Monday, January 24, 2011

Writing Snobbery

Snobbery is unattractive.  I think most would agree. Yet I must admit to a little bit of this quality.  I am snobby about pens. 

As a writer, I have feelings about writing implements.  I’m not one of those conservatives who claim that only the old-fashioned tools have beauty and merit – I’d be lost without my computer.  In fact, I think I actually love my computer. But when I am in the first throes of a new idea or project, when I am just noodling and musing on paper, I like to noodle and muse with a pen.  And the kind of pen I use affects the quality of my noodling.

I own three kinds of pen.  My favorite pen is the fountain pen. I love how the ink flows and is still wet when it hits the paper. That glossiness, that smooth easy feeling, all make my Muse feel as if she is riding on a moving sidewalk. Ideas glide and swirl from the pen with easy grace. The fountain pen is alive.

Now, the fountain pen does have some drawbacks – you have to change the cartridges, and sometimes those cartridges leak.  Then you will have big blobs of black ink on your hands until you get around to taking a hot shower. Sometimes it takes two bouts of scrubbing with soap to make that ink disappear.  This is a small price to pay.

I also own Roller Ball pens. These are my everyday pens, the kind I have in my purse, the kind I use to write my checks and my to-do lists with.  I sign my name with them.  The ink still flows, although it’s not as wet when it arrives on the paper, and it dries fast. But they rarely leak in your purse, which is a major point in their favor. 

And I have one or two ballpoint pens, which I rarely admit, because I hate them. The only reason I have any ballpoint pens is if someone left one at my house and I haven’t yet thrown it away.  I will go a long way to avoid using a ballpoint pen. I don’t even like to write checks with them. The only kinds of words that come from a ballpoint pen are the ugly, plastic, skinny, skimpy, bland, trite, and boring ones. Ballpoint pens were invented because they never leak, but this is only because they are dead. That’s why only dead writing comes from them.

I guess you can see I’m pretty adamant about my pens.  If hating ballpoint pens makes me a snob, so be it. But I bet I’m not alone – who else out there is snobby about their writing tools?

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit
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  1. Pen snobbery is 100% acceptable in my world. I don't actually own any pens besides fountain pens... And I suppose that puts my own writing snobbery on a whole new level since I use different brands for different tasks.

    I agree entirely about how the quality of the writing instrument affects the quality of the writing; having a pen that you enjoy writing with in turn makes you want to write more, and so you get better. I'd say the same is true of the type of paper a person uses - all little mental tricks that encourage writerly-ness, which in turn makes us better.


  2. I love this post! I don't use my fountain pen very much, mostly for personal correspondence. Occasionally i break it out.

    I also despise ball-point pens. They tend to accumulate at my house- probably because my spouse and I get them as free promotions at conferences, businesses, and so on and I hate to throw stuff out. (I have secret pack-rat tendencies) But fortunately a few month ago, an artist friend of mine was looking for a large amount of them for some project he was working on- he was actually going to buy some, and I gladly cleaned out my desk,and the kitchen junk drawer and got rid of them.

    My favorite day to day "go to " pen are Pilot G-2 pen- which you can re-fill, so a bit more green. Papermate makes a "Profile" pen that is almost as good- I'll use it but I prefer my Pilots

  3. I seriously wanted to write with my fountain pen. But found that I spent so much time admiring it rather than putting it to use, I finally had to put it away. Now I am a roller pen and Moleskine notebook guy. If I could only find a way to just write directly onto the computer screen, my life would be complete.

  4. And here I thought I was the only pen snob in the world. Silly me.

    I had never thought about the quality of the writing improving with the use of a fountain pen or a roller, but I know the quality of my penmanship improves with them. And for book signings, I love to use the special fountain pen my husband bought me for the very first book signing event I had. Which reminds me, I need to get a refill.

  5. You might reform me yet, Kim. I am totally cheap about pens. Especially since I can get them for free with all my author friend's names on them, and business promotions, etc. I've actually said before that I was going to see if I could get through life without ever purchasing a pen. That was ten years ago, and I've amassed quite a collection without buying a one.

    I doubt I'll go back to the fountain pen. What's the one roller pen I shouldn't live without? Convince me. Is it the Pilot G-2 that Kelly recommends?

  6. I am a complete pen snob. I love my fountain pen even if I rarely take it out - because I rarely write anymore without a keyboard - when I take a journal on the road I have to have a certain kind of extra-fine tip sharpie - green is nice. Or a good roller ball like um...pilot hi-tecpointV7 Fine. yep. I'm a snob.

  7. I knew it wasn't just me! I don't have a favorite Roller Ball pen, although I do like the Pilot pens. My favorite fountain pen is made by Parker. I have two of them that have lasted for over 10 years.

  8. I've almost given up on pens. I have a nice red gel pen that I love for my edits. I have some fine point sharpies that I use for autographing books. And a photo marker for autographing cover flats. But they're all generic and I buy them in bulk.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  9. Give me a good roller ball with a nice big barrel every time. Ball points are my least favourite writing tools.

  10. I have a lovely repoussed silver pen (but uses ballpoint inserts), but sadly, it's not a comfortable size for anything except signatures. Too fat. I covet a blown glass fountain pen! I don't know if I'd use it, but I want one anyway. ;)

  11. I just get on the key board and wish for more time.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  12. I'm not much of a pen snob. I type almost everything nowadays. I do have lots f pens on my desk that I use to take notes (and cross them off). I used to look for beautiful pens to give as gifts, but even writer friends began to look at them as if they didn't know what to do with such a thing.

  13. You're right! There's noting like a good pen and clean paper. The smell of the ink is wonderful. Thank God that we can choose what we want to use, and aren't stuck with whatever's available.

  14. I'm a definite writing-implement snob. I prefer pencil and will only use *my* mechanical pencil. I can't remember the brand, and after 10 years of use, the label has since been rubbed away, but it's a luxurious pencil with not a trace of plastic. I love it.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.