That Exam Pen Feeling

A4 - Revision Plan

I’m going to make an assumption here. I’m going to assume that you have bought an ‘exam pen’ in the past.

You know the situation. Due to the feelings you had the previous year of being rushed and having to cram for exams at the last minute, you are now a changed person. You have fantastic intentions of studying and revising well in advance for this year. Why, you might even get ahead of the curve and have revision completed so far in advance that you can walk, no – strut, into the exam room with the confidence that you’ll be able to answer any question thrown your way – as long as it is on the syllabus of course. But you are not going to reach that stage without confronting the most important job of all, and it is one that needs completing before all other study can commence. You need a new ‘exam pen’.

Only with a brand new exam pen will you have the drive, impetus and luck you need to confidently sail through those exams. It is time and money well spent.

If you are like me, you’ll have probably spent half a day or so buying a pen (probably around the £3-£4 mark), maybe even a mechanical pencil to go with it, and dare I say a brand new A4 refill pad?

In the ensuing days, you’ll use this new stationery to produce a careful, considered and very ambitious revision plan – a thing of beauty. Two weeks later, you’ll use the same pen to ‘redraft’ the revision timetable given that a fortnight has passed without any accompanying work. Another month later and more revision of the plan will be performed; iteration after iteration.

Eventually, enough unproductive time passes that your latest revision timetable includes various assumptions such as “I only need to sleep for 4 hours on weekdays” and “As long as 2 of the main 5 topics don’t come up, I’m still good.” The day of the exam will arrive, and your exam pen will be misplaced somewhere, hence you will simply grab a pile of reliable Bic biros and they will serve you admirably (and you’ll only need to use one because they NEVER run out).

A few weeks later, you’ll stumble across your exam pen, think “Ah, that’s where it was” and simply leave it there because you are in the middle of the ridiculously long summer holidays and you have absolutely no need to pick up a pen or pencil until the education system says you need to.

Does any of that sound familiar?

If not, then I may have misjudged you, but if so, I’m guessing many of you have experienced that warm, comforting feeling when you’ve found a pen or pencil that feels ‘just right’. It’s a great feeling knowing that you have found a trustworthy friend to rely upon to transfer thoughts and ideas from your head onto paper. And all this without causing blisters, sweatiness or the dreaded ‘hand-ache’. Not too light, not too heavy. Not too bulky, not too slender. A pen Goldilocks herself would be proud of. It’s that ‘Exam Pen’ feeling. Stationery is great.

If you’ve chosen the path of author and/or illustrator, that ‘Exam Pen’ feeling doesn’t need to cease when exams do – you’ll need several trustworthy ‘pen friends’ to help you through the ups and downs of the literary world. Let me tell you about three of the ones I use (pencil, fineliner and ‘posh’ pen!). I’d love to hear whether you have experienced the ‘exam pen’ feeling and what was the pen/pencil involved? Any recommendations are also gratefully received – only 2 of my 3 are definite ‘keepers’ and I am always keen to test drive others!

Mechanical Pencil

I discovered my first ‘keeper’ around 18 months ago. I’m always doodling/scribbling/sketching, call it what you will. I will usually use whatever pen or pencil I can get my hands on, but I always try to make sure I’ve got a mechanical pencil with me. After trying various different makes and models, I am very happy that I eventually stumbled across the “Uni Kuru Toga” – I think I’ve definitely found my pencil partner for life.

The Kuru Toga - including that worn down rubber - arrrggghhh!

The Kuru Toga – including that worn down rubber – arrrggghhh!

They’re a bit pricey for a Yorkshireman like me at around £6-£7, but I recently stumbled across a decent offer in Hobbycraft and stocked up! They’re really well made and I think one pencil would probably last a lifetime with replacement leads apart from that one frustrating weakness that all mechanical pencils seem to have – a teeny tiny rubber that also acts as a ‘plug’ for the lead chamber. This means that when the rubber is worn down (inevitable when your kids borrow them!), there is no easy way to replace the leads – arrrrgggggh!!

Fineliners

Black fineliners are another necessary tool for my doodles. The first brand I started to use consistently is the “Uni Pin” fine line series. They come in all thicknesses, which are clearly shown on the cap. My only minor gripe is that the thickness written on the barrel is very small, so it sometimes is a faff to match up the lids with the respective pens if you have been using a few at a time. That’s very picky of me though! If you are in any doubt as to what can be achieved with these fineliners, have a look at www.kerbyrosanes.com to see what he produces with them – amazing!

Uni Pin vs Pigma Micron - who wins?!

Uni Pin vs Pigma Micron – who wins?!

The second brand I’ve been using is the “Pigma Micron” series – these were a Christmas present from my wife who had sought advice regarding them. I’m impressed with them and they feel to have more rounded nibs than the Uni versions. They also show the pen thickness quite clearly on the barrel.

I can’t really decide between the two brands, so do let me know if you have any other contenders!

Fountain Pen

And finally, my second ‘keeper’ and my poshest pen by far – my ‘contract pen’! This is a fountain pen that I bought second hand from eBay for about £50 a few years ago following a promotion at work.  As far as I’m aware, it a Mont Blanc Noblesse and I love it – I’ve even bought proper ink for it! It suits my hand and tastes as it has a slender but weighty barrel, and the nib is nicely understated.

A luxury pen - and look how amazing the ink bottle is!

A luxury pen – and look how amazing the ink bottle is!

I was actually trying to find and buy a particular pen made by Elsyee (very similar to the Noblesse) for nostalgic reasons – I had previously bought the Elysee pen with one of my first ever ‘proper pay packets’ back in 1993 from a little shop in Halifax – I still have the box and receipt. That original pen went ‘missing’ during an electronics workshop at university. For legal reasons, l’d like to make it clear that this is definitely NOT an allegation that the tutor took it!

Anyway, back to my posh pen – I don’t use this every day for a couple of reasons:

1) I find you can’t do things very fast with a fountain pen!

2) I’m left-handed, which means I usually manage to get more ink on my little finger than on the page!

However, after writing this blog, I think I’ll make a conscious effort to use it where and when I can. It will DEFINITELY be used to sign my first publishing contract and all those that subsequently follow!

So there you have it. My first blog. My wife has just said “Are you going to blog about anything more exciting than pens?!” – I didn’t rise to the bait.

This is my first ever blog post and I plan to do this once a month, so do click that follow button if you want notifications, or comment if you’d like a response. Right, I’m off to use my ‘contract pen’ to write up a neat plan for my blogs for the rest of the year. Let’s see if I have to revise that plan in a month or whether this is a timetable I can actually stick to!

Cheers,

Ben

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