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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.

Comment in this BLOG.
Twitter: @StevenMRoth | Facebook: Steven M. Roth | Website: www.stevenmroth.com

Comments

# Jeff Nelson
Wednesday, February 01, 2012 2:09 AM
I know you are interested and attached to pen and ink, but I think that you would be interested in a related innovation that will be in use for the next few centuries. A brand new kind of 'stationary' writing system now exists for use on smaller computers. If you were 20 or 30 years younger you would be fascinated by its speed and accuracy. It is easily adjusted to for a writer of English and 100% neat. It's quite magical. A perfect solution for those writers in the digital age who still would rather or need to use a pen (stylus), but want to speed and neaten up the writing process.

JSN
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 12:51 AM
I also used to write with Fountain pen when I was in school. In fact now also I use same pen. I like this pen. This pen is very light in weight so it helps me to write fast and neatly. My handwriting was so bad before using fountain pen but now it is changed due to this pen so I love to write with this pen.
Friday, March 30, 2012 4:10 AM
The feeling is really very good. I think that using Fountain Pen will preserve the culture which has somewhat lost in this modern world.
Friday, May 04, 2012 12:26 AM
I use a Pilot Knight Collection fountain pen and I've been extremely happy with it, especially the feel of the size/shape, I find a lot of the more expensive pens to be too bulky to write with comfortably.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 2:17 AM
This pen has been on my wish list for a while and will probably remain there. Unless I find a deal on one that I just can’t pass up. Trying to thin the herd at the moment, not add to it.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 12:48 AM
I've always been a fan of fountain pen.As a writer i understand what exactly you have to say. I've always had the pleasure to hold and write with a fountain pen.It feels so elegant and classy with all the comfort in your hand.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 2:23 PM
I have used fountain pens for about five years now. I think the root of my addiction started in about sixth grade when my grandfather gave me a fountain pen and a bottle of ink. I remember being able to squeeze the bladder and send out a stream of ink.

My main rotation are four pens in a leather case with different colors of ink - Lamy 2000 (red), Sheaffer PFM (turquoise), and two Parker 51's (blue and black). The rest of my pens come and go into use - but I'm never without those four.
# Brian
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 3:45 PM
Hi - I tend to use the Pilot Varsity "disposable" fountain pens. I put "disposable" in quotes because they are actually refillable with a good pair of needlenose pliers. These fountain pens are inexpensive (about $7.00 for a pack of three) and write very nicely. The Pilot pen company makes higher-end pens, so I think they must use some of their know-how to make these inexpensive pens nice writers, too. Yes they are plastic and not as handsome as other fountain pens. But they are true workhorses that write really well. And you can throw them in a briefcase, drop them on the floor, and overall treat them a lot less carefully than you would a high-end pen. They do what they are supposed to do very well, without a lot of fuss and worry. Some people call them "starter" fountain pens or "beginner" pens, but I find them great to use, even if you have other, high-end fountain pens. I have a couple of Watermans, and I had a Lamy that was stolen from me, which I mourned for months. No sweat with the Pilot Varsity pens...should one go missing, they're three for $7.00 at Staples. And again, they write really well. Rich ink flow, and very smooth nibs. And once you watch a how-to video on how to refill them (super easy to do, since I can do it and I'm a klutz), well, their use-value increases even more. They're good stuff. All the fun and feel of fountain pen writing with none of the fuss, worry, and bother. Near perfection in a pen.
Friday, September 14, 2012 2:02 AM
Well, I still write with a fountain pen as well, even when I have a computer in front of me I make my weekly agenda with a fountain pen.
Saturday, September 15, 2012 1:41 AM
I have a nice collection of Vintage Parker pens and a few vintage and older Parker Duofold pens.This pen really appealed to me because I do like pens with more heft to them and this pen seems to of have it.
# James on the boat
Friday, October 05, 2012 8:35 PM
I returned to fountain pens very recently after having not use done since high school...25+ years. I bought a cheap Cross at Staples and started playing with it. I had forgotten the pure joy of putting words on paper. I was reminded of a conversation I had with my eldest daughter when she was very young and asked about writing; she had said, "Well, if the words stay, then they should be good words (truthfull) and they should be pretty (to look at)." She was right on both counts.

Tugboat driving doesn't require the written word; all the logs and reports are on computer, so now any, and virtually all, of the writing I do is in a personal journal. With the Cross, I find myself eager to make entries, and if it is to be a record of my life, then it should be as my daughter said so many years ago.

Recently, she suggested that I use "that nasty s*** coffee that you drink at work" as ink.
# Steven M. Roth
Saturday, October 06, 2012 9:26 AM
James,
Nice post. Thanks.
Your daughter's statement about words being good words and being pretty is very wise. Steve
# Anthony
Thursday, October 18, 2012 11:34 AM
A friend of mine recently gave me a Lamy Fountain pen. The last fountain pen that I have used were Staedler during High School.

I've nearly forgotten how it felt to write with a fountain pen - it feels great (that and my handwriting looks controlled than one used with a ball point pen - chicken scratches). Thank goodness to muscle memory eh?

Never the less, writing nowadays seems to be a lost art. I've taken a liking to my new pen and I'll be writing it on my unbleached journal.

I love the simplicity of your blog entry - and it is now my favourite too.
Thursday, October 18, 2012 4:23 PM
I still write with a pen, too. I can't brainstorm on a computer.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012 12:14 PM
Great article, and it's good to see a fellow person who uses and enjoys pens as much as I do!
# Joshua Sleight
Sunday, December 30, 2012 9:39 PM
I learned to write with a fountain pen when I was in German school, we were forced to use them and I hated it! I was too young to understand that you had to write slowly and lightly to avoid blotching the paper. After we left Germany I began using computers more often, using them to type notes in high school and college, but today I was reading an article on finance and how John D. Rockefeller kept with him a notebook in which he wrote down every financial transaction he ever made, I thought that this was a great idea and promptly went on Amazon and bought one for myself. As I was ordering I felt that for some reason this notebook that I would carry on my person at all times deserved a writing instrument more fitting than a Bic pen, so I again went on Amazon and found the perfect fountain pen. I am excited to try out my new pen and reconnect with writing, I plan on drafting all of my grad school papers with this pen and hopefully will help me to better develop my thoughts.
# Chirs
Sunday, May 19, 2013 11:50 PM
I like both the Hero 266 or Hero 616 fountain pens, you can get them in 10 packs for US$14 or less. The Hero 616 is much like the Parker 51 from 1941. The Hero 266 has a nice thin metal barrel, it's a good all around shirt pocket pen. Both are considered Fine Point, although the 616 is a hooded design with less ink flow than the 266. At those prices try both. . . Cheers.

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