A Hard Pen is Good to Find
by Bracken MacLeod
I indulge a couple of writerly affectations that do nothing to improve the quality or prolificacy of my writing. Still, they stimulate some reptilian aspect of my neurology that compels me to maintain their use. For example, I take abundant notes about random facts and story ideas in a Moleskine notebook. Even though there are cheaper notebooks out there and its entire function is made redundant by smartphone apps like Evernote, I love the feeling of the small leather hardbound book in my hands. I love the (probably contrived) history of it. And I love belonging to the subculture of people who modify and use them. But the sensual experience of the notebook is limited by the quality of the pen one uses to write in it.
My former profession required constant note-taking and I found that writing with cheap pens resulted in hand cramps and near constant frustration at their lack of both comfort and style. As a result, I switched to a semi-expensive fountain pen in the hope that A) the necessity of finesse in its use would result in less white-knuckle writing (and the attendant cramping), and B) its elegance would satisfy that part of me that seeks sensuality in small experiences. It did both. Sadly though, my pen required regular upkeep as the nibs would wear out with the kind of punishing use to which I put them. Despite that inconvenience, I gained an appreciation for writing with a precision pen. The feeling of taking hand-written notes is enhanced by using a pen designed for performance and comfort.
There is a certain amount of anxiety inherent in carrying a fountain pen around in one’s shirt or pants pocket (or even in a bag), however, as they can and do occasionally leak. I’ve been the victim of more than one unintended ink emission and it had convinced me that, despite the pleasure of writing with one, the hazard of a Deeptrouser Horizon spill was too much for me to bear. As luck would have it, the twin burdens of maintenance and betrayal were about to be lifted from my shoulders as the Great God Pen smiled down and blessed me with his inky munificence.
One afternoon, as I was exiting a Barnes & Noble, I noticed a shiny beacon signaling me from a nearby bush. There I found a beautifully unadorned brushed chrome pen. Picking it up, the first thing I noticed was its weight. It had a pleasant heft and solidity that appealed to me. It was heavy–not a disposable thing, but significant–a potential weapon as well as a tool of creation. Not thinking that this was probably a moderately expensive pen that I should turn in to lost and found (thank you, greedy subconscious denial) I slipped my newly acquired Tombow Ultra rollerball pen into my pocket. An hour or so later I found myself presented with the opportunity to try it out. As I passed a horse trailer with a flat tire, a story title occurred to me and I desperately needed to record it before my capricious mental states robbed me of inspiration. I pulled over to the side of the road, opened my notebook, and set about writing down the two brilliant words that, once paired on paper, would open the flood-gates of further creative stimulation.
As ink slipped from pen onto paper, a jolt of exultation hit me like a liter of dopamine splashed in my face. The creative power of my stolen found pen flowed like Omar Khayyám’s proverbial moving finger. As the words took shape on the paper, I trembled in anticipation of their profound meaning awakening the Muse and sending me into a fury of automatic writing that would result in my literary magnum opus. I became one with the pen, feeling snug and comforted inside a brushed-chrome womb, floating in the black amniotic fluid of artistic creation. Drawing a final line beneath the words for emphasis, I slipped out of my trance. Holding my breath, I peered down at the title heralding my inevitable Stoker Award.
Oh well. It’s still better than writing with a Bic.