People who know me know that I am a fountain pen lover. It started as a hobby, and slowly became an obsession. I now proudly call myself an addict to fountain pens and other fine writing instruments on my Facebook "profile". It's weird and borderline maniac - my love for fountain pens.
But of all people, I am actually the last one to ask myself the all-important question: Why? Why use a fountain pen when there are a plethora of writing instruments that are faster, cheaper, and most of all, more convenient. The smartphones are on our hands or in our pockets 24/7. Sit on our desks and laps are computers that can create and store an infinite amount of documents. The Apple Pencil with beautiful strokes on your iPad can do anything that you need from taking notes in meetings or classes to creating finished artwork. Or if you're in a hurry, a simple ballpoint bought for dirt cheap at your local convenience store can jot down your shopping list or sign that receipt just fine, and you can just toss it away when it runs out of ink without any second thought.
Here's the thing: You don't use fountain pens or traditional fine writing instruments in general (pencils, typewriters, brushes, papers, inks etc…) for the sake of convenience. You use them because they bring you an utter sense of joy. At least, that's why I use fountain pens. They bring me joy.
Of course, there's the "status symbol" aspect. A Montblanc pen with the distinctive snowflake logo on top generally gives you an image of being an important and wealthy person. A man/woman of authority. It's a lot like wearing a Rolex. It means that you're good at what you do and are well compensated for it, that you're a professional, that you mean business.
And then there's the collectible qualities: rare and precious materials: 14 karat gold, 18 karat gold, 21 karat gold nibs… Diamonds, silver, palladium, platinum… They create pens from these materials. Even the "cheaper" pens come in every imaginable "limited edition" of colors and materials. Beautiful and innovative and weird and minimal aesthetics… There's a fountain pen for everyone no matter what his or her taste is. Pen makers know all too well about the collecting mentality of us human: we feel good and secured looking at our collections; whether it's a fountain pen collection, or stamps, or guns, or lingerie… We work hard to acquire our materialistic items, and our collection is how we show it off.
It's also effortless and expressive to write with a fountain pen if you know how to use it properly. You don't need to press down so hard for the pen to write. And once a pen writes properly, it will write, and write, and write… It's like your stream of consciousness has fused with the ink and manifest itself onto letters on the page. Combine this with the hardness of the nib, the shade of ink that you use, and the texture of your paper of choice… You can enjoy a great deal of self-expression in all its glory.
Last but not least, it's cool. Whether it's classy cool or hipster cool, it's cool that you use a fountain pen. It's a conversation starter. It shows that you are someone who cares about craftsmanship and quality, that you are a sophisticated person who can appreciate the finer things in life.
All of the above, yes. But there's more.
It's all about the nuances, really. And I, like most thoughtful, emotionally intelligent and talented people that I know - are a whole lot about nuances.
When you first touch the nib of a fountain pen to the paper, you need to think about what you're about to write. It feels substantial. The simple mechanism of capillary action and gravity that pull ink from the barrel to the feed and then to the nib of the pen is so simple yet so delicate, it makes writing nonsense feels almost like a disgrace to me. People always use the pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" to "test" their pens. I'm not a big fan of this method myself, to be completely honest with you. A fountain pen carries the weight of your thoughts. What does the sentence above carry? Not a lot.
The quality of your thoughts will define the quality of your life, a wise man once said. When I write with my pens, I feel a pressure to write clearly and thoughtfully. Not in the form of penmanship, though nothing wrong with that, but in the sense of responsibility with my thoughts, with my ideas, with my life. I enjoy writing letters to my wife, even though we live under the same roof and hang out all the time. There are things that can not be spoken but can be delivered beautifully via a handwritten letter.
Using a fountain pen forces me to slow down, to think carefully and clearly, about all the nuances of my thoughts. Using a fountain pen is my way to block out the distractions, the noises that populate our mental spaces. Using a fountain pen is my ode to the slow life - a life that I aspire to live. Once I slow down, I feel joy. And that's what I live for: finding joys in the nuances.
So to my fountain pens, I salute you. You are inanimate objects and really make my wallet cry empty tears, but I love you. I will use you to write my best, my worst and my weirdest thoughts.