When I first picked up my fountain pen, I felt a tinge of excitement as well as hesitation at the prospect of writing with it. What went through my mind at the time were how delicate and flimsy the nibs and tines (I probably did not know what they were called then!) were and whether I would be able to do it properly. The process of putting in a new cartridge and unscrewing the cap seemed so foreign and different from what we would do with ordinary ballpoint pens – uncap it and you’re good to go.
It struck me then: Why write with a fountain pen in the first place? Whether you are a veteran of writing with a fountain pen, a seasoned calligrapher, starting your foray into the world of fountain pens or just satisfying a curiosity, many of us will find that answering that question is a continual journey both literal and metaphorical.
Thinking deep and moving slow
When was the last time you wrote something? More often that not we would have to pause awhile and consider this as the act of writing is becoming a little less common with our fast paced life and plethora of gadgets. Or if we do have the opportunity to write, it might be a hastily scrawled note or just a quick reminder.
When one writes with a fountain pen, one of the most immediate and sometimes jarring difference is that it is inherently slower. Try to go too fast and the lines would invariably thin and peter out. However, I don’t think this unique combination of the result of gravity and capillary action is such a bad thing. Compare this to typewriters in the past where canceling a word wasn’t as simple as the keystroke of the “delete” button but would require the added tedium of applying white tape or putting an unsightly line through unwanted text. This usually forced typists to give more consideration to the content they were producing. A study mentions that our newfound haste and ability to type faster could be eroding the quality of what we write. That is of course, we write very regularly.
Writing with a fountain pen and the deliberation or consideration it requires focuses the mind on the task at hand and makes the simple act a pleasure. Taking the time to slow down and revel in the simple act of writing can be a very therapeutic experience. If you are familiar with the mindfulness movement, writing with a fountain pen truly does focus one in the present and calm the mind.
Physical benefits of writing
The adaptation to a different speed of writing and the feel of a fountain pen nib on paper can be a bit foreign. You will find that because of these factors, your handwriting will change a bit but you can appreciate these changes as you become more acquainted with the subtleties of your fountain pen. You will also notice that you do not need to press down as hard as you would with a fountain pen as you would a ballpoint pen. This would enable you to write for longer periods of time and puts less strain on your hands and forearms.
This relaxed posture also has the knock on benefits of allowing your thoughts greater ease to flow across the page as you appreciate the ink flowing onto the paper. It really can be quite a mesmerizing experience and overtime, you might develop little flourishes to your letters and maybe even style of writing.
Rewriting our relationship with our environment
With many of us being very interested in keeping up with the latest fashions and trends, be it electronic goods, the latest fashion or cars, fountain pens represent somewhat of an anomaly to this trend and very beautifully so. We have been encouraged in various ways by product manufacturers to make repeat purchases by measures such as built-in obsolescence, loyalty programs and the like. This is even the case when it comes to stationery. When it comes to pen refills, I find that sometimes they cost as much or close to the price of a new pen and it makes more economic sense to just buy a completely new one.
At a certain point, I told myself that I would stop buying ballpoint pens as I noticed a lot of pens lying around my house and I seem to get them very readily at events and at the office. As of now, I can’t even remember when was the last time I bought a pen and yet my stationery case is still full of functional pens. The only pens I would buy nowadays would be fountain pens. This is not only for the purpose of generating less waste and being more resource conscious but using a fountain pen is also “forever”.
I say that because the only thing you really need to keep it going is to purchase ink. And there really is a crazy variety out there with a plethora of choices. I’ll probably not go into detail at this point and save it for a separate post but there are so many brands and varieties out there it really does entail some time to dive into it.
Fountain pens and their owners
This is perhaps a bit of a fantasy and I tend to idealize about certain things. Don’t worry though, I still am very much grounded in reality but it never hurts to dream! I feel that fountain pens and the written word hearken back to a gentler time, where elegance, courtesy and respect were given a bit more focus than they typically do today.
When filling up a pen and also the resultant slightly slower speed of writing, I feel that it teaches patience and consideration. I also made it a point at one time to write notes to people using a fountain pen. Be it simple “thank you” notes or something slightly more elaborate when for example, a family friend hosted me when I was overseas. I think that putting pen to paper does something different to us in composing a message and the thought process we go through, much like how when we read printed text we tend to place more focus and emphasis on the material as opposed to skimming when reading off a screen.
These are some thoughts about why we should write with a fountain pen. Perhaps I am a bit biased but as a longtime fountain pen owner, I think it would be a refreshing change for someone who is used to more “traditional” writing medium to give it a try. Do leave a comment below and feel free to talk about your first fountain pen or what you like about fountain pens.