Thursday, August 04, 2011

(If) There Can Be Only One

(Epic fail at doodling a recognizable fountain pen...but that's a subject for another day...)

This post is partially inspired by a question in a recent letter from Justin: no doubt bemused by the too-many pens I brought to the type-in, he asked which I preferred, fountain pens or typewriters. My answer to that question, I'll leave to the response letter (Cliff Notes version: it depends), but it led me to ponder a related question: what if you had to choose?

Imagine one day you were told that you had to pick a single writing technology, whether it be pencils, typewriters, fountain pens, ballpoints, Alphasmarts, computers, stylus on clay tablets, sky writing, or what-have-you. (In this fantasy world, this particular choice doesn't affect what we use at work, and we'd still have the Internets and all--this would just be what you'd use for first drafts, or bulk writing of whatever you tend to write: poems, letters, short stories, novels, essays, whatever. In other words, the device you use first to get ideas out of your head and into the world.)

Hopefully I won't be disowned by the typosphere and pencil comrades alike for admitting it...but I think if someone held a proverbial gun to my head (drat those proverbial guns!) and I *had* to choose, I'd go with fountain pens. Yes, they're slower than anything with a keyboard and fussier by far than a pencil, but I like the way I think with one in my hand, and the look of wet ink on a page, and the feel of a good nib on good paper. I like their easy portability and quiet nature (I'm still not one who's going to pull out a typewriter at work or a coffee house). I like the way they make me slow down and consider what I'm composing and yet let me cross out and continue without breaking stride. I like the immediacy and directness of hand-on-pen-on-paper: much as I like typewriters, there are some times when they make me feel as though I'm trying to do delicate work with heavy gloves on--as though there's a barrier in the way.

What about you? If push came to shove, would you cling to typewriterly clickity-clack? Pen or pencil and paper? Become a die-hard Alphasmartian? Or would you reluctantly set aside all the more tangible tools and retreat to the speed and convenience of a computer? Or, to throw another option out there, would you choose something wordless, like a camera? What would you pick, and why?

All that said...I'm really glad I don't have to choose!


Ted said...

I choose the proverbial gun. (:

Elizabeth H. said...

Hey now, that's cheating!

Anonymous said...

Hey, now, that's a freaky question. I mean, I use a typewriter waaaay more than I use a pen, but a pen is so simple and I sort of feel more connected to what I am writing. I don't know...I guess it would be a typewriter because I like having something to tinker with when I don't feel like writing.

Mike Speegle said...

Don't tell anyone, but I would totally choose the pen. It's just a little more diverse as a tool, even though it is a big sacrifice speed-wise. My Pilot VP (which was regretfully out of ink at the type-in), remains my main go-to.

Besides that, though, the second choice is easy: the Lettera 32. portable, quick, and snazzy-lookin'.

Anonymous said...

My first inclination is to SHOOT FIRST before the proverbial gun can be used. But that's my own fantasy. :-)

I have to go with the fountain pen (hope that includes dip pens as well). They embody the qualities that make typewriters so effective for me. They can look great, especially those fancy, gold and scroll nibs. They are good for writing, pen and ink drawing (one of my favorite art forms), and can be used to administer an ad hoc Rorshach test.

More than anything, they let me feel connected to the writing.

Jeff The Bear

Ted said...

Hey, cheating worked for Kirk with the whole Kobayashi Maru thing, so it can work for me. :D

oddly enough, word verification: "jimscree"

notagain said...

Typewriter definitely. I find myself "drawing" (ineptly) the letters when I write with pen or pencil and get so caught up with crafting them I forget about my message or anything larger than the current word. drives me nuts.

Elizabeth H. said...

So...thus far we have two votes for pen (three if you count mine), two for typewriters, and Ted (as usual?) is bucking all trends and regulations....

Joe V said...

Sigh. I love my AlphaSmart Neo and my five typewriters. But I suppose, if I *had* to choose, it'd be a fountain pen.

Now, don't ask me *which* FP I'd choose, I'd be hard pressed to pick between Pelikan and Lamy Safari (I'm currently in love with the Lamy, but the infatuation could fade; one never knows, does one?). But I do know that for ink, it'd be bottles and bottles of Parker's Quink in blue/black.

satchmotypes said...

I would choose the typewriter over computer for how much easier it is for me to focus on the actual writing than on all the distractions computers hold within.
I also choose the typewriter over handwriting because I can't possibly hand-write as fast as I think of things to write, and I lose so many original sentences by writing too slow. And have obscene arm-cramps.

Typewriters win for me! :)

mpclemens said...

I've expressed my answer in the form of a typecast:

tl;dr version: typewriter for drafting, pen for revising. Hey ma! Look at me, ridin' this here fence!

Word verify: promoo

A lobbyist for the dairy industry.

Elizabeth H. said...

When it comes to fiction writing, I wonder if there is any correlation between where one falls on the pantser vs. planner scale and which writing instrument one would choose if forced?

Strikethru said...

Wait, I think I'm confused. Are computers off the table? I have to say, if I am writing anything seriously other than short-form rambling, computers are my tool of choice. I lost my ability to be coherent in a linear way, without revising, at a dreadfully young age, although I do adore the pens and typers. I think it is amazing that a lot of you write fiction and things like that with pens and typewriters. I would never dream of joining the brigade, would flop immediately. All three of my nanos were strictly macbook. Wouldn't even try it with an alphasmart.

But, if computers are off the table, I'm going to say pens (specifically fountain pens, which make other pens just seem sad) just because you can draw little stick guys with them. But wait! Typewriters are fun! And a lot faster! Man. Can't decide. I certainly love pens and typewriters much more than the hellish computer, to which I am tethered basically around the clock.

OK, went on a little bit long on this topic... this is the part where you shake the can at me and say "5 cents please." (Peanuts humor...)

Elizabeth H. said...

Computers aren't off the table--they're a valid option! I just made the stipulation that in the fantasy world where I was asking this question, the answer wouldn't prevent one from every using a computer for work and that.

Have you given the Lamy converter a try yet?

Tony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony said...

Without a doubt I am with you and the fountain pen, good ink and ood paper will win hands down every time for the exact same reasons you give.

However, it would have to be one of my nice and posh pens - maybe a Montblanc 146 or Starwalker :)