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Update: For some reason, this is one of the most popular recent posts on my blog.

I noticed Chris when I was walking through National Airport in D.C. yesterday. Sitting at Starbucks, he was writing in an old-fashioned ruled journal with a fountain pen. Nearby, at the ready, was his ink-stained blotter. At the adjacent table was another guy with, predictably, an open laptop.

I was so astonished that I circled back and asked if I could take a photo. Chris was quite agreeable. "It's my sanity," he said. He had on green sneakers and was on his way to Aspen, CO. 

Can you remember when you kept a journal? I wrote one for years but never mastered the art of a fountain pen. Wish I had asked more about what he was writing but I didn't want to intrude.

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Susan Reynolds said on July 30, 2008 at 10:51 AM

That’s a heartwarming picture. In fact, wouldn’t it be wonderful for his grandchildren to someday open that book and found whatever random thoughts he’d written that day in the airport?

One of the best gifts I’ve gotten in the last few years was a new fountain pen. I hadn’t used one since eighth grade when last they were required at school. My moleskine and my fountain pen make a happy couple - but there’s no way to compare them to laptop, smart phone, etc. It’s just not the same.

And Debbie, thanks for reminding me to add a fountain pen or three to my Amazon gift list!

Debbie Weil said on July 30, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Susan,

You’re right—that’s probably a moleskin notebook. I love them. But I use a cheap 3 X 5 inch spiral that I get at CVS. I jot everything down in it - phone numbers and reminders. I call it my “paper pilot” (like palm pilot).

Sarah Wurrey said on July 31, 2008 at 11:45 AM

I love fountain pens too, when I was a teenager I was relaly into cool pens, and quite good at calligraphy.

But I did always hate the skritchy-scratch noise they make, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

Debbie Weil said on July 31, 2008 at 12:46 PM

But that’s the best part!

Sarah Morgan said on July 31, 2008 at 07:13 PM

I live and die with my fountain pen. I’m left-handed, so I love them because the ink dries faster than ballpoint ink, so I don’t get smudges all over the side of my hand anymore.

But I’ve had people stop and notice - lose the topic in meetings - ask how it works. It’s a fun conversation starter.

(I’m also been journaling my whole life. Maybe they go together?)

Jean Gogolin said on August 7, 2008 at 06:47 PM

Having someone ask how a fountain pen works reminds me of a friend whose teenage kids asked him what an LP record was.  He told them, tongue in cheek, it was a CD that was too big to fit into the computer.  I think he had them for a minute.

Janet Engel said on August 15, 2008 at 03:06 PM

Love the post on this—great reminder that we can balance 2.0 with old school techniques that still create impact—thanks!

Jerome W. Mapp said on August 27, 2008 at 08:17 PM

There’s nothing like breaking out the pen and putting words on paper. Some things in life should never change.

Motorcycle Fairings said on September 3, 2008 at 12:23 AM

Fountain pens never lose its drama. It’s so much more interesting to read a handwritten journal over a typewritten letter. Good to know that there are still people who feel this way.

Kenan Sulayman said on September 6, 2008 at 05:29 PM

Whenever I used a Fountain Pen, I just get used to be a Philosopher.
I just got a Mont Blanc, cause I think, the Fountain Pen should have the at least a hundredth of the Value of the resulting Text.
And hey, ain’t you going to be a Philosopher, with a Fountain Pen in your Hand ?


Kenan Sulayman

P.S.:
That Photo is a Masterpiece, have you got it in

OfficeLife said on September 23, 2008 at 08:39 PM

The blotter reminds me of so many memories. Still remember the life with fountain pens. Now use computer more often, writing is replaced by typing in most cases. But I still keep the habit of keeping a diary with a pen - not fountain pen, a gel pen.

Kenan Sulayman said on September 26, 2008 at 03:08 PM

Well, yeah, maybe it’s not about the value of a fountain-pen, to get a philosopher!
And yeah, we’d use computers more often than Pens;

But - Memories within a computer will be never that long on earth as the results of a fountain-pen does, doesn’t it ?


