Women writers on alcohol and the level of hypocrisy in society

Many of my girlfriends have been part of a conversation where they were suddenly ambushed by their male peers who have asked them “Why are you getting so aggressive?”, and the same men have occasionally afforded themselves the luxury of throwing a fit of anger. After being a firsthand victim of such incidents I started gravitating towards women who stand outside of being ‘likeable’ by the society. They are, in my experience, more real and I have had some of the best, funniest, self-deprecating and most intelligent conversations with them.
Just as the feisty opinionated persona of a woman has been off-putting, for society, women writers and alcohol was rather an unpalatable topic. When writer Jane Bowles went to see her neurologist to cope with her alcohol addiction she was told to ‘go back to your pots and pans and try to cope’. Rather than validating their temperament and choice of lifestyle, even a little acknowledgement by the society, unadulterated by sexist views and stereotypes would have gone a long way. In a moment of ignorance, the neurologist dismissed Jane Bowles, a person, a writer and reduced her to just another undomesticated woman who wasn’t domesticated enough.
I have always worshipped literary geniuses like Ernest Hemingway, Woody Allen, Hunter Thompson, Van Gogh, F. Scott Fitzgerald and admired their struggle as much as their work, but the struggles and stories of women artists seemed to be airbrushed from history. Their struggles are often times dismissed as weakness in character. Although, of late, we have started recognising many female artists for their wonderful artistic and literary creations, their struggles and journey have not been as well-celebrated as that of men.
The relationship between art and drinking has been quite significant. Although some of the most successful artists are ones who have always been much disciplined, there are those who have struggled with addictions. The reality of alcoholism is ugly and there is nothing glorifying, artistically or otherwise, about vomiting and being a painful mess. There is no escaping the brutality of such an addiction.
But what is most astonishing is the unsettling aspect of society’s acceptance towards the art and literature produced by troubled artists, but a total disregard for the tortured mental anguish from where it is birthed. It’s the case of the golden egg and the goose where the world loves the beautiful creations which is equivalent to the golden egg, but would rather detach itself from the unruly, disagreeable aspects of the personalities of the golden goose that birthed such brilliance. “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them” said Anaïs Nin, a French novelist.
ninWhen it comes to women writers and their drinking patterns the level of hypocrisy they are faced with is just surprising. Society has always condemned and shunned women that are fierce, savage, and opinionated, and rather seeks to mould women into docile little doves that they could tame to their liking. It is disturbing how the society is completely blind about these women’s work and talent, and rather focuses on the negative aspects of their personalities.
DurasJean Rhys, a Caribbean novelist, wrote in her diary that drinking helped her “see the truth, the simplicity and the primitive emotions once more”. Frida Kahlo, whose style and art will never be forgotten, downed Tequila straight from the bottle. “I drank to drown my sorrows, but the damned things learned how to swim.”
Elizabeth Bishop, who was a poet and a Pulitzer winner, heavily reclined towards the bottle and in her poem, A Drunkard, she tried to word the emotions an alcoholic gets caught into, “I have suffered from abnormal thirst – I swear it’s true – and by the age of twenty and twenty-one I had begun to drink and drink – I can’t get enough, and as much as you have noticed I’m half-drunk now”.
PlathSylvia Plath, the queen of confessional poetry, wrote, “I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike”.
Leah Odze Epstein and her partner started the Drinking Diaries blog in 2009 exploring why female writers like to drink. She compiled some brilliant answers  through her project.
Having shared these wonderful bites what remains to be said is that for every talented intoxicated artist there have been many delusional, mediocre, intoxicated failures. It is stupid to romanticize the drug/alcohol-addled, narcissistic, self-glorifying addictions of the artistic world while the majority of great artists try hard to stay healthy so they can do what they love doing the most, for a long time – CREATE.

Stationery Vintage Ads


Parker Advertisement, August 17, 1940, Saturday Evening Post.

“Everything begins with a Pencil.” 

Writefine Products Pvt. ltd. created their first pencil in the industrial unit, formerly known as RR industries in 1976.  Today the company offers wooden pencils, color pencils, wax crayons, erasers, sharpeners, plastic scales, geometry boxes, DF pens, and non-wood pencils.

Old ads with long copy have a certain charm about them. Some feature ludicrous use of poetic prose and bad copywiting while others are masterpieces in long copy. Here is an excerpt from the Parker Vacumatic Print Ad: “Toting books around wont get you anywhere if your pens run dry in classroom. So look before you leap to some problem-child pen – it will only frustrate your I.Q on the test day.” Another terrible copy follows “You wont need crystal ball to tell you this Pen has stolen the show on the campus.”

Parker Vacumatic pen ad featuring Kenneth Roberts in 1938.

roberts-parker-pen (1)

Roberts was a known writer after he published Northwest Passage in 1937, and Parker took the first chance on the writer’s soaring fame. Behind Roberts’ picture is the first page of Northwest Passage. The text to the left of Roberts’ image reads: “In drafting the manuscript of Northwest Passage, his great novel of French and Indian wars and the gargantuan Major Robert Rogers, Kenneth Roberts wrote more than 2,000,000 words with his Parker Vacumatic; then rewrote and altered his rough draft to its final version of 300,000 words. The same unfailing pen helped Mr. Roberts create his famous portraits of Cap Huff and Benedict Arnold in Arundel and Rabble in Arms; King Dick, Capt. Boyle and Daniel Marvin in Lively Lady and Captain Caution.”

