tom Johnson

    Madigan, what you said here is very profound to me:

    “For me, finding fountain pens has been more than just a hobby- they have
    been a tool to help me enjoy my life at a deeper and more meaningful
    level.”

  • Tinkered Art

    Thank you Madigan for this personal and thought provoking blog post – a great read today. Glad you found your way back to writing. Reflecting on your words I realized I’ve almost always included some form of writing for most of my life. There were times and circumstances where I did less and for a while I wrote a lot of my journals on the computer, and for the last few years it’s been with fountain pens. While I’ve done some diary recounting the day writing I find the core of my writing has been more a stream of consciousness style. A few years ago I stumbled across a writing practice called Morning Pages – the description fit me and after reading more about it decided to try it out. First thing almost every day I write my 3 sides of paper no more no less, getting down what ever comes across my mind sometimes it reveals things sometimes it’s just a head clearing exercise but once the brain sweep is done I move on with my day. I was a doubter at first but it still amazes me the difference the way my day starts on those rare days I don’t write first thing in the morning. Oh and just to keep it about the process rather than the production I tear them up and toss them each day.

    • Tom Johnson

      Morning Pages sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      What a great way to start the day with a clear mind! That’s so cool.

    • Big plus for Julia Cameron’s morning pages, and The Artist’s Way in general.

  • MP

    While I didn’t do a lot of creative writing as a kid, I did do a lot of letter writing and corresponding, and I dabbled in journal writing. I’ve still tried to keep up my correspondence habit, but it has gotten painfully anemic over the years (the result of never getting replies from those too busy to write me back). Like Madigan, I have jumped into bullet journaling because of fountain pens and a desire to go analog. I have gotten so tired of the frenetic nature of technological communication. Fountain pens came into my life partly because I was looking for ways to slow down, savor life, and live more richly. Fountain pens help me do that. Now I am writing more letters and smaller notes to friends, I am writing inspirational quotes and poetry, I am writing down the cute things my nieces do that I want to remember, I am stopping at the end of the day to write down what I am grateful for. Fountain pens are part of these reflective activities; they make them more pleasurable, but they also slow me down. Thanks for the wonderful post and the encouragement to slow down and cherish life rather than hurry through it.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      I love the idea of having a book of quotes. I really need to start doing that. The right collection of words is such a huge motivating force for me.

      • MP

        Every morning, I wake up early, drink tea while I read, and then start my journal entry for the day with the date and a quotation. Then my regular day starts. It’s worth getting up 30-40 minutes earlier to start every work day this way.

      • Starchix

        I have a small bound notebook — green with gold flourishes — where I write down quotes I love. I started in 1981 with a few quotes from my old journals and poems, but soon I turned to anywhere and everywhere: letters from friends, quotes from books or magazines, poems, funny greeting cards, bon mots from the likes of Oscar Wilde, blogs, etc. I don’t organize them in any way, just write the new one on the next page in the book.

        Whenever I give a gift for birthday, wedding, special thank you, I choose a blank card and start with a quote, written with my fountain pen. At some point I starting making a small notation in my quote book of the date I added it, and now I also note the name and date when I share it with someone. After all this time, I now have a fascinating (to me) record of the many people I have shared poems with. Some I have shared may times, others just once or not at all. Reading over them occasionally brings me great pleasure, as I savor the words on my tongue. They are my own personal treasure chest of gold.

        In a way, I am rather surprised at how few I have gathered in 30+ years. I only write down things I really love, and my tastes have changed as I have gotten older — the quotes I savor reflect that. I am going to run out of pages soon, so I will be looking for a good blank notebook.

        Just a suggestion for people looking for quotes: any of Susan Branch’s wonderful books (and her blog). In her latest biographical volume (Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams), she talks about moving into her first little cottage there, and finding a little collection of a few items left by the previous owner, an anonymous old woman named Agnes. One of the books was a copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and she describes sitting down and reading it in the succeeding months. She has some lovely quotations culled from Bartlett, and she names other sources for quotations later in the book.

        When I saw that, I remembered: hey! I own a Bartlett’s! Why didn’t I think of looking there for quotations?! (Heading for the shelf where that old Bartlett’s is gathering dust……..)

