Fountain Pens in the Creative Process
I love fountain pens. Sometimes I think I’m the ambassador for using these pens in life. I’ve introduced them to my friends, to my husband, and to many of the writers in my circle. Making converts everywhere I go. What is so great about them? Well, for me, they not only make the writing I do easier, but they help me when planning my short stories and novels.
I discovered the fountain pen back in 2013. At that time, fountain pens were not cool. To use one invited stares and derisive comments. The pens drew me because my cursive writing had fallen into disuse and was unreadable. I took up journaling to counteract this, reasoning that if I wrote one entry a day in cursive, my penmanship would improve. The more I wrote with the ballpoints, the more my hand cramped. I googled about writing and learned that fountain pens need not press onto the page as you write. You hold them at an angle that is more comfortable for the hand. You could write more words and for a longer time with a fountain pen than with a ballpoint. I had to try it.
The inexpensive Chinese model I bought to find out if I would like writing with a fountain pen was easy to write with. I loved the feel of the pen in my hand, the myriad of ink colors to choose from, and that I could select different nibs to change the way my words looked on the page. I went from using a standard medium nib to a fine nib and to an italic nib, which is a smoother version of a calligraphy stub nib. It was fun! I became hooked on the pens as a hobby.
Within a year, I graduated from the $2 Chinese pens I had to fine tune before using to the $30 pens with smoother nibs and out of the box writing quality. My current “beater” pen, the one I use most often in my office is a Lamy Safari in Dark Lilac. I use Noodler’s Black ink, which is archival and “bulletproof”. I own many colors of inks, but basic black is my main color for the creative process and record keeping. I also use a Platinum Plaisir for autographing my novels out in the field. It is a pen with a cap that keeps the pen from drying out for a long period. My readers love seeing the pen and it makes the autographing process a little more special.
Do I love fountain pens because they are an aid to my creative process as a writer, or do I use paper notebooks as a writer because fountain pens are fun for me? My process of writing developed at the same time I started my fountain pen hobby, so who is to say? I use fountain pens mainly in the brainstorming process of stories and poems. I find that the shorter the project, the more likely I will use the pens during the creative process.
For poems, I create them almost entirely via fountain pen and paper. There is something about doodling all those words on the page to find the perfect fit in my poems. I can switch out the colors to fit the mood too. I store the finished poems in a traveler’s notebook to take with me to open-mic readings. Something about the matching of paper and leather seems quite bohemian.
When writing short stories, I keep an ARC notebook, which has excellent quality paper for fountain pens. I write out ideas for my stories and create handwritten character sheets, outlines, and maps. Once I develop the story enough, I move it onto the computer where I do the drafting.
Finally, there are my novels. I use fountain pens and notebooks when I’m brainstorming ideas for a novel. I create a limited “novel bible” of character sheets, locations, and objects that I can take with me when I go out drafting. I draft on an Alphasmart digital typewriter. Once I complete the first draft, I move the manuscript into Scrivener for revision.
As the years go by, I continue to incorporate fountain pens and paper into my life. I sketch and ink the drawings with a fine fountain pen. I continue to keep a journal to chronical my life and I keep a bullet journal to keep my writing tasks in order. I experiment with using fountain pen inks as washes in my artwork. I feel that writing with fountain pens has enriched my life. Perhaps they could do the same to yours.
Wendy Van Camp writes science fiction, regency romance, and poetry. Her writing blog No Wasted Ink features essays about the craft of writing, poetry, flash fiction, and author interviews. Wendy’s short stories and poems have appeared in science fiction magazines such as “Quantum Visions”, “Altered Reality Magazine”, “Scifaikuest”, and “Far Horizons”. She has won Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future Contest and is a graduate of the James Gunn Speculative Fiction Workshop.