Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The joy of fountain pens...

I like how they feel in my hand. The way they glide across the paper. The permanence of their ink. Using a fountain pen is like being a serious writer, to me...or an artist, even. I go a bit slower as I put words on paper, get a bit more thoughtful, contemplative. And its sense of absoluteness gives you pause; I mean, you can't get rid of what you've done with a pen like this except by showing how you tried to.

I feel somewhat the same about pencils, when it comes to holding and using one. A #2 is like sketching out thoughts, no matter what you're doing. All preliminary. I'm freer, more open to trying new ideas because if they don't work out, they can be erased. And I prefer the look of a pencil sketch to one done in simple pin and ink (the more elaborate styles using India Ink are the exception; those go both with pen and brush).

None of this is something you can do with a ballpoint pen or anything felt tip, not really. You can approximate the feeling...and I have, sometimes...but those are really more work-a-day stylos good for business and finance, not as a partner in your thought processes, and their aura is commercial and plain.

Problem is, you can't use fountain pens except on good paper; otherwise the ink seeps through and you wind up only able to use one side of the sheet. I avoid writing with one in my journal, for example, because I do that in a composition book. Same for legal pads; one side only. And on checks, you have to wait till the ink dries before you can do anything more with it. I don't remember it always being like this.

When we lived in England, our neighbor had a teenage daughter who would babysit for my folks. And she'd do her math homework with a fountain pen on paper that held it fast. I could watch her for hours. I tried it a few times and quickly returned to the safety of a pencil, because I made a massive mess of the page. But it took a lot of ink for it to seep through to the other side of the sheet.

I have Calligraphy pens, and pens I've used for India ink sketches, but the feel of a reservoir pen nestled between your finger is just...nice.

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