        I’ll leave you with one of Susan’s quotations:
        “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” (Edith Wharton)

    • Stephanie

      MP – where do you get your quotes? I’d like to start a collection of quotes, or add them to my bullet journal daily. Thanks!

      • MP

        Basically, I just flag things from whatever reading I am doing and then copy one a day. Currently, I’m reading through a couple of religious texts, a book of sonnets, Getting Things Done, and some books I assign in my classes (I’m a teacher). I put a little post-it flag on anything that I find powerful and then I just choose one short quote to copy into my bullet journal every morning.

        I’m planning to start a common place book to start copying quotes into,and I want to categorize them by theme. This will give me a reference for finding quotes when I’m sending cards or writing to someone or want to encourage someone with a particularly relevant inspirational quotation. But I haven’t started the common place book quite yet. I need to put in a Goulet order for the paper I want to use. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Hope this is helpful.

        • Stephanie

          Yes, very helpful. Thanks MP!

        • Kevin Love

          John Donne?

  • jp7395

    I love this post, I want more posts like this on the blog.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. We will definitely try to offer more like it!

  • Robert Daลกek

    What a great post, Madigan! You captured precisely what getting into fountain pens has done for me. I feel that until I have put the pen to paper, my experiences are not cemented and truly part of me. Also what will your grandkids and their kids really know about you, if you don’t write about your life. Yes, they may know of you, but not much about you. I wish I had access to personal journals from my parents, their parents, and so on. I could be so much better connected to my family and what it’s meant over the centuries to be a part of it. I feel that records typed on computers or typewriters can never compare to a handwritten journal. There’s just not enough of the personal touch to convey the real personality of the person. Anyway, I love what you and Goulet pens do for this community and feel like it’s growing because of your fine efforts. Thank you!

  • Mark Lawson

    Most of my life I didn’t journal or anything. I only started in High School, and it’s been off an on from there. Looking back on that High School Journal though can really induce alot of facepalming. But it was worth it. I’ll probably look back in 10 years on my current journal with similar disdain ๐Ÿ™‚

    • it’s a sign of growth and learning ๐Ÿ™‚ Visible signs of progress

  • Mike West

    “Time,” yep, that’s the culprit, at least what I allow to be the culprit. As life progresses and our responsibilities and interests expand other slower activities tend to get pushed aside. My quest to get a bunch of tasks accomplished out weighs slower but potentially more beneficial activities. Last year I finally restarted a journal, and I’ve been faithful to that. I also committed, not too long ago, to write more letters. Well, I’ve written more than before in the last 20 years, but not near the amount I hoped to. I’m still trying to be faithful with my bullet journal. I got my wife started on one and she can’t put it down. One of the changes I’ve made is to write out my messages/sermons before putting them to MS Word. I’ve discovered how much more thought I give to the written page, as it slows me down to think. Plus, as you stated writing with a fountain pen with some nice ink is just plain boss!

  • William Eagleburger

    Great article, Madigan! I feel the same as you said about using fountain pens to write more. I’m borrowing your statement, if you don’t mind.

  • William Morris

    Indeed, a great blog post. Thank you.
    Let me pass on a top tip: Next time you need to contact customer services, some utility, government department, or large corporation, write them a letter. The customer service people you usually talk to don’t have the knowledge or authority to deal with your problems. A letter will skip about four tiers of management and land on someone’s desk who will not just be trying to get rid of you. It may take longer, but the results are well worth it!
    Even if you type your final letter, write your drafts in ink. First, it’s therapeutic, and secondly, making notes, corrections and insertions is much easier than on screen because you have a clear record of your thought process.
    So, keep writing!

  • Starchix

    I have kept a journal since college days, in the 1960’s. Actually, I started before that, but at some point I went back and reread the high school volumes and they were so excruciatingly banal and neurotically teenaged that I actually burned them. The only time I stopped was during the earliest years of my marriage, when I was just so deeply interwoven on all levels — mentally, emotionally and physically — with my sweetheart that I shared everything verbally and there was no energy left for writing. I am now sorry I don’t have a written record of those 2-3 years, but honestly, after all these years, even without them, I have accrued …. I don’t even know how many volumes of filled journal books. I have gone through phases — 3-ring binders were a favorite through college and beyond, succeeded by bound volumes — but most have been 8.5″ X 11″ so that is LOT of volumes. Several shelves full!

