Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The write stuff

It's not often that I read something that, in turn, makes me want to write. But I did today. The catalyst in this case being an article by the BBC regarding fountain pens and their apparent increase in use.

Those who know me well know I have a life long passion for using fountain pens, and contrary to the implication in the article, in my case it's definitely not an affectation. They are with me all the time. Not as a backup, or for show, but as my primary and, more often than not, sole writing implement. If I carry anything else it will be... A pencil.

Oh yes. All hail the Luddite!

My current day-to-day pen, an 18k nibbed Sonnet
But there's the paradox. I'm most definitely not a Luddite, almost by definition of what I do I embrace the bleeding edge of technology and then help push it a little further.

When it comes to making jotted notes, or expressing thoughts. Or even simply making a shopping list, it's the fountain pen I reach for.

As I work you will often see post-it notes attached around the bezels of my multiple monitors. Each of which has been written, by hand, with a fountain pen. A delicious mash of old and new technologies working hand in hand for the good of the new. Or something.

It really is as simple as I like writing with these pens. I love the softness, the option to add depth to my letter formation, the perfect weight distribution and... Not having to put pressure on the paper. I know I could get the latter with a more modern pen, but no, not for me.

And there are other benefits. The obvious one is they often look attractive. And they, or at least their use, will often trigger unexpected conversations in the strangest of places. Not to mention the perverse camaraderie amongst other aficionados. But for me the strangest benefit is the one I found by chance...

Many years ago I had to attend a business and technology meeting between the company I was then CTO of, a major broadcaster and a major technology company. We were definitely the minnows. Surprised they didn't just ask us to make the tea. Anyway. Like the dumb brunette I am, I managed to turn up with a dead pooter. A slight issue involving a bottle of Lucozade... I wasn't going to draw attention to myself and apologise for the fact that I'd not brought a laptop, so kept silent as I simply drew out my small leather filofax and a gorgeous lacquer Parker Sonnet...

...The meeting went well. In fact, if anything, better than well. When I spoke, people listened intently. As I closed the cap on my pen they would return to their laptops to add notes.


I was the, apparently, the Luddite in the room, but wasn't having to fight to get my point across. How could that be? In the pub later I mentioned this to a colleague and his theory was simple. I looked serious, no distractions, and carried the authority of talking entirely from memory. Plus, they could check what I was saying and find it right. It was an interesting revelation. Less was, quite literally, more.


Whatever the psychological mumbo-jumbo might be, which he did witter on about ad nauseum, I did find it interesting and from that day on felt much less self-concious about being the only one in a room using an old fashioned pen and making notes on paper.

And they really are lovely to write with.

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