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Fountain Pens: The Tool, the Minor Fetish

In response to a tweet asking writers what they write out longhand, I replied that if I’m particularly at sea, I’ll write out an outline, usually with lots of looping arrows, on a pad. But only with a fountain pen. Ballpoints don’t work.

My old bloggy friend AKMA wondered how he’d known me so long without knowing that I’m a fountain pen guy. The truth is that I’ve only recently become one. I’ve liked them at various times over the course my life, but only about four years ago did I integrate fountain pens into my personality.

It happened because I bought a $20 Lamy Safari on impulse in a stationery store. From there I got some single-digit Chinese fountain pens. Then, when I made some money on a writing contract, I treated myself to a $120 Lamy 2000, a lifetime pen. It’s pretty much perfect, from the classic 1960s design to the way the ink flows onto paper just wet enough and with enough scratchiness to feel like you’re on a small creek splashing over stones as it carves out words.

I have recently purchased a TWSBI ECO for $30. It has replaced my Safari as my daily pen. It’s lovely to write with, holds a lot of ink, and feels slightly sturdier than the Safari. Recommended.

Even though my handwriting is horrendous, I look forward to opportunities to write with these pens. But I avoid writing anything I’ll then have to transcribe because transcribing is so tedious. I do harbor a romantic notion of writing fiction longhand with a fountain pen on pads of Ampad “golden fibre.” Given that my fiction is worse than my handwriting, we can only hope that this notion itself remains a fiction.

So much of my writing is undoing, Penelope-like, the words I wove the day before that I am not tempted even a little to switch from word processors when the words and their order are the object. But when the words are mere vehicles, my thinking is helped — I believe — by a pen that drags its feet in the dirt.

3 Responses to “Fountain Pens: The Tool, the Minor Fetish”

  1. I used a fountain pen in most of Junior High School and later, as ballpoints were just becoming widespread. I, too, like to use a fountain pen, but don’t have much opportunity now that medical records are electronic. I used to often do my notes with a fountain pen. I now also use a Lamy, the Studio, I think, but have some leakage issues (with the pen, thank you); I may need a new converter (I don’t use cartridges). I have had several Pilot-Namiki Vanishing Point pens which I liked because they are capless, but I had mechanical problems with them and gave up.

    I got a gift of a Montblanc 25 years ago but have never used it, as I was afraid it would be too ostentatious. My brother sent me one of the “single-digit Chinese fountain pens” and it works pretty well, with little concern about dropping it (except for filial disappointment), which I have not done yet.

  2. Since I have at times lusted for a retractable fountain pen, I’m sorry to have my fears of fragile mechanisms confirmed. But that lust is not very persistent anyway since any pen I carry with me gets lost within days.

    I haven’t had any leaks with the Lamy’s. A thorough cleaning (of the pen) and a new converter, perhaps?

  3. I do clean it regularly and the converter may be the answer.

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