The Simplicity and Value of a Good Pen — In a World that Promotes the Joy of Disposable Objects

Yesterday was lovely. An excellent birthday. My sister and I went to the “big city” and did some lazy shopping. Not too fast and furious. Just a nice, casual day. We had lunch at an organic cafe, searched and found some organic products I’d been seeking for some time (Hubby always gets cagey when I browse too long) and I topped the day off by making the decision to invest in a nice pen (and get rid of the dozens of lousy ones that I have at home and in the office).

You know, a decent rollerball — even a disposable one — isn’t cheap anymore. It’s not like in the days of the 39 cent Bic Stick. And…

I’m tired of never having the pen I want when I want it. I know that when I have two nice pens — one in my purse and one at my desk — I can always find the pen when I need it.

And, when I have fistfuls of the little disposable suckers, I can never find one. People (even my own family) will swipe them and make off with them… hoarding them like a hamster hoards seeds in its cheeks. I’m tired of it.

About three years ago, a client sent me a nice pen — a rollerball. It was a Retro 1951 — a brand I’d never encountered. It was seriously cool because it was leather covered — the one he sent was purple crocodile printed leather. Now, I know that sounds odd, but it was perfect. WickedWordCraft was fairly young and that pen seemed to be an extension of my brand, my business identity. That pen has a great balance and a heft that feels good, even when used for extended periods of long-hand. It’s a great signature pen too.

Every adult should have an excellent signature pen, and every writer should have a good pen for signatures that they use for everything else. I always liked fountain pens, but the mobility end of me always seemed to have problems with leaking fountain pens. I’ve planned for years to reward myself with a fancy fountain pen model — Mont Blanc (the Agatha Christie model) or the Parker Silver Snake pen when I sold my first novel.

But this year, for my birthday, I gave myself permission to not work on a book, and to not feel guilty for not working on one. I created my list of ten goals. I’m working toward them now and it feels good. I feel a bit lighter after removing several of the heftier items from my annual list of things to accomplish.

These things always appeared on my things to do this year list in January and weighed on me for 12 months. Not accomplishing them sent me into a tailspin at the end of each year. So I changed my normal pattern. This year, I trimmed the list to ten — anything that didn’t make this year’s list can always be added (and probably will be) to next year’s Top Ten list.

Then, that trimmed list was added to the front of my new Moleskine Small Notebook — the one I opened up yesterday. I wrote that list with my purple leather Retro 51 pen. It was added in blue ink. I hate blue ink. But I was out of black refills for the pen, and they seem to be rather hard to find. I’d quit using my pen because it only had one refill left — one BLUE refill. But yesterday morning, I really wanted to write those ten items in my notebook with the purple Retro pen.

Yesterday, while shopping, I got a new moleskine notebook as a gift for a client who needs it. They are the best little idea catchers in the low-tech world. There is a part of me that will probably never be able to release my death-grip on a Moleskine and a good ink pen… no matter how high-tech I become.

Now, getting back to yesterday… when my sister and I were out, she encouraged me to visit an upscale leather goods shop that has a fantastic collection of pens. I went, I looked, I “ohhh and awwwed” over the selection and my eyes fell on a beautiful pen. A rollerball. It was really pretty and was not carrying the price tag that many of its neighbors in the showcase displayed. A Retro 1951 Tornado Cioppino Rollerball Pen. I was afraid to touch it, knowing that actually touching it would make me want it even more. So, instead, I was practical. I asked if they had black refills for the Retro 1951 models. They did! The refills had proven rather hard to find so I was thrilled to find a local source.

So, I should have been happy. I bought a couple refills and headed out the door. We went to a couple other places and did some window shopping. I did some errands while I was in town. I made purchases I’d needed to make — both personal and some for the office. And even after leaving that geographic area… the pen called to me.

Finally, right before leaving town, I returned to the store and purchased it. The Lucite barrel is covered in abalone shell chips is a beautiful rainbow of green and purple (and yes, just a touch of blue) on a field of black. It’s stunning.

The joys of having a pen like this and like the purple leather version? They are mine. They aren’t used by anyone else and I don’t lose them. They aren’t disposable. I have a glorious pen for my purse and one that stays at my desk. I don’t have to grab my purse and hunt through it to find MY pen when sitting in my desk chair, and I don’t get out only to remember that I left the good pen on my desk.

I used to believe that I needed only one great pen. Now, I know I need two. One for the desk, one for on the go. And now, I have them.

Tomorrow, I’ll dispose of all the extra pens I own. And I might just look really hard at getting a couple really nice mechanical pencils too… one for my desk, one for on the fly.

Who needs a pencil and pen cup when you can have an excellent specimen of each, which are essentially useful works of art on your desk? And one in your pocket? Now, my next treasure hunt will be for the perfect way to store and display them on my desk — eBay is calling to me. An antique pen stand with slots for the pen I have and the pencil I’ll be getting sounds perfect, doesn’t it? All hail eBay!

I’d like to resolve this year to buy only refills for the rollerballs and lead and erasers for the pencils and quit throwing away so much money on disposables… and quit spending so much time searching for the pen I JUST had that someone picked up and carried off — because, after all, it was just a disposable. For three years, I’ve been able to keep my purple one — even if I had to dig in my purse while in the office and even if I had to borrow a lousy one from a cashier to sign a receipt, because I’d left it on my desk. For three years I used it until I ran it out of ink over and over again (and these refills last for a LONG time). And for several months it sat unused because I couldn’t find the refills.

Now, I have a source. Now I have my second excellent pen. It’s a small thing, but to me, it matters. And it represents a simplification and a new approach to problem solving that will be reflected in several areas of my life in 2006.

I’m looking forward to the adventure!

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