It’s not you, it’s me

Update: I’ve added to my for sale page as I start to wind down.

Time for contemplation

I’m just coming up to the third full year writing UK Fountain Pens.

I started the blog because I had things I wanted to say about stationery and my journey through it, and all the things I was learning.

Because I enjoy writing, and wanted an outlet for my words beyond what I create in my dayjob.

But also because I wanted to see if I could make a success of it, from a standing start.

I’m proud of what I’ve achieved

So has it been a success? Yes, by any measure.

For a start, I’ve published more than 300 blogs, including more than a hundred full reviews, totalling 250,000 words. Quantity isn’t success by itself, but I have proved to myself that no matter what’s going on in my life, whether I’m away on a work trip, in hospital with a sick child, or just on holiday, I can knuckle down and do the work — even meeting the fixed commitment of a weekly roundup post.

More important to me is the reaction I’ve had from readers. Hundreds of people have left comments or sent emails thanking me for my work, saying I’ve helped them find a pen they love, or most gratifying of all, just saying they love the way I write. Some have even donated money, or gifts. And I consider many to be friends.

In my heart, reading back over some of my old posts, I’m still proud of the content and the words. Around 200 pens and about as many inks have crossed my desk, meaning I now know loads about stationery. I am a true expert, and I’m proud of the insight I can bring to my readers.

I’ve also been gratified to feel like a recognised part of a global community. Many of the pen bloggers I admire link to or respond to my posts regularly, and the buzz of reading the weekly newsletters, looking for a mention, still makes me smile. The first day that Google News hit me with a tidal wave of traffic made all the bloggers’ referral metrics look tiny, but I would take hearing Brad read out one of my posts on the Pen Addict podcast over that any day.

The metrics have been a source of satisfaction, though. I remember in 2018 being thrilled to hit just under 100k views; this year I have tripled that number with room to spare. In three years I’ve had nearly half a million views.

Working on the blog I’ve been lucky enough to build relationships with lots of wonderful brands and retailers, who care as much about stationery as I do. Many have been generous enough to ask me for feedback and trust me with their products, knowing that my readers trust me to write honest reviews that carry weight. I didn’t start the blog to get free stuff, but I can’t say it’s not exciting to hear the postman knocking, even today.

Now here’s the “but” you’ve been waiting for.

What do you do when your hobby becomes a problem?

I’m increasingly feeling that UK Fountain Pens is taking more from me than it’s giving.

I’m not running out of things to write about: quite the opposite, I have dozens of ideas for posts that I still want to write.

But I have an obsessive personality, and the blog has an almost limitless capacity to encourage that obsessiveness. It’s a black hole and takes up a ton of my time. Not just writing and editing drafts, but photography, replying to readers, chasing brands, checking metrics, sharing posts on Instagram and Facebook. There’s so much to do to keep the wheels spinning as fast as I want them, and I do want them spinning fast. I don’t want to get to the end of the week and find I haven’t posted anything. I don’t want to keep my readers or brands waiting when there’s a new pen on my desk to review. I want to keep a beat of content, a mix of editorial and reviews, covering pens, paper and ink. I want trip reports and news, opinion and educational content. There’s so much to say. I’ve always got an eye on the WordPress metrics, which are my ever-present indicator of success (what is a writer without readers, and what kind of writer wants fewer readers this week than he had last week?)

This is, to put it bluntly, starting to feel like a self–imposed burden, rather than a joyful hobby.

Ironically, the blog is taking time away from enjoying the stationery I’ve reviewed and loved. It’s also taking time away from reading books, playing video games, furthering my career, and spending time with my growing family. While I’m up in my office taking photos or tapping away on my laptop to earn internet points, life is passing me by.

I can’t blog without buying new pens

More dangerously, the blog feeds my darker tendencies to shop my way through life. As I said above, I get some stuff for free, I get a few dollars from advertising, and some small donations from readers, but they don’t begin to cover the WordPress costs and stationery purchases I make out of my own pocket.

To be a frequent blogger you need a steady source of new things to write about. There’s only so much you can write about from inside your own little bubble, particularly when you’ve already reviewed every pen you own, and written about your journalling, your desk setup, your travel bag loadout, and dozens of other personal topics.

