The Pen Is Mightier…

I bought myself a treat the other day: a handcrafted pen by Gunnar Langemark of Langemark Pens (site in Danish).

Gorgeous pen from Langemark Pens

I was struck by the beauty of the colors of this pen.

The black wood is “bog oak” – oak that has been buried in a bog for hundreds of years, even thousands. This particular bog oak comes from the area around Roskilde, Denmark. One of Gunnar Langemark’s friends discovered it when he was out riding in the forest.

The lighter colored wood (my photograph doesn’t do it justice) is called “Purple Heart”, which is a popular name for a tree that is native to Central and South America. It has a nondescript story, but it is beautiful to hold and behold.

Gunnar has videos on his site so you can see how he makes the pens. I hope you can sense the care he puts into bringing these bits of wood to life again.

Most of my writing is on computers these days, but owning a gorgeous pen seems a must. It is like having a magic wand – as though I can write powerfully and beautifully when I set this pen to paper. Maybe it can be my muse and inspire my writing. I will definitely use it for any important notes, and I may even doodle with it!

Today has been an odd day in history. It started out with news of twins being born to the Danish crown prince and princess. It ends with the sad news of a tragic shooting in Arizona. I planned to write a blog post today, but the news of the shooting affected my mood. Discussions of “violent rhetoric” had floated by on today’s twitter stream, and when I saw my pen on the desk, the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” came to mind. I thought about the way we communicate these days: we need criticism, but it should be given in a constructive and open manner.

This year, I want to be more conscious about penning my thoughts and ideas in a way that can build and encourage constructive discussions. If I get involved in discussions that have a negative slant, I hope I have the strength to refrain from participating in the negative talk and the courage to bring up more positive angles. This pen will be a symbol of this wish.

Rebooting my writing from reboot11

I am about to clean up my notes from all my reboot11 sessions from the past two days. Let’s see what a somewhat good night’s sleep has done for my thoughts. I know it has helped me to function (assisted by some coffee).

These notes must get done as soon as possible because they are part of the reboot11 book project. This post is just to ground myself. Later, I know I will be blogging even more personal impressions on these talks because they all affected me very strongly. They revealed possible and necessary road signs for many of the activities in my life right now (such as STC).

Here is the lineup:

  • Matt Webb – the guy who co-authored “Mind Hacks”
  • Dave Winer – RSS or podcasting, anyone?
  • David Weinberger – think “Cluetrain Manifesto”
  • Francesca Birks – the bottom UP cities
  • Steve Coast – the OpenStreetMap project
  • Andrew Turner – the geospatial web
  • Leisa Reichalt – Drupal7 UX project
  • Matthias Müller-Prove – the co-evolution of humans and tools
  • Tor Nørretranders – writing the guide to rebooting civilization
  • Alexander Kjerulf – tips to stimulate action
  • JP Rangaswami – voice in the context of action
  • Stowe Boyd – new spatialism
  • Christian Sejersen – Mobile Mozilla
  • Euan Semple – helping the non-geeks catch up (spoke from my heart and soul)
  • Lee Bryant – looking for the 21st century stories
  • Niels Hartvig – (of Umbraco fame) open sourcing your projects
  • Ole Qvist-Sørensen – graphic facilitation
  • Rikard Falkvinge – pirates in the Swedish parliament
  • Bruce Sterling – favela-chic

The phrase “mind-blowing” got stuck in my mind Thursday morning when this event started. I hope it never leaves.

A muse for the new year

A new day. A new year. This is like receiving a new notebook or a new pad of paper! Joy! I know there is lots of work waiting for me when I get back to my job tomorrow. Over the coming days, the quantity of grey hairs may increase, and choice, blog-unfriendly words may cross my lips, or at least, be uttered in my head as I face deadlines and dig through my tasks. Despite the occasional (well, maybe not so occasional) moment of Utter Grouchiness caused by these tasks, I am, at heart, an optimist, and I do look forward to the whatever challenges I encounter in 2008.

My excitement is due to a recent addition to my writing toolkit. I found a wonderful muse!

As an appetizer, look at how she bids farewell to 2007. Or read how she greets the new year. Next, dig in with the story of Three Billys and Two Johnnys. Round off the introduction with a grape. Bliss!

Why should a technical communicator get all excited about this blog? Shouldn’t I be more concerned about which tool to write with, how I should layout my documents, and how I communicate the necessary information to the reader of my documentation? Well, yeah. Of course.

But I also use words. And sentences. And paragraphs. There is no magic wand to wave that glues the words, the sentences, the paragraphs together in a nice pattern. My brain cells have to labor to get that job done. They need nourishment for that task, of course, and one of the best sources of nourishment is inspiration. What better source of inspiration is there than reading other writers?

“Click the red button” may not be the awe-inspiring phrase of the year outside of the circle of technical writers (and even there…hmmmm!) Efforts for technical communicators to get involved in the design phase can also eliminate the need for words in some cases. Still, words play a huge role in my work, so I am always looking for ideas and inspiration for my writing. Words can contain so much beauty, power, and strength when handled just so, and it is a joy to find examples of well-crafted writing that is rich in content. I think that moments spent reading beautiful and inspiring writing can only have a positive effect, even when writing simple exhortations to click red buttons.

The addition of Patti Digh’s 37 Days blog to my writing toolkit (my Google Reader) is going to provide me with many such moments.

Thank you, Patti!

PS And thanks to Nancy White for introducing me to 37 days (not the original post that tipped me off – couldn’t find it).