The Pen Is Mightier…

My wife laughed when I told her I bought some Uniball pens. Aside from the obvious prurient humor, there is something funny about me buying pens at all.

I have hundreds of pens.

Most are cheap BICs or Papermates. I never buy those but I somehow have them coming out the ears. I have a lot of pens from engineering fairs, school, sales reps and hotels. And I never use any of them!

As a writer I sometimes have the romantic notion that I will write by hand. I’ve long since abandoned the idea of writing a novel that way, but maybe short stories. I have a number of nice journals for the purpose, my favorites being a leather bound one which I actually have started writing in, a cheaper thicker book I use for story ideas, and my latest, a Peanuts journal my wife bought me for Christmas. I probably have at least half a dozen more of these that have never been used.

Fact is, writing on my netbook is more efficient, and I have terrible handwriting. My writing is a combination of D’Nealian and plain text. D’Nealian was a fad for a while in the Worthington School system as a precursor for learning cursive. Let’s just say my cursive is appalling (even my signature is barely legible), so obviously D’Nealian had some kinks that needed to be worked out. The plain text is a little better, but I find I am the only one who can reliably read it.

So why all the pens, and why did I buy more?

While I don’t write by hand, I do find it practical to revise that way. Revision by hand forces me to read every word, and there is a lot of satisfaction in crossing out a large section of the book that isn’t working. Revising by hand also leaves me an artifiact I can look back on to feel good about my progress.

The Uniballs were not my first choice. I actually wanted Pilot V-Ball Grips with a fine or very fine point (which the stores in my area used to carry but now apparently don’t). I tried another Pilot pen, the V-Razor point extra fine, but I didn’t like the tip.

Both the Uniballs and the Pilots are gel pens and while they do occasionally smear and get ink on my hands, they look good on the page. They also have a very satisfying weight. There’s a scene in the opening of Season 3 of The West Wing where the President talks about pens, wondering where the ones he used every day came from. He liked to have an everyday pen that had a nice balance and weight, but wasn’t so nice that you’d be afraid to use it. That’s the kind of pen I want, and with a cap not a clicker. The Uniballs were cheaper and since I went through a number of pens revising my first book that is a factor.

I realize this is very particular and I don’t have much of an explanation other than I like these pens, and the other ones wouldn’t do. It’s part of my ritual of revising, putting me in the right frame of mind to do the work. I like the little ink stains on my hands afterward, they’re a badge of honor. I like taking the cap off before I start work, and feeling the click of putting it back into place when I’m done.

So now I just have to figure out what to do with all of those cheap pens, or you could.

Any suggestions? Do you have something you are equally specific about?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Pen Is Mightier…

  1. I must admit the first thing I thought about when reading your blog title was a Celebrity Jeopardy skit with “Sean Connery” from SNL… That being said, I too have a pen and notebook fascination bordering on the compulsive. It used to be worse when I’d go to Barnes and Noble frequently as I just couldn’t resist buying another moleskin notebook, a leather-bound journal or some other journal imprinted with a sketch of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man emblazoned on the front cover. Now that they’ve moved my local B&N a little further away, I tend to buy notebooks less frequently.

    As far as pens go, I’m currently most pleased with the Sanford Uni-Ball Micro. I like the ink flow, ability to draw fine lines, the balance and the fact it has Super Ink to apparently prevent document fraud. Not that I think that I’m going to be the victim of document fraud any time soon, but it’s nice to have I guess. Although I’m wondering how they decided on “Super Ink” as the name as opposed to something that could have been much more flashy like “Awesome Ink” or “Ink of the Immortals” or something like that.

    • Ben Trube

      I think the one’s I’m using have the super ink too, so I guess not gels in the traditional sense of the word, I don’t know. I’ve looked at moleskins but they’re a little out of my price range, though my nice leather one is from B&N, the one with a celtic pattern.

      I almost put the Sean Connery way of saying it as the title of this post, but didn’t want to be misinterpreted. Nice catch though!

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