When I worked for an employer, the stationery cupboard contained one kind of writing instrument: the ubiquitous Bic. Though I always had my Sheaffer Targa at the ready I often had to grab a Bic when answering the phone or taking notes at impromptu meetings. At more formal ones I used my Sheaffer. I don’t like ballpoints for all the reasons we usually share – painful writing angle, characterless writing point, pressure required etc, etc. However, there is no doubt that they won the war.
When I buy batches of pens in auctions there are often ballpoints among them. The cheap or unbranded ones go in the trash but I pass the better ones: Parker, Sheaffer, Cross and Papermate to my husband. He installs refills and gives them out at the hospital. Nurses do a lot of form filling and, busy as they are, grab the first ballpoint that comes to hand. To them, it’s an irrelevance whether it’s a Bic or a Parker. Just the tool they need for the job.
Ballpoints gave rise to several descendants – fibre tipped pens, roller balls and gel pens. I use the Pilot G2 gel pens for those jobs that the demand something other than a fountain pen: the forms of officialdom and addressing envelopes. I used to address envelopes with a fountain pen then rub over the address with a candle to waterproof it. I gave that up – too pernickety. The gel pen has proved its worth.
When it comes to real writing – blogging and corresponding, however, I would never dream of using anything other than a fountain pen. I barely touch the paper. In fact with the best pens like this little no-model-name 1960s Pilot, it’s as if I wave the pen over the paper and the words magically appear. I could write my autobiography at a sitting without fatigue. The act of writing with a very good fountain pen is not work; it’s a pleasure, happily anticipated.
I am no calligrapher. I cannot produce the artistic script that was the norm one hundred and fifty years ago but my handwriting is much better than it ever could have been if I had not escaped the trap of the ballpoint. The way that a good fountain pen lays ink on paper is so much more pleasant and aesthetically pleasing that better handwriting is automatically encouraged.
So are fountain pens really better? Of course they are and we knew that anyway, but there’s no harm in restating the obvious. Emphatically!