This vintage gem then declares:” It is what it takes to give men Second Sight, because it holds twice as much ink and shows when to refill – hence, writes years on end without running dry unexpectedly. Yes, people who have what it takes to win distinction, use the pen that has what it takes to speed them on their way. That’s because the revolutionary Parker Vacumatic won’t short-circuit the batteries of your brain by running dry just when your best ideas are coming thick and fast.”


 Blank Paper Project: Gift Guide 2014

Gifting season gives us stationery lovers a chance to finally put to use the brilliant wrapping paper we have been stacking throughout the year, sweet postcards that we have curated so beautifully and millions of note cards we have yielded to for their cute designs.

But beyond that it gives us a chance to draft that handwritten note and pour our heart out to friends, especially ones that are miles away.

For all those with predisposed fondness towards all these literary, here are some of my favorite gifts I have spotted on the internet, Rifle Paper Co, Etsy, Modcloth and Kikkerland to help you pick that perfect gift for 2014 Holiday Season:


There is nothing more sweet and charming than sending a postcard with your beautifully wrapped gift, waiting for your friends in faraway places to get them in their mailboxes, imagining them ripping the contents and skimming the text with smile. Joy-oh-joy!

Part of the joy of thoughtful gifting is adding your own personal touch, but in case I feel a little rushed or short of time I drop the whole process rather than produce a half-baked gift. With time I have realised that a gifting plan must be executed like a 360 degree ad campaign. There is a brief; there is a creative, followed by execution and deliverables So before we brainstorm for an idea for gifting it helps walking down the memory lane, remembering bits of conversations, replaying funny episodes in our heads.

I am sure we all have that one friend who notices just too much, observes a little too much and these observations deserve to be penned down in a worthy notebook. Gift her this beautiful notebook by Chronicle Books – http://bit.ly/1BDoR0Y and see her light up like a Christmas tree.

Please write to me for individual price of the above items.

Stalking creativity


Having an archivist’s mind and curator’s soul are important to any creative process.

A month back, I got my hands on the year’s calendar by The Doodlers. What fascinated me, about their art was a light-hearted wickedness they brought to their sketches. Furthermore, there was an unprecedented level of chaos and an undifferentiated interception of  shapes and stories.

Such a beautiful art announced itself to distracting levels. So I listened to my hunch and decided to let our readers in on the creative minds behind these beautiful illustrations.

Neha and her creative partners Sameer Kulkarni and Abhijit Kalan, give us a sneak peek into the idea incubation and a drooling list of their tools of mass creation.

What do you feel when you stare at a blank page, before your illustrations take shape on the whiteness of the sheet?

The feeling is a combination of excitement, nervousness, sudden enthusiasm for exploration, inquisitive thoughts around discovery of something unexpected and many a times just plain challenging.

The mind is not always clear about what has to be done. Sometimes, there’s just an idea. Sometimes, there’s just a style or technique of illustrations in thoughts. Most of the times, there’s just a subject in mind. And of course, a lot of times there’s absolutely nothing in mind.


If someone issues a search warrant through your tools and sketchbooks, what are they likely to stumble into?

Like many art-loving people, we are suckers for stationery. Given a chance to spend a fortune in one night, it would be either for stationery, books or toys. While sketching, we are peculiar about our tools. Depending on the kind of illustration needed, the tools change. Some of the brands/products we LOVE are:

  • Rotring Pens  (Much love to those.)
    Black markers – Camlin/Reynolds
    Permanent Metal markers from Uniball
  • Apsara Eraser & Natraj Sharpener (Let’s not forget these two humble darlings)
  • Staedtler fineliner pens,
    Balls pens – Reynolds, any
    Staedtler pencils ranging from HB-8B
    Staedtler water colour pencils
  • Camlin artists water colours and photo inks
  • Brush pens
  • Water-based and oil-based Acrylics

And the reason we use a sketchbook is because it helps us define our sketches. Umm, not like we don’t sketch on separate sheets, but using a sketchbook just makes it more accessible and it keeps giving us a gentle reminder that we need to fill it up even more.

There isn’t any particular sketchbook brand that we use. What matters is the quality of paper should be great (especially if using Rotring pen on it), the grip should be good enough and size should be decently portable.
We have been buying sheets from paper marts and binding them as sketch books for the longest time. Now, we are experimenting with brands like Moleskin; but honestly, we find it expensive.

One local Indian brand of sketchbook that we recently discovered while making The Doodlers calendar was: Matrix Artist Pad. Typical art paper which has great GSM and quality.


What do you love sketching, just for fun?