Kenan Sulayman
Application Designer and CEO
KurealCorporation inc.
Resp. - 230908

Biffybeans said on October 6, 2008 at 11:41 AM

I’m always amused when people are surprised to see someone writing with a fountain pen. It isn’t as common as it once was, but there is still a large community of people that prefer to write this way.  The are almost 18,000 registered users on the Fountain Pen Network alone.  People of all ages from all over the globe that share this enthusiasm.  :o)

retro art said on October 13, 2008 at 07:51 PM

Not everyone is writing using normal pen. In this new age, most of the writings done with keyboard. Some even forgot how to write using pen. I respect this guy who still want to master the ancient way of fountain pen. Not many will do that.

vincent said on October 16, 2008 at 04:50 AM

Thats true almost everyone has blogs. Pretty much like a diary an interactive one that is. Well, I think “pen is still mightier than sword”. I’m not sure if mightier than computer- of course everyone has an opinion… :)

someonesdad said on October 16, 2008 at 06:37 PM

You folks who haven’t used a fountain pen and might be a little intimidated by one, you can find disposable ones on the web for under $10.  Give one a try—you’ll find it can be quite enjoyable to write again. 

I had a Shaeffer pen I bought in the 60’s in college.  It was a dream to write with.  I did nearly 1000 pages of calculations for my thesis, mostly with that pen (sadly, I lost it and never replaced it).  In the 80’s, I bought a Montblanc; it’s a nice pen, but I don’t use it anywhere near as much as I did the Shaeffer. 

I just gave my daughter (a college student) a disposable fountain pen (Berol fontaine); I’m interested in seeing if she gets bitten by the bug…

Kenan Sulayman said on October 17, 2008 at 08:48 AM

Well, I use the Montblanc one anywhere - in the School - at home!
I love the feel I have whenever I’ve written something ;-d

world antiques said on October 22, 2008 at 09:09 AM

Fascinating to hear people are still using them.  I personally have never laid a hand on one!

Nettie Hartsock said on November 26, 2008 at 09:00 AM

Debbie,

I loved this post! I’ve kept journals for years and my daughter does as well. As a creative writer (by night - I don my creative cap and am finishing out a one-woman show), I think the power of literally putting pen to paper has its own magic. Sure, you miss the click, click, click of the keys but there is a real connection in seeing the ink hit the blank page.

Vonnegut wrote some of his books on a hodge podge of cocktail napkins, drink coasters and old stationary that he would then send to his editor in big envelopes. All written by pen in hand.

THanks for reminding me of the power of the pen!

Levenger said on December 2, 2008 at 03:38 PM

Obviously, I know the value of a good fountain pen. It’s always great to see enthusiasts out there and know I’m not alone in the fountain pen craze!

Tina said on December 2, 2008 at 10:14 PM

I still keep a handwritten journal, but have not used a fountain pen in years. Reading this makes me want get one and try it again.

Migraine Headaches said on December 11, 2008 at 08:21 PM

This post took me back to high school, when we were taught to use the old calligraphy pen and fountain pens. I actually got pretty good at it (twenty years ago) LOL.  That is so awesome that some people still adhere to old school stuff we are missing that in today’s world !

JK Wen said on January 1, 2009 at 04:04 PM

Ah yes, it takes some practice to write comfortably with a fountain pen.  For me personally, it was worth my time, not because it is a nice conversation starter, but it is almost like a ‘dress code’ for your writing. (This is not to be confused with legibility or neatness, though; mine actually got worse initially.)  To draw an analogy, it’s the difference between coming to work in a formal dress suit and in jeans.  It does not make you any smarter or more competent, but it puts you in a different frame of mind and body language.

To bring it back to blogging, I actually had a productive summer this year hatching many draft ideas for my blog while using a fountain pen (and a ‘Moleskin’ notebook).  I am sure it is just psychological, but now that I think about it, my ideas have slowed down lately after switching back to ballpoint pen when my ink cartridge ran out (and then forgoing writing my ideas on paper first).

That brings us to one of its drawback, a fountain pen uses ink fairly fast, and therefore requires refill / cartridge replacement a lot more often than ballpoint pen, and the refill cost tends to be more expensive with fountain pen.  This is besides the point that the purchase price of the pen itself is more expensive, on average, than ballpoint pen.  (But you can easily start out inexpensively.)

I have to make the time to buy my refill cartridge, so I can go back to my fountain pen.  I want to experiment with it again to see if it brings the writing juices back.

Mike said on January 7, 2009 at 10:30 AM

I’ve always thought that there was something very stylish about the writing style that you can achieve with a fountain pen. You don’t see many people using these, don’t know exactly why, but in my childrens schoold their use is encouraged again.


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