Our blog has always been a place for honest and authentic story telling. Featuring tales of food poisoning, anxiety, bucket list let downs, a night spent in a frozen yurt, and one account of an aborted colonoscopy, we’ve always hoped that Twins That Travel is a relatable sort of space. As bona fide ‘over-sharers’, we’ve written stories that we hope are intimate and real, offering tales that convey a special moment (or, at the very least, warn of the perils of undercooked chicken).
However, I sometimes wonder if we’re really able to achieve this. Is it possible to bring about authenticity whilst hidden behind a computer screen? And when reading blog posts, are readers really able to gauge your tone of voice? To appreciate what’s being conveyed? I often wonder if reading neatly typed text, on a neatly displayed screen, fully conveys our thoughts, emotions, ideas, memories and experiences in all of their messy, fragmented, creative, and non-linear glory.
Not long ago, I was looking through a pile of letters and postcards that I’d sent my Grandma over the years. Some were lovely – short poems about our day together, complete with a little drawing of us both. Others were more disturbing, my shaky handwriting reading in capital letters: ‘I am nine, not three’. Beneath is an angry drawing of a red face. On one postcard, sent from Spain, I write not line-by-line, but in a circle; the words apparently ‘made dizzy’ during their flight home.
These letters are not neatly spaced or error free, but the messy reflection of my nine-year old self: full of scribbles, crossing outs, doodles and that classic ‘bubble writing’ that haunted the 1990s. Had I been reading a blog version of these letters, carefully typed and clinically presented, I’m not sure the effect would have been so personal – so genuine.
Perhaps the same applies to blogging. When it comes to capturing and sharing our authentic and personal experiences, could it be that as long as a screen stands in the way, our efforts don’t quite hit the mark?
Is there therefore another way to bring these experiences to life?
For 130 years, Parker Pen have been creating beautifully crafted writing instruments, inspired by the curiosity of their founder: George S. Parker. An avid traveller, Mr. Parker spent a lifetime travelling the world with just a pen and journal; capturing those small moments that might otherwise go unnoticed. As we all clamour for that perfect Instagram shot, or worry about an ‘SEO’ worthy blog post, it’s now easier than ever to neglect these little scenes: the early morning mist over a Provençal village, or the smell of coffee on the streets of Florence. Perhaps our memories lack the intimacy and depth that Mr. Parker’s would have enjoyed; experiences that he expressed by pen, rather than by keyboard.
In an effort to re-inspire this intimacy and remind us of the importance of capturing these indescribable moments, Parker Pen have released a unique collection of Sonnet Special Edition ‘World Into Words’ pens. Not only beautifully crafted – featuring four unique designs – the pens are built with a mission in mind: to reacquaint us with the art of writing, and with it, the opportunity to capture and share those smaller, more intimate experiences of travel.
It is a campaign we fully support and one we’ve already begun to implement: my small notebook already filled with memories of a frosty morning in Cumbria and the sound of Christmas bells in Vienna. Taking the time to reach for my Parker Pen, rather than automatically head to my keyboard, has been an unexpectedly enlightening experience; forcing me to re-think how writing (rather than typing) has enhanced my own experience of travel.
Below is therefore a little list of my ‘findings’; a list that I hope might just inspire you to reinvest your time in your trusty fountain pen.
‘The strokes of the Pen need deliberation as much as the Sword need its swiftness’.
There’s something a little flippant about writing on a laptop – a little temporary. You can put a few sentences down before deleting them all, erasing your initial thoughts and memories for something that might sound a little nicer; read a little better; inspire a little more. You might also write for hours with the knowledge that you’ll go back and edit the text after. As such, your words tumble out a little half-heartedly and without too much thought, forming a ten page ‘dump’ of verbs and adjectives.
When it comes to writing on a laptop, I now realise, words lose their value: they can be immediately replaced, deleted, improved upon or added to. No need to worry about them too much; these things can be changed.
When it comes to writing with a Parker Pen, however, every word counts. Knowing that there’s no delete button or ‘copy and paste’ option, you’re forced to slow down and pick your words carefully – thoughtfully. When writing in my travel journal on the way home from Vienna, I spent not only half of my time recalling certain moments from my trip, but deciding – sometimes painfully slowly – how to describe them.
As a result, I found that I was forced to think more carefully not only about my experiences, but to slow down the process by which I recorded them. Nothing was instant or fleeting – no quick Tweet or Instagram upload – but instead it was a process filled with a thoughtfulness and intention. Something that the online world can often lack.
‘Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers’.
Not long ago, I visited the house of Jane Austen. A surprisingly cosy and unassuming redbrick house in the heart of Hampshire, it was surreal to think that this was the place where the likes of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett appeared from Jane Austen’s head, dancing across the pages of her manuscript.
