I’m a computer guy, but I grew up in the days when, if you wanted to write something, you sat down in a chair, behind a table, and you took up a pencil, and you started filling in a blank sheet of paper with something that meant something.
I used to love fountain pens. I had a big collection of unassuming branded fountain pens that did the job, but they were messy, and they took a lot of time to maintain.
As you decide you want to write, and write well, pageantry gives way to production, and all the fun I had with nibs, and inkwells, and drying time, was tossed over my shoulder in favor of well-made, but also nameless, ball pens and rollerballs. After the third grade, I gave up pencils altogether!
Here is my current coterie of old, and new, pens that have given me joys as they have taken their lumps.
Starting from left to write: The ABC SPORTS pen was a gift from ABC SPORTS. I wrote to their New York City headquarters from Nebraska in the mid-1970s, and asked them to send me a pen for my pen collection, and they did! I was amazed and shocked! It’s a noname brand ballpoint, but the green ABC logo on the endcap is killer!
Here’s a shot of that cool ABC logo on the top of the cap!
One day, when my grandfather was visiting, he said he heard I’d been writing to ABC SPORTS asking for pens, and he asked me why I never wrote to him. I told him that if he had any cool pens he could send me, I’d write more often.
He pulled out a silvery Parker from his shirt pocket and gave it to me. I looked at it with joy at first, and when I saw it was a pencil, I roared back, “Hey, this isn’t a pen!” He laughed — I was 10-years-old at the time — and told me to keep the pencil.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I gave up pencils forever two years ago, when I was eight. I thanked him for the gift. My grandfather’s Parker pencil is the second from the left, right next to the infamous ABC SPORTS pen!
Next, we have a couple of ball pens — a Parker and a Waterman — they’re both heavy and, I’ve had them for 30 years.
I now prefer rollerballs to ball pens just because — when I need to write something fast, and time is always of the essence — a rollerball is faster at putting ink down than a ball pen.
The next two pens are modern Pelikan rollerballs. They work best when you post the cap on the end of the pen. Then, the Pelikans are in perfect balance for flight on paper.
Next is my Montblanc rollerball — probably my oldest, and most-used pen — and has been the one pen everyone tries to borrow! I have used it so long, and so much, that the cap no longer really stays on the pen — a common Montblanc problem that isn’t cleanly, or reasonably, fixable. Montblanc doesn’t repair caps out of warranty; they just tell you to “buy a new pen” if the cap won’t stay on any longer.
The final pen is my newest, a Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Ultra Black Rollerball — “Ultra Black” means the pen has a flat black finish. Love it; and I especially love the blackboard finish. The Ultra Black is my new daily favorite, and my thinnest, and lightest, pen — and it feels like Montblanc fixed their wearing out of the pen-into-cap problem. I wish Montblanc made thicker rollerball ink refills for a bolder filling of the page — like Pelikan does — but, sometimes, mechanisms of beauty overcome forms of function.
One thing I miss about writing with pen and paper is the real feel of the ink sinking into the page. You can’t really create that sense of touch and smell when you write on a computer.
Before my conversion to The Computer Age, I used to write everything in Moleskine notebooks. When I filled one up, I started on another. I soon had a whole self-written library of “Moleskine Books” that held the word product of all my days.
Today, in a return to Moleskine, I find scribbling in them fun again; and the ideas flow even more rapidly now than they did before, and sometimes social situations are more amenable to writing on paper than lugging out a laptop — but then the fear and trembling sets in, as I realize everything I’m writing in my Moleskine book is there, and only there, with no backup!
Should I take an image of the Moleskine pages with my iPhone?
Should I immediately transpose everything I write in ink back into a digital form?
Have I just doubled my writing workload by daring to pick up pen and paper again?
Have I also put my privacy at risk? There no two-factor-authentication for the pages of my Moleskine notebook!
The one thing that kicked me back into the Moleskine realm was a lovely gift from an old theatrical producer friend of mine, celebrating my new Human Meme podcast!
Having my name, and the title of the podcast, printed on a bunch of Moleskine notebooks was a tremendous gift of reminiscence, reflection, and a return to old time gumption. Thank you!