Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Magic of Writing with a Fountain Pen

“My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course.” — Graham Greene

It may seem foolish, even a bit self-indulgent, to write about fountain pens when so many pressing issues threaten our world. 

But a fountain pen has not only helped me put aside my worries about the world for the brief time that I take each morning to write with one, it has also rekindled my pleasure in the process of writing by hand. 

The immediacy of writing with a fountain pen surprised me the moment the nib first touched the page and the ink seeped out of the pen, seeming to bleed onto the paper.

It felt like the pen was alive, a newly discovered part of my hand connecting me in some mysterious and supernatural way to my heart, and as I wrote, my hand moving across the page, it felt like the ink was coming straight from my veins.

Until a few months ago, I hadn’t used a fountain pen since high school. 

Remember how messy those fountain pens were to use back then? Often, I’d end up with more ink on my hands than on the page.

I’d write and the pen would leak and the ink would leave stains on my fingers and smudges on the pages and messy ink spots on my palms. 

For years afterward I preferred writing with ballpoint pens. I would buy cheap pens that I could throw away easily after they ran out of ink or dried up or broke in my backpack. Best of all, they didn’t drain my wallet of the little cash that was in it. 

But a few months ago my cousin wrote wanting to know if I’d ever thought about using a fountain pen. He had found one that he liked, a Pilot Metropolitan, which was supposed to be a good introductory pen at a reasonable price (under $15 at Amazon), and the thought of writing with a fountain pen intrigued me. 

I decided that I’d try one, just to find out if fountain pens were the same as I remembered or if they’d changed much since my high school days, and, after quickly searching Google, I discovered just how many fountain pens there are to choose from these days. 

There are pens made in Japan, pens made in Germany, and pens made in the United States and elsewhere. There are pens with cartridges and pens with converters, and there are so many choices for ink, more colors than in a rainbow, it seems. There are so many colors and pens, in fact, that it’s hard to keep track of them all. 

So, I started reading reviews, and I found a pen in my price range ($10) made by Pilot called Kakuno (which means “to write” in Japanese), and I ordered one, along with some extra cartridges.

After it arrived, I opened the packaging—surprised to find that the instructions were printed in Japanese—and, after figuring out how to insert the cartridge, I started writing. And … wow! 

It’s a pen, but it’s so much more than a pen!

I mean, looking at it, you’d think it’s just another writing instrument. The Kakuno shell is made of plastic, but it’s a perfect size that fits nicely in the palm of my hand, and holding it takes very little effort because it’s so light that when it’s in my hand and I'm writing, I hardly feel it unless I grip it too tightly. 

The moment I begin to write, it’s like magic: the ink flows onto the page, the blank page reaches up to embrace the pen, my hand moves effortlessly across the paper. It’s a moment of becoming, a moment of (please, excuse my enthusiasm) unexpected oneness with the universe, a zen-like immersion in the present.

It can take a while to feel comfortable using a fountain pen. But after experimenting a little with different angles and using it in different journals, I can say that writing with a fountain pen feels as natural (and effortless) as breathing. 

Why not add a little variety to your writing practice and try a fountain pen? It doesn’t have to be an expensive one. (You can find the Kakuno online for as little as $10 if you don’t mind  the color….and a plastic shell.) 

You might be surprised at how your writing—and your feelings about your writing—will change when you begin using one.

If you’re still undecided about whether to use a fountain pen, or just curious and want to read more about them and the people who find them attractive, here are a few links that you might enjoy: 

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