Pensieve: Dance of the Fountain Pen

Dance of the Fountain Pen


I am gadget girl. I love electronic gadgets, particularly ones from Apple. I adore my iPhone. I adore my iPad. I adore my Mac. I adore my new Pebble watch. So, one might wonder why on earth I would choose to keep a hand-written journal, a Midori calendar that I have to fill in myself, a written to-do list, and why I would grade student papers with fancy schmancy fountain pens?

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Here’s why. I find writing with a fountain pen to be an act of meditation. There is something magical about the interaction of a pen, ink, and paper that cannot be duplicated with a ballpoint or any other kind of pen, and certainly not a keyboard. I pick the perfect ink for each pen, no longer limited to blue or black or, God forbid, grading-red. I love how the pen feels in my hand and how I can sense the slight resistance of the paper against the nib. I love the scritchy sounds some pens make and the smooth silence of others. I enjoy watching the tines of a flexy nib spread when pressure is applied and watching a line widen and narrow in response to my hand. I love the smell of ink and the mess it leaves on my hands when I’m refilling pens.

But most of all, I love the poetry of pen and ink on paper. The moment you touch a nib to the paper and start writing, you sense that words matter; letters matter; paper matters. Writing with a fountain pen helps you focus on the very act of writing, because you have to slow down or the pen will skip. You have to slow down to make sure you are holding the pen correctly. You have to slow down as you put your thoughts on paper because you can’t write as quickly with a fountain pen. You have to slow down.

Pen, ink, and paper perform a magical pas de trois, because isn’t writing really a dance?


8 thoughts on “Pensieve: Dance of the Fountain Pen”

  1. Susan,
    You are clearly a right handed person. If, like me you were left handed, you would recognise the fountain pen for the instrument of torture that it is.
    Recently I had to have my young daughter fill in court papers for me so that they stood a realistic chance of comprehension, such was the effect of 10 years of enforced fountain pen use upon my learning to write.
    They belong, in my opinion, along with Genesis 1&2, in the recycling bin, to be turned into something more fitting to 21st century life.

    1. True, I am right handed. But I do not many fountain pen friends who are left handed. So, it’s not impossible, especially with today’s fast-drying inks. My handwriting isn’t exactly beautiful. I wish it was. I’ve worked through two books trying to improve it, and I guess it’s a little better. What I have found that helps my handwriting look much better is using italic nibs. For some reason, these immediately improve how my writing appears, and I’ve even gotten compliments (which I swear has never happened before). But, each to his own. I am a strange creature—a mixture of loving modern technology but using fountain pens for most of my writing.

  2. This post takes me back to my childhood and the fountain pen craze and my blue fingers because the ink cartridges leaked. I loved my fountain pen. I felt grown up. My writing seemed more important (to me at least!). Love your blog.

  3. Are you a member of Fountain Pen Network?

    I found your blog via Twitter, nothing to do with pens, but I’m a fellow fountain pen lover 🙂

    Best wishes


  4. What a lovely poem (another great “cat poem” is Christopher Smart writing about his lone companion Joffrey). Totally agree about the pleasures of handwriting. Handwriting is fulfilling in ways that electronic communication simply can’t be.

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