To fill the hopper, I need to visit shop websites and forums, read other blogs and monitor Instagram and Facebook. Daily. Not only does this take a huge amount of time, it serves to keep temptation continuously in front of my eyeballs, while making me feel dissatisfied with the fantastic collection I already have. That’s not healthy. It is insane.

And it’s not just the temptation provided by a never-ending parade of new pens. When my finger is hovering over the ‘buy’ button, the blog gives me a dangerous excuse to click. I can tell myself that the new pen will be a great review candidate. I even use this as an excuse to buy pens that I don’t even particularly want; just the fact that they’re new or unusual is enough.

I find myself thinking that I can always sell the new pen via the blog if I don’t gel with it. But that’s dumb. I lose money every time I do so, and some pens aren’t that easy to sell. While I earn a good salary, I’m not rich. I really shouldn’t be buying multiple £500 pens every month just so I can try them out and sell them a couple of weeks later.

What’s more, believe it or not, I crave minimalism. When new pens, inks and notebooks are turning up every week, I’m fighting a losing battle not just for money, but space. Many of you will have seen my regular sales and my desperate attempt to keep my pen tray under control.

The inevitable conclusion

So, although I’m proud of what I’ve achieved over the past three years (in so many ways), I’m forced to conclude that the blog isn’t doing me any good.

I’ve caught myself a number of times wondering what it would be like going to a pen show without rushing home to write up a blog. Or enjoying my Nettuno and Pacifico Auroras without being acutely aware of the other twenty Aurora special editions that have launched in the past couple of months. Or actually writing a bottle of ink dry before I hit the internet to buy another.

So I guess I’m doing a Matt from the PenHabit and saying goodbye. I’ll leave the blog up, for the moment at least, particularly as I sell my last batch of pens. I’ll reply to comments and emails. But no more reviews, no more Instagram posts, and hopefully fewer purchases — and instead more time spent enjoying my stationery, my other hobbies, and my family. Will I miss having this place to pour out some words? Certainly. Will I regret this decision? Maybe. Will I change my mind? Quite possibly. We’ll see. But I need to let myself off this hook now.

And one final thing I have to say: it’s been an honour writing for you. Thanks for reading.

53 thoughts on “It’s not you, it’s me

  1. Really sorry to hear this. You will be sorely missed. Yours is the best fountain pen/stationery blog out there and a real inspiration. And I like buying your old pens …
    Good luck with whatever you decide for your future interests.
    Lloyd

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    • Hah, and I like selling them to you ;).

      Thanks for the kind words about the blog. I know there are some amazing blogs out there, so to have you put mine at the top of the list is really quite astounding. Cheers!

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  2. A very emotional read. I always enjoy seeing your article pop up in my inbox but the thoughts of sustainability have gone through my head. Glad you’re making the decision to re-prioritise things in a more healthy way. Enjoy the extra time with your young family.

    I stumbled across your blog via your review of Monteverde Fireopal ink which I subsequently bought and enjoy now and then as it can be a bit bright. Also I’m happy that I’ll have a memento of your work in the Lamy Aion I bought from you.

    Take care and thanks for all the entertainment.

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  3. Take your “time away” and call it what you will…you have earned it!

    You are definitely an educator with a worthy mission. The quality (and quantity) of your posts is quite impressive. I applaud your “good deeds.”

    Please recharge and consider your decision a leave of absence.

    From a dedicated reader/retired banker in Minnesota

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  4. Such a pity to read this (from my personal POV) but your thinking & explanation make sense. I may have only been following you a few months but it has been a pleasure to read what you wrote. And there is still a very strong chance that one of the last things your blog achieves is me buying a Scribo 🤦🏼‍♀️ Thank you for all your reviews, thoughts and general stationery comments 😊

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  5. I’ve enjoyed reading the blog, although I have a far more austere attitude about what I wish to possess. I agree that what begins as an engaging hobby can turn into a burden. So I wish Anthony well, I thank him for this large and generous piece of work, and I also applaud his decision. About which he is free to change his mind.

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  6. Of course you must do what feels right for your present circumstances, especially in terms of your family life and general peace of mind.

    Thanks for all your posts and insights, which often reflect facets of the hobby I hadn’t noticed before.

