A Nibby Love Story

I’ve been ballpoint pen free since May 5 of this year. It all started out with an innocent enough question from a good friend of mine. She asked if I’m interested in fountain pens. Ohhh, such an innocent, innocuous question indeed. Look what you’ve done, Lexie. This is all your fault. Hahaha. Anyway, I regret nothing. A lot of people don’t see the point of why people should be interested in such an “antiquated” writing instrument when there are scores of ballpoint, gel, and rollerball pens available for a fraction of the price.

As a person who looooves to write (every day I write journal entries, letters, project outlines, etc.), trying a fountain pen for the first time was all it took to reel me in, hook, line, and sinker.

Different people have different reasons for liking their fountain pens. Some like them for sentimental reasons (passed on from generation to generation), some for aesthetics, some for practicality, etc. My personal reasons are similar. 

  • They feel good to write with – I’ve been writing in journals for as long as I can remember, and I was perfectly happy with ballpoint pens. Trying out fountain pens (specially when I started trying different kinds) opened up a whole new vista of writing pleasure for me. I found that since fountain pens generally don’t need too much pressure to write, my hand gets tired less quickly. Good fountain pens need only the slightest pressure and they’ll write on contact with paper. Once you find a great journal that is FP-friendly, writing just becomes so pleasurable and less straining on the hand. Plus, the feel that you get with a good nib making contact with paper is not something you can get from a ballpoint/rollerball/gel pen, no matter how expensive it is.
  • They’re friendlier to the environment – Good fountain pens will last for many generations. Ball point pens are made to  be disposable. When you’re done with them, you throw them away and it stews around in a landfill somewhere, piling up over the years. Refillable rollerballs and ballpoint pens are the lesser evils, but you still do throw away empty cartridges. Fountain pens last for years and you only need to refill the ink. The most that you need to do is to throw away defective converters or cartridges. You can even refill cartridges through a syringe so that you don’t need to throw it when you’ve used up the ink.
  • They’re prettier – The construction of the body, the beautiful nibs, the different kinds of finish and form factor… fountain pens are just prettier. I remember the happiness I felt when I first touched a Pilot Namiki with an urushi finish, it was just exquisite. Truly exquisite. The thought and care that goes into designing these beautiful things are impressive. When you learn more about the engineering that goes into the nib, feed and other parts of a fountain pen, it just makes the pen even more special for you. I have a soft spot for vintage pens, and you’ll see that you can get really beautiful vintage pens for a very low price. You can enjoy it for many years to come, as long as you take good care of it. 🙂 Fountain pens are hands down more beautiful, and if taken care of properly, can be an heirloom piece that the next generation can enjoy and pass on.
  • They require more attention – Seems weird to add this as a reason for liking a pen,  but it’s true. I like it because it seems to be more work, but pen maintenance and care is a very fun activity to do. It helps me clear my head and relax. I look forward to weekends because I can clean out pens and decide on next week’s rotation. It’s a labor of love and I get to think about a lot of things while quietly tending to my collection. The more you work on something, the more its value grows on you.
  • The ink is gorgeous – I mentioned before that I never even knew that fountain pen inks come in hundreds of different colors. There’s not just plain old blue, there are different shades of blue in different levels of saturation. Take my word for it, when you find the right pen to go with the right ink and write on the right kind of paper, it shows off the shading beautifully and you’ll see that your writing on paper is not plain anymore. A single stroke can produce different thickness and thinness of the ink. It’s more complex than a ball point pen or a rollerball pen can ever produce as you write.
  • You’re more likely to take care of it – It’s not very often that true fountain pen lovers lose their pens, and when they do, they usually feel genuine remorse. It’s not just about the cost (although that’s likely a very compelling reason), but it’s about the long term relationship you’ve forged with a fine writing instrument that has served you longer than any ballpoint pen has. Aside from consistent maintenance, I take care of my pens by carrying them around in pen wraps, never putting them on hard surfaces and never letting them rub against each other. Call me a little OC, but I love all these pens and taking care of the is part of the pleasure of owning them. 🙂

The truth is, writing with a fountain pen is a unique experience. I’ve completely done away with ballpoint pens and just use finer nibs for paper that don’t tolerate ink very well (hence, my Parker 51 has been in my daily carry since I got it) and I’m very happy with it. Try it, you might just find yourself sliding down the slippery slope too. 🙂