This week, I bought a new pen. Most times when people buy pens, it’s just a matter of running down to the nearest Staples and buying a pack of classic Bic ballpoints, and it’s hard to muster up any enthusiasm for that.
Perhaps I should interject here and reminisce about an earlier, more romantic time in the writer’s life when pens were a crucial part of the writing process. The pen-buying market seems to have dried up somewhat, limited to students and whoever’s responsible for buying supplies at work. For fans of good, old-fashioned cursive handwriting, it’s a sad state of affairs.
But hold on, they don’t even teach handwriting in school anymore, right? I’ve heard that it’s a dead skill.
Never mind that, at least for the moment. Let me tell you about this pen I bought. It’s hefty, made of wood and chrome, has a screw-on cap, writes like a dream, and came with several replacement ink cartridges. It’s a work of art, really. This pen is to a Bic ballpoint like the space shuttle is to that old rusted tricycle behind your great-grandfather’s toolshed.
By the way, the pen also happens to be handmade by a local artisan, so it’s not the sort of thing you can pick up at Staples.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a product of the modern world. I’ve written a dozen novels, edited literally hundreds of other books, and the vast majority of this work is done, necessarily, on the computer. For the most part, computers are great. It’s hard to imagine living without them at this point.
But when I first pulled this new pen out of its protective leather sleeve, I felt a little flutter—in my heart, in my soul. Am I overstating this? I don’t think so.
I felt immediately compelled to grab a notebook and start writing things. I didn’t even really have anything in particular to write down—in fact, I jotted down my grocery list. And it’s very possibly the most glorious grocery list anyone’s ever written.
Rest assured, that grocery list is just the start of many great creative works to come from this purchase.
According to a quick Google search, there are some benefits to writing by hand that we’re missing out on by clutching our smartphones and computer keyboards. Notably, when you take the time to physical write something down on a piece of paper, those words are imprinted in your memory more securely.
It’s also just a more engaging activity, activating parts of the brain that otherwise might be lying dormant. Conversely, am I only one who finds handwriting a little bit soothing?
My favourite passage in my last published book just happens to be the only passage that I originally wrote by hand—on an airplane, on scraps of papers, when it seemed like too much trouble to retrieve my laptop from the overhead bin. Coincidence?
I suppose what I’m getting at is this: you can find inspiration in all sorts of unlikely places. And for me, this week, it was buying a pen and reacquainting myself with the joys of writing by hand.
Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. As a professional editor, Braun has seven years of experience working with Word Alive Press authors. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.