For a long time I thought of ink sticks as complicated and something that only a very experienced calligrapher would use . Some of the articles written would strengthen the belief that it was complicated - so I avoided them.
But now I'm used to using them, I'd strongly suggest you give them a try.
Here's 10 thoughts on ink sticks:
1. I think you probably do need an ink stone - I've not tried with anything else, so can't really help there.
2. I usually put 4 drops of water into the well in the stone - unless I know I've a lot of writing coming up. (Could be distilled water, but I'm not precious).
3. I rub the ink stick in the water, keeping the whole of the end of the ink stick as flat against the stone as I can (not going up onto its edge or corners).
4. I think the pressure between ink stick and stone is so that if it was your finger nail on your skin it'd be a nice scratch, not painful!
5. If I'm listening to music, rubbing for the duration of 1 song is more than enough. If I've created gloopy ink I can always add another drop of water.
6. You can mix the ink to the colour/consistency that you want - from a watercolour see through effect to solid impenetrable colour.
7. Dry your stick (on a cloth or kitchen towel) once you're done, otherwise water will seep into in and flakes may fall off next time you use it.
8. Cheap ink sticks are not your friend! A cheap black stick may never give you black ink, only grey. Sadly there are a lot of cheap sticks made for the tourist industry. I use Boko-Undo sticks - they're expensive, but they last and last and LAST. (Cheap ink stones seem to be OK in my experience.)
9. My black ink stick smells lovely when it's being ground - the coloured ones are odourless.
10. Stick ink lettering is waterproof - useful if experimenting with layers of work, or simply if you don't want your writing on an envelope to run in the rain.
I hope there's something useful there - and that one person will be newly tempted to try using stick ink - if it's you, please leave me a comment and let me know how it went!