Yesterday was a mixed bag. I took the kids out to do some shopping and mailing of presents, and it was the stress-inducing experience you’d expect it to be, battling the Christmas shopping crowd with two small children in tow. When I got back to the house, we couldn’t get up the driveway because the water running down ou little hill had frozen the ruts into ice tracks, so I had to hoof it up to the house, get my ice cleats, and carry the kids up the hill.
On the plus side of the ledger, someone must have declared yesterday “Send Marko Free Stuff Day”. FedUp dropped off a large gift basket sent to us by a friend, and the mail carrier brought a book from another friend. (Thanks, Chris!) Finally, the UPS driver dropped off a small package that turned out to be a gift from a reader: a Waterman Phileas fountain pen.
I haven’t written anything with a fountain pen since high school, and I forgot what a pleasant experience it is to put ink onto paper with a fountain pen nib. Like most, I use computer keyboards to write, but once upon a time–back when the girls wore shoulder pads, the boys wore skinny ties, and Simon LeBon was Hungry Like The Wolf–I wrote my first attempt at a novel with a fountain pen and a large stack of spiral-bound notebooks.
When I did some research on this particular pen, I came across a few sites that gave instructions on “How To Write With A Fountain Pen”. This struck me as odd, because a fountain pen was required school equipment for us when I grew up, and I would think that few people actually need a primer on how to use one. I asked Robin whether she had learned to use a fountain pen when she was in school, and she said that she hadn’t. I guess that’s a European thing, or maybe even just a German one. Is there anyone out in Intertubes land who a.) grew up in the United States, and b.) was required to use a fountain pen for composition in school?
I’ve been hammering away at keyboards for so long that using a fountain pen again feels a little strange. Longhand writing is slower work, so you have time to roll that sentence around in your head before committing it to paper, and I find that my writing is a bit more terse and efficient when it’s ink on paper versus pixels on a screen. Apparently, some rather well-known novelists compose their first drafts with fountain pens. Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson both write in longhand–Stephenson even wrote his 1,000-page magnum opus Anathem in that fashion, drafting longhand and then transcribing on the computer for the second draft. My right wrist starts to hurt when I think about the amount of spiral-bound notebooks I’d have to fill with ink to end up with a novel that weighs in at 1,000 print pages, but it seems to work for him, and you can’t argue with results.
I won’t chuck the computer out just yet, but I think I’ll sit down this afternoon and do something I haven’t done in years–write a letter in longhand, on good paper, with smooth and lovely deep-black ink.