The pen or pencil I use really matters to me. Always has though I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t have great handwriting. Far, far, far from it in fact. I’m not an artist. Even further, further, further from that to be sure. Still, I definitely spend and usual amount of time and possibly more than a reasonable amount of money maintaining and using a large collection of pens and pencils. It is to the point that I could choose to not buy one more pen, one more refill, one more bottle of ink, one more pad of paper or notebook for the rest of my life and not come close to running out. Of course, like any addict in control of his vice, I choose not to stop. I hope my kids like some of this stuff because there certainly is capacity beyond any reasonable lifetime in those pen bins and boxes.
Although I care about the writing tools I use, I’m no elitist. Yes, fountain pens, including pricey old ones (vintage) and ones with gold nibs take up some portion of my collection. Unlike a true pen elitist, I have fountain pens mostly just to have them. My day-to-day work makes nibs, feeds, converters and inkwells impractical. Still, writing or even just doodling with a fountain pen is a free-flowing experience worth the small amount of easy but necessary maintenance. Out a need for practicality, I spend most of my time and money searching for the perfect gel pen, ballpoint pen and pencil. I might be more obsessed than most, but one look at the pen aisle of Staples suggests I’m not alone.
Have you spent more than five minutes in that aisle? Yes. You might be one of us. During one visit to that aisle did you buy three different versions of gel pens for comparison purposes? You might be one of us. Do you refuse to use the pens and other items in the office supply cabinet at work? You might be one of us. These, however, are just symptoms of a low-grade pen fever. Things can slowly but surely become more and more serious as you convince yourself that $5, $10, $25, $50…is not too much to pay for a single pen.
Some of you must be thinking, “Pens?! Seriously, pens?! I barely write anything anymore; 95% of my writing is on a computer.” Mine too. So, you can go one of two directions. Since you do so little handwriting you can decide that any old pen will do. I think you’re missing a huge opportunity, but you can go that way. Or, you could decide that handwriting, because you do so little of it, will serve as a reminder that the contingent series of improbable events Darwin so meticulously documented, with a pencil, left you with a brain and asymmetrically dextrous prehensile hands. You can decided to put a good pen in your good hand even if just for a moment or two each day. Maybe it’s the perfect ballpoint that runs smoothly, never skipping, across a pad of trusty orange Post-it Notes. Maybe you mark check boxes or sign so many daily reports, weekly purchase orders, yearly contracts or other mind-numbing, soul-sucking, inhumane bales of paperwork that reclaiming your humanity demands that you to take a stand. Sure, maybe nobody else notices, but damn it all if you’re not going to take a moment and be a person as you check that box, initial here, here and here and sign there.
For the already pen-positive, what I’m about to say will sound familiar. The search for a great pen provides momentary satisfaction but it does not end. Right now, I have five different styles of pens from four different makers all clipped just so in my bag. Some of these pens are made by large, multinational corporations that I bought from swanky stores in Manhattan. Others were made by five guys in a small warehouse in the American southwest that I funded through Kickstarter. I enjoy some pens you can buy by the dozen at the grocery store and a couple of my pens come from limited batches. So what’s the point? All I’m suggesting is that you take a moment and ask if you like that pen you’re using. If not, I guarantee you there is something better. Be a person. Find a better pen.