    Best wishes for the future.
    Gerard

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So very sorry, from a selfish perspective, to hear this, Anthony. I have really enjoyed, and learned a lot from, your beautifully written and photographed blog. It is in its own right a Thing of Beauty, whatever it is you write about each time.

    Something indeed to be very proud of. It has been hugely engaging and educational. I agree it’s amongst the best out there. I’ll really miss it – lots.

    Perhaps when you’ve taken breath , If you feel like it would please you, consider returning on a casual basis? Buy a pen because you love it, want it in your personal collection, and will enjoy using it. Then – and only then – share your thoughts. (Or don’t, and just enjoy it).

    Every now and then will be fine. Just when it would give you more pleasure to share the excitement of fellow pen aficionados than the work causes pressure…

    And you know there are a bunch of potential purchasers eager to snap up your tasteful sales (more or less) around the physical corner once a month!! We hope to see you there to just Relish the enjoyment.

    All very best wishes for whatever you choose to spend your time doing, Pen-related and/or otherwise!

    Best wishes
    J ackie (Danson) x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is my favourite blog on stationary and over the last year it has become the only stationary blog I visit. Thank you for putting in the effort and best wishes for the future. I’ll give a shout out if I visit Oxford!

    Cheers,
    Sidd

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  9. Hi Anthony,

    I just recently found your blog here in the U.S.A. I took your recommendation recently and purchased some ink, and 2 fountain pens- a Leonard Slattery and a pocket 6 fountain pen Schoenberg

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  10. Anthony, everything about this post rang so true for me. I decided quite early on that I would focus exclusively on ink with the occasional pen just because the cost of finding items to review really is just astronomical. An ink sample is a much easier cost to swallow. Like you mention, it’s not just the purchasing–it’s the time spent researching, testing, writing… it takes a lot more time than I think most people recognize without having done it.

    I do hope you’ll continue hanging around on Instagram, if only since it feels more like a freeform space to communicate with friends without the pressure of everything that comes before a blog post. Either way, I’m glad to hear that you’ve decided to take a step back for yourself. I will be sad to see you go as I enjoyed reading everything you wrote, but I understand your reasons. I hope you continue to enjoy the hobby in a healthy and fulfilling way!

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    • Thank you — I particularly appreciate hearing from someone who knows it from the inside! The process of doing a big review can easily take eight to ten hours all told.

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  11. It’s been a pleasure reading your posts – with your natural flowing writing style and lovely pics. But understand and respect your reasons . Hope this frees up some more time with the family. Keep in touch!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You are leaving a big hole in the FP blogosphere, Anthony, that won’t readily be filled by anyone not only with your thoroughness, experience, and insight, but also with the sense to step back once and a while and ask “what the hell am I doing here?” I hope you can continue to enjoy it privately, at your own pace, leaving it be for a while or indulging, however that best fits in your life, not ours. I frankly was amazed at your output recently with the new baby and wondered how you could possibly be managing it all. You chose wisely!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is sad news Ant. However as others have said, I understand your reasons. It is a brave decision. I have watched as you grew and honed your unique collection. I have looked forward to and enjoyed your posts for many months. I also celebrated a three year bloggiversry this month but your stats dwarf mine! (I have written 108 posts and reached 39,000 views). You have done everything to the max! It seems that you either have to spend thousands of pounds a month on pens and produce three posts a week or else kill off the blog and not do it at all. One extreme or the other. I am not immune to temptation myself but financial constraints keep a lid on my spending. More importantly I have a fortunate gift of being able to get genuine joy from inexpensive pens. I do recognise signs of addiction in myself and understand that you can’t tell another alcoholic to cut down and just have an occasional drink now and again. This seems the sensible decision for you although for me and many others it is a bit like David Bowie announcing that there will be no more Ziggy Stardust. I thank you for all the work you did, wish you all the very best, sincerely hope we will keep in touch and that we will see you back as the Thin White Duke sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your blog came to attention about one year ago, and as the months went by I marveled at how you were able to write so many really good articles about stationery. You’ve given a lot of yourself to the “community”, bringing to light pens, inks, and papers that many of us would never have seen.

