Getting Write to the Heart of the Matter – Part 1

A few weeks ago I found myself in my local Staples, looking for some pens with a nib smaller than 0.5 mm and a package of binder dividers. As I perused the pen section, a young girl, probably in high school, entered the aisle with her father. I overheard a discussion between them regarding the fact that she needed to get a package of pens because hers had run out. This discussion included her father’s exasperation at needing to buy pens, including his incredulity at how she already needed more. They also had a brief exchange about what type of pens, which I couldn’t help but smirk at. The girl’s father was, like most people, looking for the best bargain. Unfortunately for him, his daughter had a specific brand and model of pen in mind. I almost chuckled as he questioned her, frustrated, as to why they couldn’t just get the cheaper pack of pens, to which she replied that she couldn’t write with other pens.

Why did this amuse me, you ask? Well as most people who know me well will tell you, I have a bit of an obsession with all things that write; in fact, if you go into the archives and find my post titled “(RSS) Feeding My Addictions,” you might notice that I have quite a few pen blogs listed among the sites I subscribe to. So I could sympathize with the girl’s plight, although I in no way could agree with her choice of pens (I believe she bought a package of BIC Sticks, which, to be quite frank, absolutely disgust me).

Now, by no means do I use only one specific pen model exclusively, and I have been known to go to various stationery stores to purchase specific imported pens (almost always Japanese). And while I detest ballpoint, I’m generally willing to give any other kind of pen a try — be it hybrid, gel, or liquid ink, porous point, needle point, or fountain pen. But standard ballpoint, like those horrible BIC Sticks, with their bland design, complete lack of weight, pungent and viscous ink, and uncomfortable hard plastic grips… those kinds of pens are best left to those who don’t know better.

But before I get too off-track and into my personal eccentricities about pens, I should probably get to my point. See, the thing that most people don’t seem to understand is that using a pen is actually a kind of art. It’s a very personal matter, and while I inwardly — and sometimes outwardly — cringe to see people use horrible, mass produced ballpoints, if that’s the kind of pen they feel works best for them, I have no right to try to change them, though as an outspoken stylophile, I have no qualms about trying to introduce them to -ahem- the finer side of writing implements. People are very adaptable when they need to be, but with other matters, they get set in their ways. I’ve seen college students who can write normally in cursive, but can’t do anything but use all-caps when writing in print. It’s a matter of comfort and what works best, and pen choice is the same way. While I’ve met people who just use any pen they happen to come across, no matter what type of pen it is, I’ve also known people who have specific ideas of what kind of pen they want or need for certain tasks. It can be a sort of superstition, almost.

For instance, I’ve known our very own typoattack to use Sharpie Pens almost exclusively; but when it comes time for an exam, the Sharpies go away and out comes the Zebra F-701 Ballpoint (though Zebra ballpoint ink is closer to a hybrid than many others). And though I don’t particularly care for his ink choice, in terms of the physical pen, he has the right idea. Sharpie Pens may write quite smoothly, but when it comes to test-taking, the sharp edge of the barrel, which happens to be right where most people hold their pens, gets to be quite burdensome. The F-701 is smooth stainless steel with a knurled grip (especially helpful if your hands happen to sweat when you go into a big test) and just the right amount of heft to feel solid in the hand without causing a lot of strain during long writing sessions. On the other hand, unless my memory fails me, emptynight uses whatever pens he happens to come across.

As for me, I have a wide range of tastes and desires in a pen… such that were I to put them down here, this post would probably become twice as long as it is now. I’ll save that for another day.

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