I’ve read a few of Jane Austen’s books (including one that ended up as an interrogation thanks to a demanding university professor), and while they were no doubt a lovely read, it was difficult to imagine Jane as the author – to hear her voice through the neatly typed pages.
Yet, inside Jane’s house, this all changed. Laid out on her small wooden desk were her original manuscripts; piles and piles of paper covered in the most beautiful, italic and cursive handwriting. Although she’d been fastidious and tried to keep any scribbles to a minimum, it was incredible to see her famous words written by hand – her own hand. It felt incredibly personal and intimate to read her thoughts as they ran down the sides of each page, recording the twists and turns of her decision making.
Since writing more in my own journal and writing more postcards (an underrated pastime), I’ve also noticed how much more personal the effect is. Rather than my memories being sanitised thanks to Microsoft Word – neatly spaced and in a Times New Roman font – when I write with my Parker Pen, my memories feel more authentically my own; written in my own irritatingly changeable handwriting. My words are different, my style is different and the memories that I record are different. As such, I hope that there’s an authenticity in these little notebooks; a hint of what might lack in my online musings.
Writing is no doubt a tactile experience. Whilst typing has its own feel and pace, writing with a Parker Pen is a wholly different experience.
Past being able to write in neat paragraphs and insert photographs, there’s not a lot I’m able to do when it comes to writing on my laptop. At best, I might be able to insert a box or a bit of dated clip-art . Indeed, perhaps I’m only just starting to realise how much my creative freedom is curtailed by these digital documents and their ever-so-neat borders.
When it comes to putting pen to paper, however, everything changes. On paper you can write additional thoughts and amends down the side. You can trace someone’s creative process by spotting their crossing outs and scribbles. You can add drawings or doodles, new styles of writing or new phrasing. You can, as I did aged nine, write in a circle if you want to.
When it comes to recording my own travel memories, the chance to operate outside of Microsoft Word’s strictly linear world has been an experience that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I have. My pages are not neat or carefully aligned, but a jumble of sentences and drawings, words and ideas – some underlined, others crossed out. To many, it might look a mess, but to me it’s the opportunity to truly represent my experiences and memories of a trip. When looking back through these journals, I can remember why things were added and why things were changed, I can even remember why a small smiley face was added to the corner of the page.
Being able to be that little bit more creative through the use of a Parker Pen has enabled me to no doubt record and express my travel experiences better than ever. They may not be written in the most glittering of prose, or even last more than a few sentences, but they have a vibrancy that a typed document so often lacks.
A Silicon Valley CEO once described the email as a ‘task list that’s created for you by someone else’. It’s a quote that I both love and despise: one that perfectly sums up the constant demands of this digital world and the reactive need to spend our days completing tasks with others in mind.
When it comes to blogging, this is certainly true. As much as I hope that Twins That Travel remains something of an online journal for us both – a place that captures and records the incredibly exciting journey that we’ve been on over the past few years – the truth is that often its content is created with others in mind. Whether it be an itinerary we know our audience have asked for, or a review stipulated by an airline: what we write, when we write and how we write, can often be dictated by someone else entirely.
When wondering how to overcome his email task list, Silicon Valley CEO Chris Sacca, found his solution not at his computer – but elsewhere: in the form of a pen and notepad. From here, he simply made notes of the most obvious and important things he needed to do (deduced from his emails) and left the rest of his mail unanswered. By taking himself offline – and using just his pen – Chris found himself back in control.
After two months recording my experiences and memories with just a Parker Pen and journal, I’ve found the same to be true. The space between the pen and my notepad has become a personal one: one to be enjoyed by me and only me. I’m not writing whilst gazing forwards; an anonymous audience waiting on the other side of the screen. Instead, I’m on my sofa or in bed, looking downwards and inwards. The result has been an opportunity to reclaim some control over my writing: allowing me to write what I like, when I like. I might write just a sentence or two, or I might write a few thousand words – but with a Parker Pen in hand, the decision is mine.
Thanks to Parker Pen and their ‘World Into Words’ campaign, it’s been fascinating to note the difference between recording my travel experiences by pen, rather than by keyboard. It’s been an experience that’s not only thrown up a few surprising lessons, but one that’s enabled me to reclaim an authenticity to my writing and ultimately, be reminded of the pleasure that can be found in the written word.
For your own chance to rejoin the world of the written word, we are giving away one beautifully presented Stratum Fountain Pen, in collaboration with Parker Pen. For details on how to enter, please head over to this Instagram image. The winner will be announced on 14th December, 2018. All terms and conditions can be found here. Good luck!