Wednesday, October 14, 2009

'Write on' - On Fountain Pens

I've a piece on the ABC, 'Write On', on the virtues of fountain pens.

It's my contribution to 'The Write Tools', my blog series on authors, illustrators and their favourite tools. A sample: recent years the humble fountain pen has enjoyed something of a resurgence. While it's still an emblem of professional status for lawyers and doctors, many others are picking up the fluted nib, and putting it to paper.

But why? In a time of cheap ballpoints, tiny laptops and Word-enabled mobile phones, what on earth can be gained from a fountain pen? Isn't this just expensive, shallow, Luddite stubbornness?

Perhaps for some, it's a misplaced longing for the past, or a sign of pomposity.

But for most, it's simply a useful, beautiful, evocative tool. And it's not only for professional writers. Most Australians write something every day, and our tools make no small difference. Of course a pen can't make us nicer, smarter, or more beautiful. But they can enrich and revive the art of writing.


Gondal-girl said...

I have submitted to your pen-ography Damon, have ordered a fountain pen yesterday to try my hand at one. I even ordered violet ink, how gorgeous is that!

enjoying your writing tools/write on series

Damon Young said...


Which one did you try? The Jotter, or something more swish?

And thank you - I'm enjoying this series immensely.

Gondal-girl said...

went for a white lamy safari...among a few other sexy ball that with my stash of Clairefontaines I will write once I have got the baby thing sorted - also reading countless horoscopes on maternity leave mentioning things to do with pens and paper importance in the next month, was enough to push me over the internet pen shopping edge....

Damon Young said...

I've never tried the Lamy - but they're known to be well-made and extremely reliable. I hope you blog about your pen adventures...

(One of the rare times a horoscope has achieved something truly noble.)

Best of luck with it all, GG.

Gondal-girl said...

thanks Damon

will blog adventures when they happen ( or at least my ink stained fingers)

Philospher's don't do astrology then?

prologus said...

I have to say that I'm very old school, like really old school. I still use a nib pen (a.k.a dip pen). I've have had an obsession with writing instruments and paper since I was a kid - I've always wanted to be a writer/essayist. I mostly use my nib pen when writing love letters to my wife, with which I try and use various styles of blackletter script.

I've always wanted to get a really good quality, though not ultra expensive, fountain pen. I envisage them to be far more efficient than nib pens, though the only drawback I see is that you cannot change the nibs (with which I have a small collection), though I may be wrong on that account. The other writing instrument I use are mechanical pencils. I use mechanical pencils when writing out my essays for Uni (I study philosophy and political theory at Macquarie in Sydney).

Any suggestions on a good quality fountain pen?

Cheer, Nathan

Damon Young said...

Thanks, Nathan. Yes, I tried dip pens for a while - I remember the raw tactility - like boxing in bare hands, instead of gloves.

(My handwriting's worse than my fighting - which is saying something.)

But ultimately, the smoothness, balance and beauty of the fountain pen won me over.

As for recommendations, I'm very impressed by Pelikan. I was using an M200, and now an M215, blue/black (it's in the photo). It's at the lower end of the Pelikans, but it's a dream to write with.

And, yes, you can swap Pelikan nibs. You can go for various sizes, and you can also swap between some models. Richard Binder is helpful on this - see here.

prologus said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Damon. I will definitely check them out. There is a nice stationary store close to where I live -- and I'm not talking about Office Works either.

Reading your contribution on Unleashed, I have to thoroughly agree with your third point:

"Third, by encouraging longhand, it offers meditation, focus, personality. I wrote much of Distraction by hand, and the passages written in longhand have a certain meditative patience. Perhaps writing by hand - the slow, careful craft - is more conducive to speculation. Because I'm restricted to the pages in front of me, this meditation can often be focused - I'm alone with my phrases. And I'm also confronted by the personality of my own writing - this can prompt introspection or reverie (and embarrassment)."

For me, it was right on point. It's why I write all my essays long hand. I find writing an essay on Heidegger, for example, needs a great deal of meditation and focus.


p.s. I've been following your blog for some time. I really enjoy reading your posts. Thanks again

nicky said...

Re: writing longhand
A mentor once told me she had written her PhD thesis on a typewriter (in the computer era), at the insistence of her own supervisor. Torture?
Still, the discipline of writing a whole page by planning it in your mind first - without the temptation of live editing- surely matters.
The idea appealed to me and I started my (now neglected) typewriter blog, made of scanned-in pages written on my old Remington Correspondent.
I hasten to add the writing suffered somewhat for the form.
My hand writing is pretty appalling, but maybe its time to revisit the typewriter blog with a fountain pen instead?
Thanks for the inspiration, as always.

Damon Young said...

Oh, Nicky - the joy you'll have with inks!

Get yourself a beautiful pen, some nice ink, and write me a letter...