    I go back and reread occasionally, and am torn between impatience with my younger self at times — “honey, CHILL!” or “let it go” or “listen to yourself here, you are really onto something big: pay attention!” — and embarrassment and compassion. There’s plenty of pretty mundane stuff, lots of repetition, but also hidden gems that I’m proud to have written. More ranting and raving than positive, but heck, I figure letting off steam is a lot of what a journal is for.

    I was originally inspired to start keeping a journal regularly when I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was in, probably 7th grade. At first I tried to follow Anne’s model, of thinking of my diary as a person and talking to it. But I soon gave that up and found my own voice. I am so grateful I began, and continued — my journal has been my best friend, my best mirror, my most loyal advocate and demanding teacher, through most of my life. And 99% of it has been written — ta da — with fountain pens, which I started using in 7th or 8th grade. It is also fun to see how my handwriting has changed through the decades. And to trace the ongoing evolution of my pen and ink choices. The ante was upped considerably when I discovered Goulet pens 3 or 4 years ago. I acquired a few more pens and lots of ink. And I came to think of myself as normal rather than odd. Well…… at least when it comes to pens. I too love the feeling of the nib moving across the page, and the look of the ink flowing out.

    As Lloyd J Reynolds, amazing Oregon calligraphy teacher who sparked a calligraphy renaissance in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest said:

    “Letters on a page are only what remains of the movement, the dance of the pen. Like a deer in the snow who is gone in a moment, what is left is only the tracks.”

  • Lu Anne Balfrey Patrick

    An amazing piece of writing here!! I think it spoke to a lot of us!! It’s so easy to put writing aside when life gets busy. These wonderful fountain pens help bring the magic back to writing though. I love writing letters with my pens!! More posts like this one!! Loved it!!

  • CJ

    Great article that I’m sure resonates with many!

    When I had a major job change 4 years ago, I realized that I had been typing on a keyboard for the last ~20 years and I set out to revisit the joys of writing by hand. In that quest, I found fountain pens, quality paper, and Goulet Pens ๐Ÿ™‚

    I never really journaled regularly and I’m still rather sporadic at it now, but I do try to find the time (yes, I agree with the majority here that TIME is one of the reasons I don’t handwrite things as often as I did when I was younger) to put in an entry here and there. Additionally, I’ve been learning new things and reading the type of books where taking notes helps a lot….and I’m writing those notes by hand with my Goulet Pens fountain pens ๐Ÿ™‚

    There is a special kind of joy and a more noticeable connection to our thoughts and feelings when writing by hand that just isn’t present when typing on a keyboard–no matter the topic/subject–and I’m absolutely thrilled to have re-discovered it!

  • Susana

    OMG, where do I start? I’ve always loved writing, and have been doing it for a long time. But, loving computers, many times I wanted to keep a digital journal. Pen and paper sometimes can be cumbersome, heavy and difficult to transport. This took me on a journey on digital tech for writing, and I’ve done quite a few projects that gave excellent results. But journals (either written, video or digital) get lost or damaged, and it’s really difficult to keep track.
    I love digital records, although I love my pen collection (been collecting pens for 30 years) I don’t use them for writing diaries no more. The normal problem: things get lost. Maybe some day I’ll be able to get around to that, maybe scanning records and keeping them offsite.
    Kudos for those that still keep pen and paper records.

  • Gary

    My problem isn’t writing, it is using my fountain pen for said writing. I engage in creative meanderings all the time on my computer, wether it is in Facebook posts or in my academic writing, but I have found it increasingly hard to put that fountain pen to paper. Some of us laugh about only having a few pages filled out in a journal and then putting it down for the next project. I would personally like to change my habits and perhaps spend more time with pen and paper. It really is difficult though. It’s like I expend all of that creativity on my computer screen leaving nothing left for the written page.

  • Londe-ji

    I used to love changing my handwriting when I was in High School. But I let it go in college. I needed speed more than legibility. Now I hate my handwriting. Rediscovering fountain pens has reawakened the joy I used to find in writing beautifully.