Fountain pen praise

During one rare moment in the January rainy season, the sun finally blazed out from behind the clouds. Ribbons of light streamed through the skylight windows of my favourite internet cafe. The sunshine, a steaming cup of tea, and my trusty laptop were my companions for the two hours my daughter was in her art class. The Saturday crowds packed the place.  I observed one fellow scanning the bustling room for an empty seat, fumbling with his shoulder bag and coat, and balancing his swimming-pool-sized latte on its giant saucer. I invited him to share my table. He accepted with a sigh of relief. We each worked for a while, lost in separate daydreams brought on by the gorgeous day. But, as is often the case in cafes, we eventually started chatting.

My table mate said he was a writer and that sparked a long conversation about the life of writing. This fellow writer raved about how much he enjoyed using a fountain pen to write out his first drafts long hand — a technique recommended by Anne Lamott in her book, Bird by Bird. I was intrigued by his praise for the humble fountain pen. Eventually, it was time for me to go and pick up my daughter. I said a cheery goodbye to my new writing acquaintance.

I can never resist a new experiment, so I bought a fountain pen the first chance possible. My new pen looked too complicated to simplify any writer’s life. But the moment I touched the the inky nib to the paper,  I couldn’t believe how fast my pen could race across the page.  My writing hand could almost keep up with my thoughts! I would never have guessed how such an old fashion invention could make writing so smooth. I loved the feel of the pen and the almost frictionless action on the page.

Experiment results: I carry my fountain pen with me wherever I go. The downside is my hand-writing has deteriorated when using the fountain pen, possibly because of the speed; the upside is I am writing more — and more often — mainly because it is a beautiful experience to have the fountain pen in my hand, composition book in my lap, cup of tea by my side, and no need to find a plug. I have a new found appreciation for this antique pen technology and, now, savour my electron-free writing sessions at my favourite cafe.

*******                 word whacking                    credits and links             *******

Photo credit: Photo by jamm at

Books mentioned:  Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott.

Library thing collection: See all the books mentioned, recommended, or being read at word whacking here:

word whacking, copyright 2010 – Jessica Motherwell McFarlane, Ph.D.. Creative commons attribution, non-commercial sharing only (translation: feel free to quote me in context or use this entry but please always credit me for my work, thanks.)


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