We have more sketches that are personal/unreleased than ones done for larger projects. Basically sketching has been an inevitable part of our lives, unknowingly; until one day we realised that we should actually start publishing it.
Abhijit is extremely fond of sketching crows. In fact, he discovered his love for illustrations through his signature crows. He has created over 150 unique crows until now and I think the number will be never-ending. Apart from that, he has also sketched a series of elephants and other many random illustrations.

Sameer is brilliant with caricatures, sketches that involve perspective, animated character illustrations and doodles. He is very fluent at doodling on walls with his marker. He also likes to experiment with different stationery and tools while sketching through which unique styles come out.

And me (Neha), well I am obsessed with drawing lady-figures. My mom said that I was 3 or 4 years old when I started drawing them. It has become a habit that sketching eyes, hair and eventually a face of a woman is the first thing that will come out if I am given a pencil in my hand. There’s something about woman’s anatomy that fascinates me.

Stray their work here:

The Doodlers:




Your 2014. New Blank Pages to fill words with.

BPPNew Year gives us a chance to be whole new us. A whole new beginning is a happy state of being.   It allows us to create best versions of ourselves. This is a moment to get real, leave comfort zone and allow the blank pages to shape our year.  Instead of recapping the year let us take the year forward and make those dream projects a reality. Let it be the year of creative discoveries, finding truth and being true.

I want to thank everyone who contributed their thoughts on blank pages. Starting 2014 I want to incorporate all the suggestions I have received over the past one year.   I am going to get the project available for my German, Hindi, Arabic and Polish friends. A good translator tool and I will have a Translate option the website.  I am thankful for all my colleagues and friends who have turned into a family. Blank pages that turned into ideas and dreams that turned into reality.

So there are more diverse stationery products that will be featured on the website.  I resolve to review the best paper diaries and sketchbooks money can buy. I would really like to know your favourite notebooks too. So do tell me here.

A friend of mine from Muscat recently told me to create design column that features Diary Concepts – how notebooks and sketchbooks will be in next 20 years. I am really kicked about the idea.  Do you have similar ideas to share too?

Here’s to all pages we met

Here’s to all pages we will meet

Here’s to you, writing with vulnerability.

Here’s to you being shaped and inked with every word .

Happy 2014. Let all your resolutions incubate to create more interactions with a blank page.

The featured image is the Letternote I picked up last year.  

Blank Paper Project Reviews: Daler Rowney Fine Grain HeavyWeight

As I go scouting for another cooler notebook to add to my  stationery box, I am not bound by the location where it is stored. I have hunted for good notebooks at the gas stations, malls, book stores, online shops and even at the garage displays. But often I rely on a good friend to recommend me some notebooks.

Recently during my weeklong break, I was delighted to discover the Daler Rowney Fine Grain HeavyWeight notepad. So much so that, as soon I reached home I scribbled a line or two and made a list of movies to catch up on. The series is made by Daler Rowney in England and features some lovely icons on the cover page.

The blank pages are a perfect A5 acid free and nudge you to sketch and illustrate or explore creative ideas in full throttle.

Daler Rowney Fine Grain HeavyWeight .jpgBlankPage.jpg

I have been shying away from blank paper recently. The blankness has been challenging me – fist bumping my lazy mind and arresting my inertia.

I may have to dehusk layers and layers of inertia before I begin to write something meaningful and deep once again. And I have to do it now. Before another distraction hits me, before another cat video goes viral, before I get a ping on my Whatsapp, before the cute little purse featured on Facebook stamp advts calls out to me.


Before I leave, I would like to share a little write-up I found on Daler Rowney website:

“Consumers and businesses around the world today are more conscious than ever about green issues and looking to take an environmentally responsible attitude. And it’s no different in the world of art.

Normally consumers have to pay a premium to follow their conscience, but the new Daler-Rowney ecologically friendly drawing papers are offered for exactly the same price as their traditionally manufactured counterparts.

This new range of pads is an extension of the popular Fine-Grain range, but the paper is 100% recycled and manufactured with renewable energy. Every sheet is FSC-certified recycled and the pads are available in A4 & A3 sizes with weights of 200gsm Heavyweight paper and 120gsm Drawing paper.

Each Eco paper pad has 30 sheets, the same as the current Fine-Grain pads and is priced the same as the equivalent existing Fine-Grain pad.”

Green stationery is my ticket to guiltless shopping.

Diary Chooses the Owner: Letternote Notebooks



Don’t you love being called at the reception, with lovely Letternote Notebooks delivered by the courier guy. This is one of the happiest moments of my life.

Letternote Series have this lovely solemnity and minimalism very few diaries sport these days. Everyone in their run to design something kitsch and quirky end up being bizarrely imaginative and utterly shoddy.

Many of us get very hesitant to start sketching on a brand new diary, which I believe is belittling your own creation. Your work is more important than the diary in which it houses. I try to never to forget that.

Letternote Ideas Kraft notebook’s designs remind me to create something ‘Simple, yet Significant’ as Don Draper would say!

Since you folks must have received your salaries by now, it is good time to spend it on some stationery love. See the wide range of Letternote Stationery here: http://www.letternote.com/stationery.html. If i could have it this way I would want some sugar daddy to buy me the entire catalog. But Sigh! If wishes were unicorns…