Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why Fountain Pens Changed My Life

For those of you who haven’t tried a true fountain pen and giving it a shot, you are missing out.

A few months ago, talking on the phone with a new-found friend, I told her about how I can’t write by hand anymore. Both of my hands cramp up and after about a minute or two, the act physically hurts. Because of the pain and other irritating symptoms associated with them, I’ve even gone to the doctor. A full blood panel later, no arthritis was found. Talk about inconvenient and frustrating.

I’m 27 years old. Too young to have little things like opening jars or writing by hand hurt me. I wanted answers and when the tests came back clean, I was disappointed. We live in an age where there are answers for so many things. To not have walked out of the doctors office that day with one made me feel hopeless.

After telling my friend Erin all of this, she dived into a speech about fountain pens. I listened in earnest, but was left a little confused. How could a simple pen make the difference? I mean, the walls of Staples and OfficeMax are lined with disposable pens. Those pens are not that different from an actual fountain pen. So even though I listened, I still had a little doubt.

But hey!? Who was I to turn away a possible solution to my never-ending problem? At this point, I couldn’t even write more than 10 thank you cards for one of my kids’ birthday party. I’d try anything. Heck, I never used to carry around notepads because what was the point? I couldn’t write more than a page anyway.

About a week later, Erin lent me one of her pens to get the feel of things. It was very buoyant in my hand, causing me to raise my expectations. The first few pen strokes increased my hope. Then, about a day into it, I started to get frustrated. I wasn’t used to the nib. In order to use it correctly, you have to hold the pen right. In my frustrated state I thought to myself “why am I going to go through all of this to just have another headache?”

Desperate to have a solution to my problem, I persevered. Once I returned the pen to my friend, I already purchased another one to take its place. My agony grew when my new fountain pen, a different maker, wrote completely different than the one I spent a few weeks getting used to. UGH! I wanted to scream. But I didn’t give up.

I grew to like that pen, but it broke a week after I bought it. My solution was EBay. I found a lot of the exact pens that Erin let me borrow, purchased them and received in the mail a week later. Because they run on refillable cartridges, it was yet another thing that I had to get used to. Let’s just say the first few times were….not clean. It seemed to me that ink would never leave my hands. Every morning I’d go to work with clean hands. By the end of the day they would be covered in blue ink. A woman at work kept laughing at me, asking why I hadn’t given up yet.

Because I couldn’t.

Now, two months later, I couldn’t imagine my life without these pens. Yes, after years of writing with standard ball-point pens, there was some getting used to my new writing tools. But they were worth every ounce of frustration and every drop of ink. I rarely get it on my skin anymore, but when I do, I honestly don’t care. I could go to disposable ink cartridges and that would solve my problem, but I like what I’m doing and I don’t care to change it.

You’re probably asking why I would go through so much hassle just so I can write by hand. Especially with computers.

To fuel your curiosity, yes there are computers. I can type 80-90 words a minute so I am not lacking there.

What about those times when I’m in a park, at lunch or on a break? Those times when I don’t have my computer with me? Now, I have notepads in my purse, in my car, and anywhere else I can think to store them. When I have ideas, or I want to write, I do. My creative thoughts are no longer a prisoner to my hands. I write, and write, and WRITE all the time. I have my life back because of it. I owe mountains of thanks to my friend Erin.

Now I challenge you to two months of testing out these pens. You won’t lose anything by trying, but gain nothing by not.


  1. Hey Erin! Thanks for pointing me to this post, and thanks so much for giving fountain pens an honest try. They really are so much better.

    You might want to check out (or link to) the entry I wrote about fountain pens in my blog:

    And incidentally, there is a very specific reason why fountain pens are good for your crampy hands - the ink flows through the nib and on the paper because of water tension. With gel/bic pens, you have to put pressure on the pen in order to lay down a line.

  2. Erin - you probably know that inky fingers were the hallmark of writers like Geoffrey Chaucer in medieval times. So wear your ink stains proudly!

  3. Don't forget if you truly need to as your life gets busier (cuz you will be rich one day) that you could get a small tape recorder and just voice your thoughts so that later you can type it out. Just something to think about. I love to hear all about everything you write!
    Love ya,Sharon