Recently I was reading an article about how writers prefer to put words on a page. Some defended the simplicity of a keyboard, allowing them to type quickly and save easily. Others preferred pen and notepad. Many in the second group went as far to prefer using a quill pen or an ink cartridge pen.
As I reminisced for a moment about ink pens, I was reminded of my fifth through eighth grade years in Catholic school. Every year we received the ‘school supplies’ list consisting of needed items such as PeeChee folders, plastic zippered pouches, binder paper (wide rule only), and ink cartridge pens.
Ink cartridge pens were nifty little writing instruments that doubled as ink-splattering, ink-smearing devices from hell at times. You always knew when a newbie user was loading a cartridge for the first time. Blue or black ink trailed across the wooden desktop, across uniform pants, and over the floor. And the left-handed kids – they always left smears on every page and they had to deal with teacher reprimands each time they handed in a paper, even though it was next to impossible to use a device such as that without making a mess.
The pens also were great for flicking a trail of ink dots across the back of a pristine white shirt of unsuspecting classmates (usually those of the opposite sex). I remember a ‘few’ times when I flicked my pen at someone and then taking pride in my artistic handiwork.
I don’t remember writing with an ink pen after eighth grade. We weren’t required to use them anymore and frankly I was glad to be rid of the frustration and mess. I hadn’t even thought of ink pens, until I read that article about writers.
When it comes to putting words to paper I’ve always sided with the keyboard-lovers. I can’t write fast enough to keep up with the creative thoughts pouring out of me for a story I’m writing, plus it’s easy to save a piece after each edit with a few mouse clicks.
The writers endorsing the amazing features of ink or quill pens swore it changed the way they wrote. Writing slower, thinking about each word, and how the letters were shaped. I started to think about this… and wondered, would it really change the way I wrote if I used an ink pen?
I decided there was only one way to find out. I purchased a “Manuscript” ink pen, complete with different nibs and ink cartridges. I loaded the cartridge into the pen and scribbled a bit. Nothing.
I shook the pen (gently of course) and scribbled again. Still nothing. Ah yes, I remembered – a new pen took a while before the ink filled the nib. I waited a bit longer and soon a steady flow of ink followed each of my pen strokes.
At first I drew circles and squiggly lines, weaving them around the page in small, short marks. Then I began to write words. I didn’t have anything specific to write, but as I did I found myself writing slow, savoring each caress of the pen and making little flourishes with my ‘y’s and ‘g’s. I experimented with short words, then longer words and soon I wrote sentences and paragraphs watching the letters as they appeared out from the flow of the ink. It was magical.
Then I bought a special notebook. Not a red-covered spiral one full of college-ruled sheets, but a cloth-covered one with parchment-type paper inside. Although I was once skeptical about the whole ink pen writing the old-fashioned way idea, I’d began to see the light.
There are still times when I need to write using my laptop, with a keyboard, quickly saving my work. But when I want to write, I mean when I really want to put words on the page with thoughts behind each one, I’ll use my ink pen and special notebook. I’m a new convert to the slow, deliberate process of writing. When I used to think it would be frustrating to write so slowly, I’m finding this method actually brings a calmness over me. I don’t feel a need to hurry, but to linger and enjoy both the process and the words.
I think I’m going to need a few more notebooks and lots more ink cartridges as I continue to discover writing as it was meant to be.