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Why I Use a Fountain Pen

Many say we are in the full swing of the digital age. Smart phones are in pockets and purses. Tablets are in backpacks, briefcases, and handbags. Social media is a main means of communication. We type more than we use a pens. Pens are mainly used for short quick notes for those over the age of 35. Evernote and other note-taking apps have overcome the post-it note. Why, with all this great and useful technology, would I choose to use a pen and in particular a pen that requires cleaning and maintenance. I can get a free app or use a Bic (the pen that expects no responsibility, like a writing one-night stand).

Black Pilot Falcon

photo by gouletpens.com

It all started while I was in my final semester of graduate school, soon before I would be ordained a priest. Each year the seminary would send the first year theologians on a mission trip to Granada, Nicaragua. I was part of the leadership team that assured that everything flowed smoothly for the participants so they could enter into the experience of ministering to the poor in and around Granada. Towards the end of the trip each year, we had a celebratory meal at a local restaurant. The place that year was new to us veterans. It was situated on a bay of Lake Granada with one the mountains overlooking it. It was a perfect spot for a restaurant. All the seating was outside at this long table fitting all 36 of us. Sitting next to me was one of the participants who over the past two years I admired. He had left a successful career to follow God’s call for him to priesthood. During our conversation that night, we somehow got to talking about pens and the fact that he writes almost exclusively with fountain pens, which to me was new and exciting and mysterious and strange and wonderful and romantically out of date. He was gracious enough to let us try the pen he was currently carrying and if my memory serves me write (pun intended) it was a black Pilot Falcon with a soft-fine nib (shown above). He took out a pocket notebook, and I put pen to paper.

I had never seen a fountain pen before, except in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Brody uses the ink as a weapon onMarcus Brody an unsuspecting Nazi tank engineer. I certainly had never used one before. It seemed as foreign and exotic as the locale I was currently in, a place that I would visit but never stay. Pen to paper the feel was so smooth compared to the (yes) Bic I had in my pocket. The line was dark and seemed like it would would never fade, and this particular pen had a semi-flex to the nib so the line width changed depending on the amount of pressure I used. I resolved that afternoon in the shadow of a mountain with the breezes of a Central American lake in the middle of January, “I am going to buy a fountain pen.”

Noodler's Apache Sunset

picture by Azizah from gourmetpens.com

It is now two years later. What was one pen in late January in 2012 is now around seventy fountain pens, ballpoints, rollerballs, and brush pens. Over the course of those two years, I fell in love again with writing, the very act of it. There is a certain tactile pleasure of feeling the nib/tip hit the page that a touchscreen mitigates. The pages, for the most part, give resistance, which lets you know you are putting something down. Using a stylus or my fingers on a keyboard keep me at (pun intended again I guess) arms length from whatever I’m producing. With a pen, I feel fully immersed, me, my thoughts, and my thoughts communicated through colorful characters flowing from a pen.

It is isn’t just the feel that keeps me writing. It what’s going one in my brain. Each stroke, each word, each phrase needs to be much more intentional. There is no autocorrect or spell-check with pen and paper. Writing exercises my brain as well. Typing on a laptop for me doesn’t tax my brain (I had a job as a data entry clerk for a while). Typing may be more productive in word count per minute, but in that action of <click> <click> <clap> <click> my heart and my soul is not as lifted or moved.

Lamy Turquoise

Photo by Citirine of inkofmefondly.blogspot.com

With pens, and fountain pens in particular, I’m able to inject a bit of color in my normal everyday life. I’m able to take down a phone message in a blue reminiscent of the clear waters of the Florida beach (to the left) or a black that reminds me of looking up from my sleeping bag in a tent while camping, total darkness (below), or an ink with the varying shades of  a tree in autumn (above).

Finally, I carry around with me not just something that is functional, but something that is also beautiful. Many of my pens are works of beautiful engineering and design and can be considered works of art. By being in hand, they can lift me up from mere use to the one who is the Most Beautiful, the One from whom all beauty flows. Each pen, then is a reminder, that I am loved. That I was created to admire beauty. That I wasn’t created to be for mere use but to be enjoyed for my own sake. It is a reminder that all around me are revelations of the God I love and serve.

Noodler's Blacks

photo by Ed Jelley at edjelley.com

About Fr. Kyle

I am a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. I was born and raised right outside New Orleans. I attended Catholic school my entire educational career. By the time I graduated high school, I had two paths to choose: rockstar or priesthood. I pursued both for awhile but eventually came to the understanding God's will was priesthood and my will was rockstardom. After making that decision, to allow God's will to be mine, I needed a new way to channel my creativity. I began writing as I finished up my formation for priesthood. I still play music, but priestly ministry comes first. My bride: St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Harahan, LA.

Comments

  1. Great post! My only deal is that fountain pens are expensive and I always lose my pens. I go with the pilot g2 10 because I can buy a bunch of them and they write fantastically! 🙂 Pax
    http://edmundmitchell.com/2014/03/18/the-greatest-and-bestest-pen-in-the-whole-world/

    • Edmund, thank you. There is a definite cost difference between a pack of G2’s and 1 fountain pen. No can’t I deny that the G2 has a good writing experience. That being said you can find a good writing experience with a fountain pen and a bottle of ink for $30-40, which would after two or three years of losing two or three packs of pens, you would recoup costs. As to losing pens, I have found the more I invested in a pen the more more I cared about it which allowed me to take care and not lose my pens, which happened constantly in college and graduate school. The one pen allows one to make better use of my resources by not allowing me to have throw away belongings.

  2. I thought I had fallen out of love with journaling recently, but soon found that my hatred was partially due to the 99cent composition book and Bic. Once I had my moleskines and India Ink art pens, I remembered the sheer magic of pen and paper.

  3. This is so much like my story…fountain pens are primary writing instrument now.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Fr. Kyle. The most appealing thing many people find about fountain pens is how personal they are. There are so many options for ink, paper, pens, nibs, you name it, and each experience just gets a little bit better and more enjoyable because you’re learning about yourself and what you like as you learn about your pens. It’s been about a 5-year journey for me so far, and I’m still every bit as intrigued and excited as I was in the beginning!

    • Brian, in that way fountain pens hold a certain mystery to them. They require entering deeper into to understand them, but on the same token, you can always go a little deeper, push a little farther. Discover something wonderful.

  5. As a St. Philip Neri Alum who fell upon your great blog by way of Pen Addict, many thanks for the great write up on Fountain Pens. I just recently bought my first fountain, the Pilot Namiki Vanishing, and it is now my main everyday pen. I wish I had bought one years ago. I really enjoy your blog and many thanks for your service to St. Rita’s

    • Thomas, small world! Thank you. The Vanishing Point in the picture was an ordination present and used to be something I used every day. However, the nib now needs some work. I love the utility and the beauty of that pen. I can’t use it for long writing sessions though, because of the weight and the clip being where the grip is.

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