Sunday, March 16, 2014

OSD: The Pilot kakuno white and Writing Japanese

Obsessive Stationery Disorder

I bought a soft blue kakuno white last Thursday partially as retail therapy and partially because it was a color combination I liked from a pen that I originally liked except for the colors. Turns out, I love the pen and can't stop using it.

So much, in fact, that I had to replace the cartridge today.

I've had this pen for just a little over a week.
It's such an easy pen to use. The grip is triangular so you hold it properly and it sits so comfortably in my hand. Plus unlike what I would probably do with a fancy fountain pen, I'm comfortable with carrying this around and letting it get banged around and touch other pens (because pen addicts aren't okay with that). And the black cartridge ink dries quickly, giving me no reason to not use it.

Thankfully I just bought some cartridges when I picked up a lilac kakuno white for my mom (and exercising some serious self control and not buying a pink M-nib one to fill with pink ink just because it looks so damn good).

As I used the pen, my desire to improve my writing grew stronger. I write a lot of English every day for work, so hopefully a bit of extra thought into the process of writing will help there. Japanese, on the other hand, all of that was self-taught with a bit of support from my mother. As a result, I can only write about twenty kanji without looking (and of those only about ten by heart), my stroke order is atrocious, and my proportions are totally off.

I've tried practice books, mostly for children by choice, and more recently, apps, but they don't stick. To be blatantly honest, they bore me and the necessity to write kanji doesn't exist. At this point in my life, typing Japanese is enough. If you can read kanji, you can type kanji. The same way predictive text and spell check are killing spelling skills. But that isn't going to cut it forever.

So I picked up a Tensei Jingo workbook. Tensei Jingo 天声人語 (or "Vox populi vox dei") is a daily column in the Asahi Newspaper that began back in 1904. It's a short essay about current events consisting of exactly 603 characters (including punctuation). Elementary schools have been using it as an exercise in writing and expressing opinions for years. The workbooks have gained popularity outside the classroom and there are currently five versions of the workbook.

I got the one that has basics on writing Japanese characters and guidelines in each square to help with proportions. I also found an app where I can read the Tensei Jingo of the day on my iPad. The current plan is to copy one article every time I visit my grandmother. I did the first one last week; it took forever, my hand cramp lasted for a full day, and I totally pressed down too hard with my pen.


But a journey of a thousand steps, right? I felt accomplished when I finished the article and I already got an idea of how some hiragana are supposed to look. (Not only do I not know stroke order, but I also learned to write by copying printed Japanese, so it's like learning to write the alphabet by copying Times New Roman from newspapers; it works, but it's not quite right nor natural looking.)

Having a pen I love is really making the process so much more fun. I'm always itching for a reason to use it and so practice has become time to play with my pen. A win-win.

Let's see what happens after the fountain pen shopping trip on Friday. :)


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