Posts Tagged ‘fountain pen’

S T DupontHave a question? Search the internet and you will find an answer. Search long enough, and you can even find the answer you want. While that’s great (if you live in an echo chamber), it’s no help if you don’t know which answer you’re looking for. In that case, the internet will provide you with a bevy of contradictory answers, leaving you to sort it all out for yourself. Square One.

The Quandary: Issues with Ink

The other day I became peevish when the letter I’d written got smudged (I write almost exclusively with a fountain pen). How could I keep the ink from smudging? I wanted an answer. I thought back to all those movies where the actor pulls out a piece of hand-laid paper, scritches a few lines with a feathered quill*, dashes some sand across the page to blot the ink, knocks the sand off onto the floor, seals the note with wax and signet, and then hands it to a waiting messenger with instructions to place it directly into the hands of [insert name of influential character here]. You know, the Elizabethan equivalent of “Is this a secure line?”

What is that stuff they sprinkled across the page? How did it work? Did it work? And if so, where can I get some?

Burning questions.

Naturally, I hit the ‘net to search for answers. Naturally, I found plenty.

The Answers: Contradictory Camps

As with most Things Internet, the answers I found separated into two categories, both of which claimed to be the only truth, both of which stated that everyone in the opposite camp was a yammering thumb-sucker who, blinded by misinformation, couldn’t see the facts for the lies. Frakking sheeple.

As with most Things Real, however, I found that the answer is not binary. Rather, it is a combination of the answers provided by both camps. Again, in standard internet style, instead of combining information for a win-win, both camps went for an I-win-you-lose outcome, which means everything ends up in a lose-lose tie. Bloody typical.

This left me having to sort through all of it myself. It was up to me to evaluate the two camps’ positions which, obviously, meant I had to do my own research. My own actual, physical research.

If you’re interested in my results, read on. If not, here’s a picture of “the cutest kitten on the internet.”

Have a nice day. (more…)

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1972 Sheaffer Stylist White Dot Fountain PenI used to be much more disciplined about “writing time.” I also used to have crushing deadlines, which were a great motivator. Now, I have less time, my monkey-boy-day-job is more demanding, and it’s just damned hard to find time to shut myself in the back room, sit down at the computer, alone, without distractions, and pump a couple thousand words past the CPU.

To counter this, I’ve tried many tactics. First, I bought a netbook, thinking it would allow me to work anywhere; it turned out to be too slow and underpowered to provide any real convenience. Then, I bought a keyboard for my iPad, but while faster, it proved to be too clumsy to balance on the bus and still required a larger chunk of time in order to be productive.

So, I went Old School, returning to my writerly roots, as it were. As some of you know, my first books were written longhand, with pen on paper. Yes, kids, I actually wrote four whole novels without the aid of a computer. I swear it’s true; FC:I-II and PC:I-II were all written with a Uni-Ball pen on Cambridge steno pads.

This new/old method has increased my productivity for several reasons. Primarily, it is more suited to my Basher style; cudgeling out a few dozen or maybe a hundred words at a time is much easier than trying to force out a couple thousand words. It is also perfectly suited to my catch-as-catch-can writing schedule, allowing me to squeeze out a couple of lines at the bus stop, en route to the transit station, while waiting for a program to compile, or as I’m cooling down after my workout.

There’s also another, less obvious benefit: because writing with pen and paper is slower than typing, the resulting prose is the product of a more thoughtful and deliberate process. Writing with pen on paper increases the lyricism of my prose, and what ends up on the page is tighter, less cluttered by unnecessary wiggle-words, and is closer to what I really wanted to say. Yes, there are lots of cross-outs and insertions (see picture), which yes, looks as if I editing as I go along (Bad writer! No biscuit!), but this isn’t really editing; this is searching for the narrative path.

Moreover, writing with pen and paper just makes me feel like a writer. It is how almost all of my favorite authors composed. It’s an organic, completely natural way to create, completely divested of the trappings and necessities of computers and cables and cords. It’s immediate, it’s personal, and to me, it’s more than processing words; it’s writing.


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