Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Remember the Fountain Pen?

Pen, pencil, ballpoint, keyboard, I’ve tried them all. I’ve always enjoyed writing with pencil. It makes that satisfying scratching sound on the paper but I hadn’t owned a fountain pen in decades. 

At school we had to do handwriting lessons with wooden sticks that had nibs on the end. We had to dip them into pots of ink. The mess!   

I progressed to a pen with a little lever that sucked ink into a rubber tube but the rubber perished so I got a cartridge pen [which is a bit of a cheat] and then came biros, felt tips and even *gulp* gel pens...

...but if you look carefully at the photo top right, you can see that I have returned to pen and ink. I hadn’t really looked at that photo for a while and then Ann Best mentioned it in a comment on one of my posts. She said that she used to use a pen but she’s now glad of computers because her ‘aging hands appreciate them so much’. I find that my aging back prefers writing longhand but that wasn’t why I decided to return to a fountain pen.

Last summer a writing friend, Josephine Feeney, told me that she always uses a fountain pen to do her writing. She said that it has a special feel to it. It inspires her. Being the sort of writer who needs all the inspiration I can get, I decided that a fountain pen was a must. This conversation occurred just before my birthday. How convenient.

My birthday fountain pen is beautiful. [Belated thanks to Rod or Mr A as he’s known on Twitter J] It’s smooth and tactile. I’m writing these words with it now [well, the rough draft anyway] and Josephine is right. There is something very special about writing with a fountain pen.

Of course, ultimately the words have to be typed onto the computer, my back doesn’t escape some discomfort and it takes longer for me to write and then type than it would if I were to type straight onto the keyboard, but this isn’t about speed. It’s about inspiration and given the choice between speed and inspiration I’d choose inspiration every time.



  1. I love my fountain pens! I've been collecting them since I was a teen . . . I even found someone to replace that little rubber bladder when it dry rots ;) I must confess, I don't write my books that way, my arthritis has made holding them too difficult. But I always have a lovely leather bound book and a fountain pen with me - the perfect tools for jotting down inspiration, plotting, research, character notes - all the things that need so much introspection and thought before you write.

  2. I do remember the fountain pen and frankly I'm glad to see the back of them! Horrible mess I used to make and then get hit on the hand by the teacher for my poor efforts.

    I can see the argument - my uncle still writes beautifully with them after using them for 70 years - but give me a keyboard where I can go over my mistukes...oops...mistakes any time!

  3. Fountain pens have style! I must confess that I don't use my beautiful pen enough, and certainly not when writing, (in the literary sense rather than the literal), but always use it for letters to special people. I read this blog entry with a smile on my face.

  4. Awesome! I write with v-tipped pens, but they're rare. I wonder if I can get a fountain for Christmas...

  5. Hi Sessha, I'm wondering how many lovely pens you have in your collection. So glad you've found inspiration from them too.

    Hi Ned, sorry to have brought back memories of rapped knuckles for you. Know what you mean about correcting mistukes though!

    Hi Sue, glad to have put a smile on your face.

    Hi Misha, I've never seen as v-tipped pen. It sounds fascinating.

  6. I would have liked to continue using a fountain pen but in industry I had to use a biro out on sites. The rubber perished like yours and I hated the cartridge things. Now I only write notes to myself and draw mindmaps with a biro.

  7. I've always had a sort of fetish for writing implements, fountain pens especially. I have never used an inkwell though, I've always had the cartridge pens.

    I still love a good pen, but I so seldom find the need to write anything that I can't justify buying nice pens anymore.

  8. Hi Bob, I think that coloured felt tips are best for drawing mindmaps.

    Hi Matt, a fetish, huh! Gosh! Maybe if you bought a really nice pen you'd find reasons for using it.

  9. Hi, Rosalind. I just read your email and came over to see the link. That's lovely. I always appreciate links. I think all of us do!

    You know, I often think I might write "better" if I used pen and ink. You can sit comfortably on a sofa with a lapdesk they sell these days. You wouldn't have to stare for hours at the computer screen. But I can type so fast and get so much more written this way. However, you've got me thinking, and I just might try the pen and ink again. I remember the old ink pens and the bottles of ink. And I remember a writer I met years ago (now deceased) who said she felt she wrote "differently" with pen and ink. In those days, though, you used a typewriter that required a lot of physical effort.

    Well, so much for my ramblings. See what you did! You got me started down nostalgia lane.

    Just keep that ink flowing!
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

  10. +1 follower from blog hop, cool blog

  11. Hi Ann, I hope you enjoy your planned return to pen and ink. I realise it's much slower but for those times when you need a little extra inspiration, I think it's worth slowing down just a bit.

    Thanks, N4M3L3SS.

  12. I didn't even know you could still buy a fountain pen. They were smooth writing but weren't they also the ones that made the big ink stains on men's front pockets? The linings of my purses used to show big ink spots from carrying a fountain pen. Or were those just cheap pens?

  13. Hi Manzanita, you certainly can buy them. I wouldn't drop one into my top pocket even though I suspect a good quality one wouldn't leak anyway. Yes, I think it is just cheap ones that do that!

  14. Nope I definitely don't miss fountain pens - I can still remember the mess I made when I was 'ink monitor' at Mayflower - took my poor Mum weeks to get the mess out of my school uniform shirt.
    I have the opposite problem - I can barely write anythng unless I'm in front of a computer keyboard.
    Oh .wWell - none of us are perfect ☺

  15. Hi Ann, yes there are a few Anns but only one who went to Mayflower with me :-) That was where I remember using those sticks with nibs. They were awful. My pen is lovely.

  16. I can see how writing with a fountain pen can be inspiring, because it has a different feel, sound, smell, etc. that does ooze 'writer'.

    I might try that one day, when I need that particular kind of atmosphere for a piece of writing.

    Thanks! :-)

  17. Hi Rosalind .. gosh all the writing implements that have changed in our times .. I don't remember the dippers - though the desks had holes for inkwells .. yet I remember blotting paper and ink pellets .. and cartridges for the pens.

    Now if I write I prefer to use a click pencil .. but then resort to biro for writing my letters out to family and friends and that's not so clever .. I type a letter and add a card .. so they do get something they can read!!

    I draft typing .. and amend with the side by side view on ..

    Cheers - enjoy the day .. Hilary

  18. I love writing longhand too and the right pen is important. I've been as delighted with the 'right' cheap biro as I have my Waterman, but now I find my hands cramp if I hold a pen for too long (old age is a stinker) so rely on the puter more and more.
    I'm glad you have found a combination that works for you. Nx