Saturday, January 16, 2010

By my own hand

I had to write a thank-you just now. I'm very picky about pens and paper. The first has to have the right traction on the other, particularly since I'm increasingly convinced that all these years of keyboards and texting have robbed me of the ability to write with my hand, as I could when I was twelve. When I sit down with pen and paper I feel the strength drain from my hand when I get near the end of a line. If I grip tighter my writing becomes more cramped. If I try to loosen up I can't hold a straight line. Then I find myself trying to write familiar words without spelling them out a letter at a time. The natural, practised flow that used to form familiar words such as my own name has gone. This is exacerbated by the fact that the ink in rollerballs and biros either flows too freely or has to be coaxed out. I can no longer write in a relaxed way. To help get over the problem I dug out my fountain pen, replaced the cartridge and wrote the note with that. It's amazing how much more satisfying it makes the whole letter, both to write and probably to read. And this in the same week that I wrote a 600-word film review on my iPhone on the Tube journey home from the preview.


  1. Germany seems to be the place for good everyday user pens (as opposed to trophy pens). I use a Pelikan that is very light and feels well balanced in the hand. Once I'd tried one I could not go back to ballpoints. I also use a cheap-ish Lamy, which is kind of like the Bic of fountain pens but again, very nice to use. I lent it to one of our journalism cadets the other day to sign a form and she looked at it as if I'd given her a quill.

  2. Writing with a fountain pen is great. But, there is a problem that you may find that people can't read what you write - particularly younger people who never really got taught to write in the more old fashioned flowing cursive style and hence find it hard to read. I know my kids struggle with reading my mother's writing.

    Which reminds me - I have 90 hand written exam papers to mark......

  3. I remember school desks with ink wells. I think we may even have used them.

  4. One of those Independent articles about 50 best things did stationery last week. One name that kept coming up was Cult Pens ( and I almost spent £120 there in the first half hour. Apparently there's no need to spend more on a pen! Thought better of it and went off to hunt out the old fountain pen I knew I had. But a great place to browse.

  5. I still manage to use my Parker fountain pen every working day, even if only to put meetings in the diary, and find it invaluable for minues of those meetings that I'll be able to read again when the next one rolls around.

    I'd agree that others may struggle to decipher my scrawl, and do slow down a bit when penning letters for the select few I still hand-write to.

    Would love to splash out on a real flash one. Maybe for my 40th next year.

  6. I have a nice Cross pen that's really just a rollerball under the surface but the pen itself is fairly heavy and feels nice in the hand. Like you (and everyone I suspect) my handwriting needs all the help it can get these days.

    I remember school desks with ink wells in them too, I'm not old enough to have actually used them though. I do remember some kids having fancy fountain pens they'd show off in class so there was a bit of pen envy going on.

  7. The joy of writing with a fountain pen (I have a Mont Blanc that my lovely wife bought me years ago) is that it requires you to write slowly. With a decent fountain pen, you can't just scribble off any old rubbish, otherwise its all indecipherable ink blots.
    Writing slowly, makes you consider your subject.
    The majority of blogs would certainly benefit from a more considered approach to what is being written!

  8. I'm a mutt so I write with a cheap Pilot that's a ballpoint made to sort of leave a effect like a fountain pen. This way I can fancy my words eloquent, and yet my fingers don't get dirty, and I don't feel bad when I lose the pens, which I often do.

    But I would like the fountain pen dynamic when firing off e-mails. Somehow spell check doesn't quite slow me down enough to consider as I ought.