(Photo “My Notebook and Fountain Pen” courtesy of user carpewebem and Flickr).
The irony is not lost on me that as I began to prepare this post our power went out. With a fountain pen in hand I found myself to be writing by candlelight. While I can’t say it was nostalgic, after all I never lived in the era of dip pens scribbling away by the light of a candle, but I can say it was memorable, drawing my attention towards history and the significance of such things as the signatures found on the Declaration of Independence or the beautiful exchange of letters between John and Abigail Adams during their times apart. Today when I write with a fountain pen it often captures the attention of people because they are unaware of the fountain pen and tend to be struck by the beauty of such a fine writing instrument. Today finds fountain pen lovers celebrating National Fountain Pen Day.
While the fountain pen has been around since the mid 1800’s (in it’s more modern form) the first fountain pen day was not celebrated until 2012. Since then, the first Friday of every November is set aside to celebrate the artistry that comes with fountain pens and writing with them. Lamentably, few recognize the experience of writing with a fountain pen.
In anticipation of this year’s official National Fountain Pen Day, I was compelled to pause and consider what makes fountain pen writing so unique, especially in light of the ongoing growth of technology. What is it about writing with a fountain pen that transforms the writing experience that piques one’s senses? To answer that you will find three separate pieces:
- Significance (and quality): When writing with such a precise instrument, one is caused to consider all elements of writing. This not only includes the form and content, but also the very instruments that are being used. As one will soon learn, writing with a fountain pen is not just about writing with a fountain pen. Over time, you will see how different pens work in your hands, developing your own likes and dislikes. It becomes a quest to seek the perfect pen that balances rightly against the hand and contacts the fingers in such a way that it is no longer a tool held by the hand, but instead is an extension of the hand. Furthermore, nib sizes and flexibility add another level of preciseness. Finally, even the paper sources offer depth to the writing experience. As the nib contacts the paper and the ink flows to form words on the page, there is a new sensation that takes place in how the paper responds to the fountain pen. With all of these elements there comes an appreciation for quality, both in the physical product that is put forth and in the content that flows from the writer through his pen.
- Style: Writing with a fountain pen offers up a separate sense of writing style that you don’t necessarily fine elsewhere. That style comes in the formatting of whatever is being written, from the layout of the text to the creativity of the font. While certainly computers can do some of this, physical writing adds a level of artistry that is unique to the writer and is not necessarily duplicated by every person. Thus writing comes to be a form of artistry that is visually pleasing.
- Sincerity: Finally, writing with a fountain pen adds a level of integrity to the writing experience that is missing so often today. Whether writing a personal letter, an article to be shared, or a manuscript to change the world, physical writing transforms writing into something else. Certainly it slows writers down as compared to typing, which often is a good thing. However, there is another dimension here that few recognize. When I write with a fountain pen I am forced to consider my words with more intentionality. Here, to make a mistake is not a matter of a few keystrokes to delete and replace it, instead it requires that I start anew because you can’t erase the ink once it falls upon the page. As a result I consider the meaning and depth of the words I use, ensuring that they convey my meaning and intention with an accuracy that most of us don’t consider when we are simply trying to type an e-mail, an article, etc. so that we can get it out as quickly as possible.
Significance, style, and sincerity are individual elements that make up the writing experience. However, when you consider them together they transform writing into an art form that is dependent upon the holder of the pen.
Writing is not a passive task, but is an activity that requires the engagement of all our senses, creativity, and intellectual capability. While I am thankful for technology and feel myself fortunate to be born in an era in which we have so much of it available to us, neither should we neglect the benefit that come with the physical task of writing. I hope that we would all consider the benefits and joys that come with writing, specifically with a fountain pen.
Interested in trying out a fountain pen? Here are a couple of recommendations.
1) Check out Goulet Pens for basic information to get started.
2) Not sure what pen to start with? I recommend the Lamy Safari Fountain Pen. At around $20-$25 it’s a decent pen without setting you back a lot of money. It’s a good starter to simply see if you enjoy writing with a fountain pen. Be sure to follow the instructions for filling the pen with ink (if unsure, search Google and you’ll get lots of step by step guides).
3) What about ink? Whatever you buy, make sure it is specifically a fountain pen ink. Without spending a lot of money up front start with a basic black or blue ink. Good starters would be Parker’s Quink in Black or Pelikan Royal Blue Ink.
4) Feeling adventurous and want some more exciting colors? Try the following (note some of them may be a bit steeper in price):
- Pilot Iroshizuku ~ Deep Blue
- Diamine ~ Bilberry
- J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Ink ~ Caroube de Cypre (brown with gold flecks)
- J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Ink ~ Stormy Grey
- Mont Blanc ~ Burgundy Red
5) Want to shop, but don’t know what you want? Check out Anderson Pens (Goulet Pens is another website to browse also).