My love of writing is in part due to my love for pens. In junior high I was obsessed with a blue Bic pen whose ink I swore had magical qualities. I loved the way the pen's point dug into the surface of the paper; it seemed proof that writing was work, that by putting one letter in front of another, I had made an impact. Pencils were important too, because nothing felt quite so good as pressing my full weight into the lead, implying an emphasis that made bold and italics pale in comparison. Now that I spend most of my professional life perched at the edge of a keyboard, sometimes I’m surprised what can happen when I pick up a pen or pencil.
Ryan and I have an odd collection of pens hidden in various places around our apartment. My favorites are accidental mementos of places we’ve been together--the triangular green pen from Celadon, the restaurant where we dined after we got engaged, or the pens emblazoned with the logos of national parks where we’ve camped. There are fine-point pens for drawing and thick black pens for labeling and dozens of ball-point pens for writing checks, keeping records, and (my favorite) handmade recipe books. The best ones don’t just tell their own stories--they beg for you to write yours down. If I owned my own business, I’d market guerrilla-style, sneaking pens like these with secret messages on them into stores and restaurants.
Is it odd to praise pens in a digital medium? Perhaps. But consider for a moment what happens when you hold a pen. Its very architecture demands that you do something. When you write with a pen or pencil, there is no blinking cursor, just the infinity of blank space. There’s less pressure to stay in line. An implied permission to break the rules. You could take meeting minutes, outline a project proposal, draft a new campaign idea, or you could draw Shakespeare in dog form, or a map of all the countries you’d like to visit. A good pen is an invitation to create. And I’m always up for that.