Radio Silence

As you may have noticed, there hasn’t been a new Pen Habit blog or video posted for over a month now. I have had several people reach out to me to make sure I’m doing well, and to inquire about when the next video will be released. I figured I should, at the very least, drop a quick note on the blog to let everyone know that I’m still alive.

As for when my next video will be coming out? It won’t. I have decided, after a lot of consideration, that I will be taking an extended, and possibly permanent, hiatus from creating any more fountain pen review videos.  This decision was not an easy one to make, particularly in light of the many wonderful people I’ve met, and the scores of notes I’ve gotten from people thanking me for introducing or re-introducing them to the fountain pen hobby.

After posting my last video, I realized something: In the course of building The Pen Habit and making dozens of videos, fountain pens have turned from a hobby into an obligation. Every 15 minute video was taking up hours of time as I set up and took down my equipment, filmed the raw footage, took still photos of the pen, color corrected the video, mastered the audio, edited the product, and wrote the accompanying blog posts. Since it stopped being fun, and I’m not getting paid to do it, I began to wonder why I was continuing to do.

I dedicated nearly every weekend of what ended up being a beautiful summer inside the house working on reviews. I began turning down opportunities to be social or interact with others because, “I have to get my next pen video edited.” At one point, I had gone over a month without doing dishes, laundry, or vacuuming up the dog hair tumbleweeds floating around my house: I was too busy juggling a full-time job, freelance work as an audiobook narrator, recording and editing pen videos, writing music, running errands, and trying to maintain my new yard. And that was before I started my new food and exercise regimen to lose the 45+ pounds I’ve gained in the last several years. I even have a stack of letters nearly two and a half months old that still require responses.

One of my many human shortcomings is that I dive into my interests hard and heavy. My fascination burns bright, but also burns out quickly. And, by the end of August, I was burned out. I had spent countless hours trolling forums, YouTube videos, and pen sites gathering as much knowledge as possible. In my first 18 months of using fountain pens, I believe I spent somewhere in the range of $13,000-$15,000 of my own money on pens, ink, and paper. It was money I really couldn’t afford to spend: thousands of dollars of credit card purchases on cards with exorbitant interest rates, money that should have been put into emergency funds and retirement accounts, and money that should have been re-invested in my business ventures. Instead, my pen purchases often got put ahead of my monthly bills, which is STUPID.

I was spending money on pens and ink I knew I wasn’t going to like, because acquiring was the most important thing, and because people kept asking for reviews of particular pens. My pen wallet was constantly full of inked pens I didn’t like and would never use again, simply so I could review them. The pens in my collection I did love, I never got to use because I was too busy reviewing pens I didn’t like.

(A warning: if you don’t like strong language, you should probably just skip to the last couple of paragraphs…)

Being a content creator is a tricky thing. To do it well, and to build a community around your content, requires a lot of work. You have to pour yourself into it. There’s no doubt I did that. I worked my ass off on these videos. I gave it away for free. I made a pittance in YouTube revenues. And then, after dedicating so much time to my videos, I would wake up the morning after I posted a new video only to find things like this posted on my account…all of which, I might add are or were real comments:

  • Dude, no offense, but why are you so bald?
  • This channel is nothing more than a ripoff of SBREBrown, only with more boring content.
  • Well, if you didn’t like the pen, why did you buy it?
  • You don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • Fuck, this was a fuckin waste of my time.
  • I don’t like the new introduction. I liked the old one better.
  • Well actually, ____________________

Here’s the thing: I fucking HATE YouTube comments. HATE THEM.  I hate comment sections on the internet more than I hate mayonnaise. And I HATE mayonnaise. (Seriously. I don’t understand how anyone eats mayonnaise on purpose. Spew.) This is how much I hate YouTube Comments:

I really don’t give a flying fuck whether or not you like the introduction on my videos. You’re really going to nitpick over the color of the font used in a six second introduction. THAT is what you have to contribute to the conversation? You’re welcome to spend the money to hire a professional After Effects editor and a professional composer to make an introduction that more suitable to you. Until then, you’re just going to have to deal with the six seconds of video and audio that took me seven hours to make as it is.

I really don’t give a rat’s ass if you think I’m boring, and you don’t like my content. I don’t like your existence, and often wish that you, anonymous user who has never created a YouTube video of your own, would simply be put out of my misery.

I couldn’t possibly care less if you think I ripped off SBREBrown. You know what?  I did! In the same way that he ripped off Brian Goulet. It’s actually called “being inspired” by someone. If you were capable of doing anything productive in society, you’d realize that all people who create do it on the inspiration of those who have come before.

I have better things to do with my life than delete the mean-spirited, asinine ravings of a gaggle of idiotic twatwaffles who want nothing more out of life than to shit on my investment of hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars.

(I’m well aware of the hypocrisy of complaining about these jackwad YouTube commenters while, at the same time, I was crapping on fountain pens I didn’t like. I was, in many ways, doing the exact same thing that was being done to me, so I have no room to complain.)

TL;DR: I need to take a break from fountain pen review videos. I need to learn how to relax and not load every spare minute of my day with projects. I do not have the self-confidence and emotional fortitude to deal with internet commenters in a healthy way. My finances can’t hold up under the weight of pen acquisition. My personal life, such as it is, is suffering due to the extreme amounts of time I am putting into these videos.

Will I make more?  Perhaps. But it won’t be for a while. First, I’m going to dedicate myself to paying off the credit card debt I acquired buying all these pens. (Keep an eye on FB or Twitter for announcements of pens for sale.) If and when I do start making pen videos again, I’ll do things differently. I’ll approach my reviews from a more positive standpoint, championing those pens I really like rather than doing reviews of any pen that crosses my desk. I’ll do them in a more simple manner, requiring far less manual work on my part. I may try to find some folks who are interested in helping me put them together rather than doing it myself. And you can be damn sure, no matter what else I do, I’ll be turning OFF YouTube comments.

For the many, many folks who have been wonderful and supportive, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support is what made this decision to take a break from doing these videos so difficult. There are many great and wonderful voices in the pen community who are starting their own channels and making their own videos, and I’m all for it. If you’re subscribed or follow the Pen Habit on social media, you can continue to do so. When I have recouperated from this whirlwind, and figured out what place I want to occupy in the world of fountain pens, I’ll be sure to announce it here/there.

Until then, best wishes!

Matt Armstrong