Let me be open about one of my new addictions.
I am currently madly, stupidly in love with cartridge-based fountain pens.
It all happened when I was trying to figure out how to write on the train.
Okay, that sounds dumb and obvious. Let me rewind a bit.
I used to write longhand in middle school. Back in those days, getting access to a computer meant begging your teacher for a hall pass, then hoping the 3 Apple IIe computers weren’t taken. So mostly I wrote in college-lined notebooks, laboriously, in blue ink. I didn’t enjoy writing longhand. I have terrible penmanship (what is now called handwriting) and my brain moves faster than my hands (which is horrible for video games… aaand I’ll save that for another post), so I was constantly skipping letters while writing. This annoyed me no end, and I spent more time scribbling out mistakes than actually writing.
Enter my high school days, and the glorious Apple IIc.*
Apple Writer was my BEST FUCKING FRIEND. I had some good friends – a few really good friends – but in the end I’d have thrown them all over if someone asked me to choose.** I love Paul Lutus with a passion, just because he created this thing before I knew what a computer was. But it meant I could finally write at the speed I could read (or think about someone saying something), and that made writing ten thousand times easier.
Fast forward to 2009. I was in the worst writing slump ever. I could not seem to write without a laptop or desktop keyboard, and I was in a living space that just didn’t cut it. Bad seating, bad lighting, just… everything was wrong. So I was trying to write on the subway with my laptop, to some semi-disastrous effects.
For those of you who don’t know, being on a subway in NYC almost inevitably means crowded situations, narrow seats and putting your bag on your lap or on the floor. Since I’m not a fan of urine and leftover fast food lettuce on the bags I put on my shoulders, I mostly put mine in my lap. This means I have no space to open up a laptop, and when I do, I usually have someone beside me who has realized they have room to open up their coffee cup and take a sip.
Let’s just say I was grateful for black coffee that day.
Anyway. So there’s often no room to open a laptop and type comfortably. It’s not typically safe for the laptop when there is. The logical solution is longhand, right?
Except I now HAATE writing in longhand. Seriously. It sucks. It is SO STUPIDLY SLOW to write things down when I can type it if I just… wait… until I get to wooork…
Yet when I get to work I’m slammed.
So I was trying to think creatively. And while reading my feed on Twitter, I noticed Peter Straub in a Twitter conversation about fountain pens.
Mind you, I had some. But they were the dip-and-write kind, because I really didn’t like the idea of cartridges. It’s a waste, yknow? And if I’m going to write with something disposable it’s gonna be cheap ballpoint pens. But cheap ballpoint pens are not fun to write with when you’re going back, scribbling out, rewriting. I couldn’t help but think of which landfill the pen, and the paper, would go into in the end. (Because who wants to keep all their mistakes? Not I, said the fly.)
So like I said, Peter Straub was talking about how fountain pens are the bomb (not his words omg don’t attribute them to him he’s 10K times more eloquent) when it comes to longhand writing. I mentioned something about the cartridges, and someone on that Twitter convo – it might have been Peter himself – mentioned something about converters.
A little light went on, but the sites I was sent to had some serious *thunder* Pennage there – I mean, $250 for a pen! Gorgeous, but no, too much for me.
It wasn’t until my mom got a Kindle Fire tablet that I was rescued. (2 years later! Augh!)
I was off browsing for styluses for her, and wanted to get a cute carry case to go with them. Enter jetpens.com.
*cue clouds parting, heavenly host singing*
I will cut the exploration short. Let me just show you this.
This, my friends, is a Platinum Plaisir fountain pen. It takes a Platinum converter with which you can use any damn ink you please. Mine is currently a fine nib; I have plans for a medium nib. It costs less than a week’s worth of Starbucks venti coffees. (*looks sideways at the former seatmate*) The amazing point of the Platinum Plaisir is that it takes a loong time to dry out. Not as long as the Jetpens site says it does – but oh yes, it took a good long time, and an almost-empty converter, before I had any problems with ink flow. I used this for writing and for labeling correspondence with equal joy. It feels comfortable in the hand and for some reason, maybe the snobbishness in me, I don’t mind going back and scribbling stuff out with this pen. I know the pen itself won’t be thrown away – neither will the converter – and if I’m to be honest with myself, there’s something classier about fountain pen ink when one is furiously scratching something out.
Maybe it’s thinking about Odilon Redon’s The Teeth and wondering exactly how those scratches…
ARGH. Nevermind. Geekery tangent.
Anyway. Now I feel comfortable writing longhand when I can’t use the keyboard – or, for that matter, when it’s just too hot to have a laptop on my lap. I don’t necessarily manage to do more than 30 minutes at a time, but being able to write for those 10 minutes on the subway is well worth it.
So, for the time-pressed writer who is disinclined to longhand, I highly recommend exploring the world of middle-priced fountain pens.
* I would still have that thing if my mom hadn’t given it away. But that’s okay – without that machine I wouldn’t be where I am now. Thanks Mom!
** That’s a lie. I would have used WordJuggler instead.