Clean Slate

6 days ago it was Christmas. Yesterday was my birthday. Today is New Year’s Eve.

There’s a lot of pressure during November/December here in America. Some folks love it, and I used to really get into Christmas especially, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to like this little two week stretch because I’ve realized I can celebrate how I want to, and on my best years, that means I take this time for rest, reflection and recovery, letting the holidays and birthday slide by, a tip of the hat to them, instead of rearranging my life to let them stay for a few weeks.

So to that end, here’s some end of the year thoughts to help revive the blog.


2015 was full, and a few months ago I started to realize/see that my year had been full of the wrong things. Not even bad things, just… the wrong things. I’ve known it for awhile, but 2015 was the year I finally felt clear-headed enough to watch in some small amount of horror as I kept getting lost, week after week. Getting caught up in a wave of work and exhaustion and personal hang ups and all sorts of unpleasant things, but more surprising than that, how much I could get carried away by the good things in life too, baking, pens, poetry, friends, stuff I love.

It’s not that the things were bad, but I was just going through the motions, and “keeping up” with certain things in the most slapdash way possible. To make it more concrete, with baking, I got caught in a cycle of baking just to say “Well I baked this week.” I didn’t focus on perfecting or refining, just baking without any focus, when I really wanted to be baking with an eye towards increasing production, consistent results, and moving more towards selling loaves to friends and coworkers. But after an entire year of baking a truly crazy number of loaves, I’m exactly where I was last year at this time with regards to most of those things.

And with stationery it was similar. I cut way way back on purchases in 2015, but even so I found myself buying just to buy, and then barely using anything. There were months where I’m pretty sure I maybe used a fountain pen twice, at most. I wasn’t writing poetry, journaling, or even really taking notes for work/on what I was reading. I wanted to stay in the “pen world” and for a lot of 2015 that just meant buying things that would sit.

In both cases I knew I wasn’t pleased, but was so caught up in the doing, the day to day, that I never took steps to change my habits. When I finally noticed and started to ask myself what needed to happen, I realized I didn’t know one very, very important thing.

What the hell do I want?

Now there’s a whole conversation we could have about how you don’t need to have it all figured out to make the first step and there’s value in just doing stuff sometimes, sure, yes. But for me I’ve realized if I don’t have a plan at all or a goal of some sort, I get caught up in the doing and never stop to make sure what I’m doing will actually help me get to a place of making/doing the things that matter to me.

A good chunk of this realization has been helped along by something I’ll write about more at a later date. For now though, just a quick recommendation for Shawn Blanc’s free The Elements of Focus course (I think it’s still available here) It helped take a lot of scattered thoughts and turn them into coherent thoughts that led to action. I went ahead and dropped the money on the big course and am excited to get it going soon.

Wait, So, What Is This Post About?

Earlier this year, I read a post by Pete Denison, that really resonated with me. His point, or one of them at least, was that your blog is YOURS. If you update once a month, that’s fine if that’s what you want to be doing. If you update every day about the same pen for three years, that’s fine if that’s what you want your blog to be. Your blog is yours, so don’t apologize if things are “off topic” or if you had to take a break. Own it, and worry less about your readers and more about making sure that this personal project is really personal, really yours.

I’m going to start using this blog as a space for checking-in in 2016. Here’s what I baked, here’s what I wrote, here’s what I used. Some of that will be reviews of stationery products and even baking supplies and books. Some of that will be walk throughs of a bake, and some of that may just be rambling posts where I check in on these two things I like so much, baking and pens.

Some types of posts I’m thinking about/starting on:
- tools of the trade : what do I use on a daily basis, at work, at home, while baking, etc. in the realm of stationery the first up is a post to go up the 1st on my notebook set up for the first few months of 2016.
- new habits: I want to journal more regularly, and spend more time dedicated to poetry, and take better notes on bread bakes, a lot of these things would naturally revolve around notebooks/pens anyway
- weekly bake plans and results
- load-outs
- occasional reviews
- hell, book reviews possibly?
- and finally, whatever the hell else I want to write!