    Thank you for all that you’ve done. Take time to recharge your mind, and enjoy your family. If you decide to return at a much reduced scale of posting (and especially buying) just know that we’ll be here.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Anthony,

    Collecting is a great journey and refining the collection down to what we like an even greater journey and sometimes there comes a point in time where we actually feel we have every pen we need in our collection. The journey can be a bit of a rollercoaster and blogging or creating video reviews on top takes an even enormous amount of drain on us reviewers both in terms of expense of ensuring we have more pens to review but also in terms of the time we are spending creating the reviews, something that many don’t realise and it’s always an uphill challenge as you well know.

    I have always said myself that I’ll continue create reviews whilst I can afford to continue and that I enjoy creating reviews. Once I reach my ultimate collection or it becomes unenjoyable or starts to feel like a chore, that’s when I’ll consider taking a hiatus for a period of time.

    I know it couldn’t have been easy to write this post and that it probably brought a lot of emotions stopping something you’ve loved doing for a number of years. I hope for everyone that reads the blog that it’s just a brief hiatus and you can recharge and come back for more, and you’re always welcome at the UK South Pen Club whether you have new pens or not.

    All the best, and hope to see you again soon at the pen club!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dave, that means a lot! I am in awe at the way you keep creating great stuff day after day. Wish I had your stamina ☺️. Yeah, it wasn’t easy writing this post — the blog has been a labour of love and I feel guilty for abandoning it. On the plus side, I don’t have to spend two hours today writing Uncapped… 🤣

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      • I wish I had my stamina too haha. The only way I’ve been able to keep so much content coming was to plan to create so much content in backlog. Lately I’ve not been able to sit down as frequently as I’d like to record new videos. The last 3 weeks have been tough but I have enough videos to keep me going and to aid in creating just a few newer timely videos so there’s no break in content. I guess that’s my secret ingredient or sauce, as you know, reviews aren’t easy and getting pens is even harder! I think also as we all go on, our tastes become more expensive and that means less pens to buy. I’m hoping I may have one or two sources for other pens coming soon which will help greatly to keep new content coming for what I hope to be a long time. Definitely I’m feeling the same way with my Currently Inked videos as your uncapped, I know people love to watch them and I love to record them but a 25 min video takes me about 30 mins to prep, an hour to record, an hour to edit and another 30 mins to proof each week.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve only been in this pen hobby for a couple of months. I constantly dream of those new special edition montegrappas, montblancs, nakayas, and namikis. But as a 14 year old I know that those are far, far, far out of my reach. I’m content with my twsbi eco and nemosine fission. I just wanted you to know that you were the first fountain pen blogger that I went out of my way to check up on every day. Pardon my selfishness, but tis a shame that you are, “ending the habit” a la Matt Armstrong. TL;DR, I really love your pen blog; the way its written, the beautiful, high quality pictures, and your personality. Thank you, and good luck in your future ventures.
    Sincerely,
    A random-ass 14 year old kid half way across the world

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  17. Totally understand why you’re bowing out. I’m always amazed by the dedication of bloggers regardless the subject. Always finding something new to say is a challenge in itself. I will miss your updates but wish you much happiness in your family, work and play. Take it easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It has been a pleasure to read your posts on pens and inks that I never had any realistic chance of owning. Your blog was one of the first that I began to read regularly and it never disappointed. It must have been a difficult decision to make, but you have to feel comfortable with what you are doing or what’s the point? I wish you all success for the future. Thank you.

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  19. Anthony

    Really sad that you’re having a break but totally understand why. I’ve ‘dabbled‘ on and off as you know and was amazed at your collection which I trust you will continue to enjoy.

    Hope to bump into you at a Pen Show again !

    Nick

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  20. Very understandable and a wise move.
    The intense amount of work (that only other creators will appreciate the true scale of) can lead from a “love of” to a “loathe of”. Better to stop now, keep your love and your sanity.

    Instagram may be the easiest low-hanging fruit to continue with on an occasional basis.

    Thank you for all the posts and I hope you see far fewer “grey cards” through your letterbox!

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  21. Very best of luck, Anthony – this blog has always been top of my Feedly list and I’m really going to miss it. But if it’s become an obstacle rather than a joy, then it sounds like a break is for the best. Take it easy and hope you feel refreshed enough at some point in the future to give it a go again. And many, many thanks for all the hard work you’ve put into it!

