Writing thoughtfully and slowly.
Over the last couple of decades, I’ve collected and sold fountain pens as a hobby. It isn’t the most challenging of hobbies and it would probably bore the pants off many of you. Still, I enjoyed the challenge of finding pens that were interesting to me and valuable to others.
I learned to write longhand in a small Catholic school in New York State. Back then the teachers were Nuns. They had very different ideas about what was important as compared to the average persons and the students. Of course, we were just kids. It was an elementary school. Looking back on that time I realize that some of my ideas about how to live my life were formed then. In this very small part of my life, the idea to write with a fountain pen was created.
I’m left-handed. So writing with a fountain pen is a further challenge. My hand crosses the freshly written words and I need to be very careful to not smudge the freshly laid ink. So I’ve learned to practice my writing. I also have learned to stop and think as I write. The stops helped the ink to absorb into the paper and the thinking allows me to form clearer thoughts as I put them down on the paper. There is another point to be made about writing as I do with my fountain pen. I am careful to form my letters and words carefully along with the thoughts that they convey. Writing in long-hand, and using the fountain pen to do so, makes me want to be as precise and correct as I can be while I write.
Now today we think a little differently about writing and especially about writing the first draft with that much precision of thought. With our computers, tablets, and our apps we can slap some words together and hope they make sense. Later, during editing, we can clean up some of what we’ve written. Still, I’m not totally certain that the thought process is as well reasoned, writing as we do today. I do see the advantages, but I wonder about the loss of thinking and reasoning done at the time, while the thought is blazing in our mind. Editing can clean up the sentence structure and the spelling, but does it convey the subtlety of thought that was there while the pen point was on the paper?
How much of great literature was written with a pen and paper? Practically all of it. So why are we so sure that what we are doing now is better.
I like my fountain pens. I like writing with them sometimes just to maintain my ‘hand’ for the writing. As I’ve gotten older I’m not as steady in what I put down, but it’s a lot better than what I see from young people today. That’s not a criticism, but it is a suggestion that there was and is merit to writing in a slower and more methodical way. I am writing this on my laptop. I’m a good touch typist and like to write here as well. Both have a place I think in a writers toolbox.
I’ve shrunk down the number of fountain pens that I’ve collected, selling them off one-by-one. I will keep a few. I like two particularly for writing. Some are simply for collection purposes. Probably they will be sold off over time. I hope that I can keep writing with my ‘writers’ — the pens that I use myself to write. Writing and reflecting on the words as they slowly accumulate is a much different process to putting out a few thoughts done quickly.