The focus of this blog will always be pens and bread, they’re things I both love using/making as well as things I like talking/writing about. But in the spirit of Pete’s post, I’m going to start writing about more than just the two things in the title. For example, when my favorite podcast hit 400 episodes I wanted to write something about it, but didn’t feel like I could here on the blog, so I let it slide on by. Which is a shame, because it was an opportunity to draft a post with pen and ink, and re-listen to this podcast I’ve spent literally over a thousand hours with, easily, and share a little more of myself on the blog.

To sum up then? 2016 will be the year I make Ink and Flour a little more like me. A little more weird, a little more scattered, a little more personal. Hope you join me.

Sharing the Love

Buying someone a pen is complicated. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably spent time, consciously or not, thinking about your preferences. You could explain (in exhaustive detail, even!) why you want pen A vs pen B, and why that pen you once loved is now uninked and not in rotation, etc. etc. If you’re reading this, you probably also like to extol the virtues of pen fandom to friends and family, even going as far as offering to buy someone a starter pen to help kickstart the habit.

Call it an aversion to proselytizing, but in general I tend to only blather about pens to people who express interest on their own. And I’ve done some consulting with these folks to help them find a pen. It’s a process I enjoy, and my method (which I’m sure I’ll blog about at some point) seems to help people narrow down vague pre-existing preferences into something a little more nuanced/complete. It’s satisfying when you can find a person’s perfect fit. Tastes change of course so no one’s perfect pen will be their perfect pen forever, but watching someone fall in love with a writing instrument is a particular joy for the pen addict.

And I’ve had successes. Watching a friend open his Zebra F-701 for the first time, and exclaim “oh this really is perfect!” is great. And pushing him to mod it to fit a fisher refill and exchange for a metal nock? Even better. But he asked for help. Despite everything I said above, there’s the occasional person who I just want to win over. For whatever reason even if they have little to no interest, I tell myself I’ve picked up on a glimmer of latent pen fandom, and I decide with or without their help, I will find them the perfect pen.

Enter L.


We’ve known each other for… 12 years? Maybe slightly longer if you count the internet. And she is the furthest thing from a pen addict. She is a woman of preferences, strongly held ones, but pens are just tools to her. I was determined to solve this problem I invented. I asked her a couple times if she had any pens at work she liked, and got a blurry picture of a rollerball. Had her try some pens here and there, but it was always quick and offhand. What I gathered was that she wanted a heavy pen, with a cap, a smooth and juicy rollerball, and had no interest in being part of the decision process really.

The Render K seemed promising, but at the time I only had the white delrin version which she was less than impressed by. A couple weeks ago Mr. Mike Dudek of the great, great blog The Clicky Post posted that Kara’s Kustoms were closing out their Raw Bar Stock Render K. Immediately I knew I’d found L’s pen and ordered one the same day.


It’s a heavy thing, unpolished, unfinished, just a raw metal tube with the lightest of shaping. By pen review metrics there are a lot of downsides here. It’s rife with imperfections and doesn’t post, for example, but all of the things you could dock it for are the reasons it’s such a beautiful thing. And more importantly, are the exact things I thought would make L love it. It feels good in your hand, and doesn’t fade away like some pens can. It’s always present, heavy, and asserting itself while you use it.


Happily I was right. It took about five minutes and a few skeptical looks for L. to fall in love.

Me : “I put a broad rollerball refill in it.”

L. : “Oh you do know me.”

Two days later I watched her write “this pen this pen this pen this pen” absentmindedly while we watched tv, and a week or so later got a text “I can take this on the plane with me, right?”. It won’t be the perfect pen forever, but it’s her perfect pen for now. And while I’m sure she won’t become a pen addict, it’s still supremely satisfying to see how much she enjoys using it.

And the inevitable epilogue? The day I handed over the pen to L. I bought myself one. What can I say, I’m a pen addict.