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  22. How very unfortunate.
    I have three bookmarked blogs. I shall now have to delete one. Come to life on Twitter, though?

    My best to you, and your family. I wish you all the very best. And

    Thanks

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  23. As a hopeless accumulator of pens, I have by turns admired and winced at your ruthless approach to maintaining your flock/herd/school of pens. My only solution has been to buy more storage!

    It’s (relatively) easy to note the quantity of work you have produced but it’s the quality that you have maintained that impresses more. I very quickly realised that I did not have the energy and organisation to maintain a consistent output for my blog. The ideas are there, but the time and inclination for all the drafting, editing and presentational stuff have lagged behind. I’ve (sort of) come to terms with that, which has made your output all the more admirable.

    On the plus side, a sllight sense of relief will be felt by my wallet as it will have a few less temptations to contend with. I still hold you at least partially responsible for becoming the owner of a Montblanc Heritage 1912. 🙂

    I think you’ve earned the right to go out on a high. Maybe you’ll stage a comeback, maybe you won’t. Either way, enjoy the pens you keep and focus on the experience of writing with them. I’d argue that it’s better to write with rather than about…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Did you know you’re my fourth most frequent commenter? Thank you for all the time you’ve put in to this blog, too! And thank you for the kind words about the quality — that genuinely means a lot. It’s what really matters to me.

      Hope you enjoy the 1912. I’m looking forward to writing a bit more with mine!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not sure whether to be pleased or shocked at that! 😀 You’ve certainly highlighted pens that I might have otherwise never been aware of or contemplated owning. Some (like the 1912) I now own, some are on the ‘maybe/get saving’ list for the future and some I’ll pass on.

        One other thing you should be proud of is that, through your blog, you managed to have a distinct and authoritative voice. There are quite a few fountain pen/stationery blogs out there, but yours has stood out as one that has been worth spending the time reading. Maybe that’s why I made so many comments!

        Liked by 1 person

  24. And here I was, thinking that you were independently (pun intended) wealthy.

    I will miss your posts, but I too have gone to purchasing less. It’s hard to say no to the newest shiny object, but your mental health and family are worth more than you can really appreciate in the moment.

    Treasure what you have gained. Not the material things: the pens, stationery, and ink. But the skill in writing. The discipline. The ability to frame a photograph to capture chatoyance.

    Take care. Our paths will inevitably cross again.

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    • I definitely don’t regret having invested all this time — the blog has been a learning experience and as you say, “treasure what you’ve gained”. But for now I’m enjoying being off duty!

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  25. Hi Anthony,
    I would also like to say thank you. Your blog was always an entertaining read. It was a great inspiration and it helped me to buy some pens in my collection.

    However I think that I could feel in the last period that you upped game quite fast – all pens started to cost hundreds of pounds, you were able to generate a big amount of posts even with a new baby. So basically as Ruppert said you went from one extreme to another and from that came feeling of being overwhelmed.

    I hope that you will return to the hobby in the future and I think a lot of us would be content with one post per month or biweekly.

    When reviewing 2018 from your perspective and asking for tips I have remembered your long use reviews were you were talking about your old favorites – these were enjoyable posts – interesting and also minimalist (enjoying something you already have).

    Wish you all the best with your next endeavors. What about everyday carry blog – knives, flashlights, watches, etc…??? 🙂

    Best regards
    Kamil

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  26. Congrats on such a great blog and thank you for bringing me into the hobby.
    I hope you enjoy the freedom from the blog but if you miss it ever, we’ll all be so delighted to read your brilliant style again.
    All the best

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  27. A sad goodbye to one of my few regular, turn-to reads. And I can personally attest to the fact that BMW have sold at least three Montblancs to a Mercedes, a Saab, and an Audi driver, all with your help. You should send them a bill for a consultant’s fee.

    All the very best in whatever endeavours come your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I’ve enjoyed your informative and beautifully presented pen reviews which have introduced me to some lovely pens and like many, I have made a purchase having read about it in your blog. But it’s your thought pieces I’ve found most intriguing and I have often gone back to the pens that I own to consider more carefully why I enjoy them so much. This is what I will miss.

    I’m constantly amazed at the time and effort people such as you put into creating wonderful content to simply share with other enthusiasts so I would like to say thank you and best wishes for the future.

    Like

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