Choosing and Using Pens

Editing on a computer saves an incredible amount of time, but I’ve found that writing a first draft can result in less than stellar writing on the computer.  It works for essays, for example, but not for screenplays.  I write my journal in a college-ruled notebook with pen.  When I need to work something out on paper, I’ve found that using a pen rather than a computer and monitor works best.  Why? And what kind of pen?  Does it matter?

First of all, yes, what kind of pen does matter to me.  The color of the ink matters to me.  How the pen feels in my hand matters, as does the smoothness of the flow of ink onto the paper.  I used to have a cheap fountain pen that my brother gave to me when I was in high school.  I loved that pen.  I used it for years, until the nib no longer worked.  So, I went in search of a replacement.  Fountain pens are hard to find nowadays.  I wanted one just like my old one, and I didn’t want to pay more than, say, $5 for it.  Ha!  The cheapest fountain pens I could find were in the $15-$20 range.  In a fit of frustration, I bought two and stocked up on ink cartridges.  I tried to write with these pens but it just wasn’t the same.  One was two heavy, one was too fat.  Then they both stopped working — the ink stopped flowing smoothly and evenly.  Today, they lay in my desk somewhere, neglected and probably bone dry.

After the fountain pen fiasco, I began experimenting with gel ink pens.  I used to love the Pentel Rolling Writer pens, and they came in a wonderful variety of colors, including purple and green, my two favorite colors.  But then Pentel stopped making them and their ballpoint pens just do not cut it.  They feel clunky and too big in my hand.  The flow of ink tends to be choppy and reluctant.  I want a pen whose ink flows with my thoughts and my hand across the paper.  Smooth and abundant, rich dark color, and if it has an ink scent, so much the better.

Currently, my favorite ballpoint is a Papermate Eagle stick pen, medium point, in a vibrant sky blue.  Other ballpoints that I use and like include Bic round sticks, Papermate Flexgrip Ultra, Papermate Flexgrip Elite, Papermate Pro-Fit and Papermate ComfortMate Grip, all medium points, in blue, black, green, red and purple.  For gel ink pens, I’m still experimenting a lot, but I’ve enjoyed Pentel’s EnerGel medium point in purple and black, Uniball Signo in blue and black, and Bic gel ink in blue.  And of course, Flair pens in LOTS of colors.

Color can reflect mood, in my journal for example, or serious business when I use blue or black.  For me, black is the most dramatic color.  I love black gel ink pens.  I use purple and green pens quite a lot, and tend to reserve red pens for financial or health matters.  The feel of the pen in my hand is important — how heavy it is, how easy to grip, how comfortable.  I tend to prefer small, light pens with comfort grips of some sort because I write by pen a lot.

My handwriting has evolved over time.  If I look at my journals from high school, my handwriting tends toward small and slanted one way on one day, another the next day.  After college, I attended business school and learned shorthand which radically changed my regular handwriting.  Now it tends toward a mix of cursive and printing rather than all cursive, and not very consistent.  My signature has remained remarkably similar, however.

When do I prefer to use a pen for my writing instead of the computer?  First, whenever I need to slow down my thinking to work something out.  I usually write the first draft of screenplays using pen and paper.  The first drafts of advertising copy, business letters, or anything else that requires slow and deep thought.  Handwriting tends to slow down the brain, allows the brain to mull over the words as they appear on the paper.  I think love letters should always be handwritten.  I write my journal by hand instead of on the computer in order to be reflective, to really examine my day or whatever problem I’m working through.

Pens are as much a shopping weakness as books, CDs and DVDs for me.  Whenever I need office supplies and pens are on my list, I need to give myself a maximum number that I can afford to buy that day and stick to it or I’d go way over budget.  I love to have boxes and boxes of pens in my closet, lots of different kinds, so I can pick and choose like crayons in a box for drawing a picture.  My pens are drawing pictures, but in words.

So far, I’ve been heartened that office supply stores, Target, etc. still sell all kinds of pens in spite of the popularity of computers of all kinds.  My love for pens can endure for many more years…..

13 responses to “Choosing and Using Pens

  1. HI, I can totally agree with you on just the right pen for the right job. I have tons of pens. My latest kick was to take all my stick pens and using floral tape add an array of flowers. I now have vases of flowers all over the house. I do keep certain ones in my offices so I can have a favorite at any time I need one. I am Catholic and I can tell you every Friday the nuns would fill our cartridges with a syringe. I still do it today. Some habits are hard to break.

  2. Here’s a fun website for pen lovers: I’ll post the link under the Blogroll section of my list of links to the right.

  3. I’f you’d like to try fountain pens again, you can find them in the $3-$5 range at jet Look for the Pilot Varsity and Platinum Preppy pens. The Pilot penmanship is also less than $10.

    • Wow, Note Booker, thanks! I will check out jet I have still a ton of Schaefer ink cartridges that I’d like to use up….(smile)

  4. Its the time to change the proverb “the pen is mightier than the sword” it should be like “the ipad is mightier than the pen”…….I am a constant user of these advanced items as my work is completely based on them.after all these years,I do not remember how my handwriting looks like on a paper.Anybody who wants ro study my personality through my writing might have a tough time.

    • But you see, that’s just the point. Using a pen forces me to slow down and think. Electronic gadgets, even computers, make writing so fast that I think what’s coming out has no relation to what I’m thinking, actually. I often feel like my fingers typing have their own brains unconnected to the one in my head! But pens, sweet pens! Knowing that someone used a pen to write me a note or letter makes it all the more precious to me. Why? Using a pen means, to me, that he wanted to slow down, think about his words and choose them well, and that his writing is most sincere. So, sir! Get out a pen and practice your penmanship! (smile)

  5. If you like black gel pens (as do I), you should check out the Pentel Energel-X. I’ve tried a _LOT_ of different pens over the years, and I’ve settled on this one as my reliable workhorse. They’re cheap and can be found at Staples/Office Max. I prefer the 0.7mm, but they have a .05 too. Here’s Pentel’s site on them:

    Good luck!

    • Oh, yeah, Jeremy! I love Pentel Energel pens! I use the black and the violet inks, and also prefer 0.7mm. I’ll have to check out the Energel-X — haven’t seen them in my Office Max. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Howdy,

    Me, too!
    I just discovered that the PaperMate EAGLE ballpoint pen works great over mixed-media in my art journals. Two of my gel pens (Uniball Signo, Pentel WOW!) were skipping do I tried the EAGLE. THe EAGLE writes over acrylic paints, acrylic glazes and gesso! I’m using the blue pen.

    Would love for you to visit my blog when you have a moment or 2.


  7. Rolling Writer Lover

    Pentel didn’t stop making rolling writer pens… You can find them on their website, I buy mine on Amazon!

  8. Pingback: Happy Anniversary! | Anatomy of Perceval

  9. Pingback: Top Ten Posts of All Time on Anatomy of Perceval | Anatomy of Perceval Blog

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