Steven M. Roth
posted on November 01, 2011
Actually, I write with six fountain pens, one of which I carry with me. The other five I keep at home and use at my desk, switching out the one I carry every two or three weeks. But don’t be misled by the title of this post. I also “write” with my computer’s word processing software, but only after I’ve written the first and second drafts using a pen. That’s how I wrote my first mystery novel, MANDARIN YELLOW, and it’s how I perform much of my day-to-day writing.
It all started when I was in law school and used a ballpoint pen to take class notes. I was forced to write so fast just to keep up with the lectures that I found myself pressing against the paper with more and more force as my hand became tired. After a few weeks I developed a painful blister on my finger, followed by a callus, but a callus that remained tender to pressure for the balance of my three years in law school. By the time I graduated, I was looking for excuses not to write manually (but there were no PCs yet).
This resolved itself several years later when my parents sold their home and moved to Florida. In the course of cleaning out the attic, my mother found the Esterbrook “Dollar” fountain pen (for which I’d paid 75¢) in the 4th grade when we started “penmanship” classes. I could see my bite marks in its cap.
I cleaned the Esterbrook and filled it with ink. Surprisingly, the rubber bladder still was intact. But as a ‘writer’, the pen was more suited to an nine year old than to an adult. The nib was stiff and begrudgingly scratched the ink out onto the paper. It also skipped. But — and this is a big ‘but’ — the pen would not allow me to press down hard when I wrote. I was forced to develop a light touch to use it. This attracted me and offered the possibility I would be able again to comfortably write in longhand.
Not long after, I bought my first ‘better’ pen to write with. Then another, and eventually several more as I experimented with different nibs, body styles, manufacturers, and body weight.
Today, although I circulate six pens, my favorite writer is my 1987 Centennial Parker Duofold my wife gave me in 1990 for our first wedding anniversary. It is big and heavy as fountain pens go, but it feels right in my hand and it is a smooth and fluid writer.
What, besides the fact that I cannot press hard with a fountain pen, do I like about writing with one? I like the tactile intimacy of connecting with the paper as I write on it and as I create the words I leave behind. Moreover, I find that writing with a fountain pen forces me to slow down, something I’ve never been able to achieve at my keyboard, and causes me to think about what I am writing with more finality than I seem to achieve when I type, cut, paste and/or delete.
Do you write with a fountain pen? If so, how did you get started and why do you still do it in this age of the computer?
I would love to hear from you.
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