Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pens and Notebooks

I would like to talk about pens.

Nearly every writer I know uses a word processor for the bulk of their writing, but nonetheless has some very strong preferences regarding pens and paper. (It's always pens. I don't know any writers who write in pencil.)

Mine: I am very fond of the Pilot Precise V7 rolling ball pens. (They must be the V7 pens, not the finer-line V5s.) Failing that, any rolling ball pen; I don't like ball point and I prefer rolling ball to felt tip. Paper must be unlined. I used to see these lovely little Rhino Journals everywhere: they were the perfect size and shape, with thick, off-white unlined paper. Then suddenly all I could find were Rhino Journals with lined paper. I haven't seen either kind in ages.

I sometimes flip covetously through the Levenger's catalog, but the sad fact is, I lose pens constantly. I wouldn't want a super expensive, beautiful fountain pen, because I'd hate myself when I inevitably lost it.

Edited to add: I have a theory that the Pilot rolling ball series is the most popular pen among writers. I have no idea if it's this popular among non-writers. Anyone know?


Sean M. Murphy said...

I have a feeling that this one will generate a few comments--everyone has their own preferences.

I, too, cannot stand using a rollerball. It's like nails on a chalkboard, the way it drags across the page. I don't even like taking down a phone message using them.

I use a fountain pen with a medium, irridium nib, mostly because I can't afford one with a gold nib, which would have superior ink flow and smoothness. I actually don't like the physical act of writing with a pen (for a variety of reasons: it's slow, I have poor handwriting, it's harder to edit--oh, and you have to type up anything that you want to send out, anyway!), and find that the experience of using a fountain pen is so enjoyable that I can write any time I want with one, thereby overcoming that annoyance with scratching out words on a page. I have several, each of which cost between $50 to $80. I use black ink, either in cartridges or using the draw that comes with the pen and an inkwell.

If I can't use a fountain, I use the UniBall Vision or Vision Elite series of pens, with a fine point. I find that gel rollers have the next best ink flow. Plus, they have a great range of colors to use for editting. I have several Pilot Precise V5 pens lying around, but tend not to use them, as the point is extra fine, and feels scratchier to me.

(A good introduction to a fountain pen, particularly for those who don't want to lose an expensive pen, is the Pilot Varsity disposable fountain, $2.95 individually, which comes in black, blue, purple, pink, turquoise, or in a seven pack for $22.95, which has all five of those colors as well as red and green.)

Eleanor said...

I have a couple of fountain pens, but I usually use a ballpoint pen or a roller ball. I find roller balls flow more smoothly and require less pressure, and I have problems with my hands, due to years of computer keyboard work. My pens are fairly expensive, and I have a lot of them -- Parkers, Crosses, Watermans, Waterfords, Conklins, Monte Verdes. I guess it could be called a hobby. It's cheaper than collecting Corvettes, I tell people, and requires less storage space.

Douglas Hulick said...

I love fountain pens, and have several nice ones (including a silver Parker Sonnet my dad left me). However, I use pens on such an infrequent basis that I find the fountains tend to dry out on me. Too bad - I really like FPs.

My day-to-day pens change around (because my kids keep moving them :). I find the ones I like best are my LAMY gel roller (this is the one I critique with most often), followed by the Uniball 0.7 Jetstream. Uniball Vision (fine) is okay, too. One cheap click-pen I like is the Papermate Titanium (medium point - might even be a ball point?), just for tossing in my pocket on the way out the door for errands.

I've actually been drifting back to ball points for certain things (their ink doesn't run as much if it gets wet which, with kids, is a decided factor). The stainless steel Parker Jotter (at around $7) is a reliable, no nonsense ball point that takes a lot of punishment, but it won't break your heart if you lose it.

As for notebooks - I'm not that picky. I've used the Levenger Circa system, archival quality sketch books, and cheap yellow legal pads, among other things. I still like a legal pad for outlining or brain-storming, but prefer someting heftier for writer's group or revision notes.

Douglas Hulick said...

Additional comment:

I got to thinking about Naomi's comment re. the Pilot rolling ball, which I can't stand, and wondered why I don't like it. Then it hit me: design. Not ink flow, not heft, not point size, but body design.

I noticed that all of the pens I listed have a nice, tapered barrel near the writing tip. The Pilot has a very squared-off barrel at the end, with the writing tip extending at a narrow right angle, IIRC. I tend to grip pens hard (always have), and these angles just plain hurt my fingers after a while.

So, in my case, it's not just ink flow, but also feel in the hand, that help determine my preferred pens. (I like a pen with heft, too, but haven't invested in a heavy barrelled gel roller yet.)

lydamorehouse said...

I was introduced to the Pilot Precise V7 pen by my lover who was, at the time, primarily an astrologer. Astrology, like writing, is a kind of art -- of symbol on pages -- and that smooth flow of ink to paper is critical.

So, the Pilot Precise V7 might be a favorite of astrologers, too.

Mari Adkins said...

Nearly every writer I know uses a word processor for the bulk of their writing Meet me. LOL I do the bulk of my writing longhand. I've just never been able to compose at the computer. I've been trying to learn, but I'm getting nowhere fast. I still prefer pen and paper.

I prefer Pilot EasyTouch stickpens - fine point. I used to use the Pilot Bettergrip stick, but can't find them anywhere anymore. :shakes fist:

I'm just as picky about my paper. I buy it by the ream - Norcom. I won't use anything else but Norcom college ruled.