Monday, August 8, 2011

Fountain of the imagination, joy in the hand

The joy of three pelikans
I've a piece in today's Canberra Times, 'Fountain of the imagination and joy in the hand'.

No, dear Freudians - it's about fountain pens.

Building on my earlier piece for the ABC, I'm trying to be more specific about the pen's merits in a digital age.  A sample:
Most obviously, it mitigates distraction. My laptop is an efficient word-processing machine. But it’s also a portal to infinite amusement: inbox, web browsing, social media. I’m not on Facebook, but I receive my fair share of emails. And then there are the blogs, forums, news sites, and so on. The fountain pen leaves me alone with my thoughts, and the paper I inscribe them on. It’s not only wireless, but wireless-less. And in this, it is focusing, rather than dissipating. 
It is also literally less painful to use. It delivers ink smoothly onto the page, without the cramping pressure of the rollerball, or the hunched pecking of the laptop. It sacrifices speed for comfort and ease-of-use, allowing for sustained writing without the tell-tale aches of the Biro or MacBook.
The fountain pen is also slow because I form each letter, whereas the computer or typewriter does this automatically. I also form the font and format. This requires several parts of the brain to work at once: visual, cognitive, motor. We have to know where our hand is on the page, how to write each letter, while simultaneously referring letters to words, and words to what’s on our mind. Constant feedback from the paper, nib and hand keep the brain adjusting its angle, pressure and speed. 
Because of this, researchers have concluded that handwriting helps children’s cognitive development and letter recognition. But it is also important for adults. It exercises a little more of our brain, and impresses our unique style upon the page. It is not Steve Jobs’ proprietary font – it is my unique scrawl. That I can choose my own nib width and ink adds to this distinctiveness. 
There is also a meditative character to this. Offline concentration combines with comfort and slowness to promote reverie, analysis or speculation. Rather than bashing out phrases onto the keyboard, the fountain pen’s hovering nib encourages a certain patient consideration.

1 comment:

kirkistan said...

I entirely agree with the benefit of focus that comes from pen on paper. I just wish those pen strokes could be removed to digital, for it is there I do my editing and rethinking. That's why I hang on to my old AT&T Tilt, which lets me write by hand on the screen and it translates to a file.