Pen Recovery

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with writing utensils that borders on unhealthy. In middle school, I was always the student with multiple freshly sharpened pencils, as well as pens in both blue and black, ball and roller point. I never understood how my classmates could come to class without a pen, since I always had at least seven or eight by my side. I looked forward to the beginning of the school year each fall with the same anticipation that most students reserved for June, because I would get a chance to go to Office Depot and pick out new pens. The year that all the gel pens hit the market in the big way is burned into my memory (1993).

I found the unrealized potential trapped in the barrel of the pen intoxicating. If the green ballpoint wasn’t able to let loose my creative flow (or, more often, effectively capture my social studies notes) I would switch to purple gel ink. If all else failed, the brown inked fountain pen was always there, as a last resort.

It took me years to realize that other people didn’t have the same relationship with their pens and pencils as I did. People would ask to borrow a pen in health class, and I would find myself handing over a reserve Bic Stik, knowing the chances were high that the lendee didn’t value writing instruments the way I did, and would probably walk out of class with it still unconsciously grasped in their hands.

So much did I pay attention to writing implements and the people who used them, that in college I started giving pen “readings,” trying to intuit bits of someone’s personality or character by their favorite pen or pencil. Most of the time I was closer than you might think.

By the time I graduated from college, I had amassed more pens than one person could use in a standard lifetime and I found myself giving handfuls of them away at graduation, along with a coattrack, white Christmas lights and an orange table. There is a large plastic container in my parents house full of my discards. They will never have to buy another pen again. I stopped buying pens, and I realized that more of my disposable income that was decent was invested in plastic and ink, and I declared a pen-purchasing hiatus. These days, I try to stay away from the pen aisle of office supply stores, and I bring my own pens to work, hoping to someday make a dent in the collection. I still enjoy a good pen, but do so with a little more self control than I did in the past.

0 thoughts on “Pen Recovery

  1. Neil

    I think I found a soulmate in you. I love pens, too. And notebooks. I used to spend countless hours in stationery stores browsing. Unfortunately, Staples, etc. are pretty dull, and they all carry the exact same pens.

  2. aasmodeus

    I used to be the same way. That is why my job as sales clerk in an office supply store in my parents’ town was a dream. Discounts on all the pens and … MECHANICAL PENCILS… that I wanted!!! WOO!!!

    I also remember gels coming out. But the biggest change for me was the ball roller, with their SMOOOOOOOOTH texture. The first few leaked too much ink, but they got better in time. Then they got finer in line size.

    For me the driving force was not creative juices; it was the pure glee in drawing on a blank piece of paper. And of course the pure glee in being able to purchase something with my own money (this was a while ago for me).

    Favorite roller pen: UNIBALL.

  3. Sherri W.

    I’m with aasmodeus—the rollerball had much more an impact on my pen-loving existence than the gels. My handwriting is small enough that most gels (and most medium-point ANYTHINGS) turn illegible as all my letters collapse in on themselves.

    I still mostly use office-bought pens at work, but the one I bring in from home is Uniball ultra-fine point with blue-black ink. That’s what I use to sign all my professional letters.

  4. aasmodeus

    Lest we forget… the venerable fountain pen. When they came out with cartridges for these babies, oh MAN!!! But I was horrible with them, in terms of maintenance. I should try again, perhaps I’ve learned some patience and diligence.

    I’d really like to try the fancy fountain pen with the refillable cartridge (dip the tip in a bottle, pull the lever, the cartridge refills itself). *sigh*

    Then there were the several failed experiments with different calligraphy kits. I still have one complete kit. Never opened…

    But boy am I excited to think about trying them out again! Thanks, Marisa!

  5. albert

    oh man, pencil/pen/notebook lust. something i’ve had a *problem* with for some time now.

    i love pigma micron pens, i like the .25 size, black.

    i also love my fountain pen which i’ve had for about 4 years now. refillable cartridge. dip it into the well, turn the lever and up comes the ink. nothing beats this pen.

    and i love pencils. .7 for mechanical and i love this one box i’m currently using. i think they’re calld ‘black velvet’ 2HB i think.

    but i think the pen series that started me on my was were those pilot precise needle points back in middle school.

  6. Dodi

    Got to love a good pen. I alternate between wanting blue-black and black. I’ve been providing my own work pens for years now, they buy lousy Bics with bright blue ink. Current favorite is a metal Parker ballpoint. I have one at work and two at home. They were a company “bonus” and when I realized how much I loved them I picked up a few leftovers.

    I too have a hard time leaving the office supply pen aisle without something clutched in my hand. A well-stocked art supply store is even better. I love the concept of fountain pens, and learned calligraphy as a kid, but when the nib scratches the paper it can be like nails on a black board.

    Must end the ramble, but I have to second Moleskine notebooks. Love them.

  7. Thea

    I’m so surprised, some one else likes the pigma micron ones. I use .005 or .01, though, the tiny fine lines. And .5 mechanical pencils. Oh yes.

  8. Ellen

    Cool pic – for me I don’t really go so hog wild on pen quality, but I need a variety of colors at all times and usually have 2 contrasting colors with me for any meeting. My current boss has a similar thing about writing in color which is way plus cool (as opposed to most people who chalk it up to me being a massive flake

  9. Melissa

    I not only like the picture of the pen machine, I clearly remember those things. Yup, just showing my age again. I’m a pen fanatic too, but I like silly, novelty pens. Like the pens with stuff floating in them, pens with smelly ink, and cheap pens with cool designs. Right now my favorite is the breast cancer pen from Linens and Things. It lights up and came with 4 or 5 colored ink refills and two extra sets of batteries. And it was cheap.

    Yes…I’ll email you about the CSA thing, but I’m tired, that may wait till tomorrow.

  10. Marisa

    I can’t tell you all how it thrills me to know that so many of you share my pen psychosis. I forgot to share the story of my summer in Indonesia with you all. They have great pens in Indonesia, lots of fun gel pens, interesting roller balls, all things you can’t get here. So I went a little crazy buying pens. The sales girls kept giggling at me, the crazy American girl who bought 27 pens, but hey, you gotta go with what brings you pleasure.

    Elizabeth Noble, you could always fit more pens in your nose than I could. I love you for remembering!

  11. MoDad

    Marisa’s dad here. I, too, have been a pen freak. Maybe it’s where she got it. Nah, my minor addictions were minor in comparison to my minor. I was into Rapidographs, even living with the way you had to hold the thing straight upright for it to work, but Oy, the precision. They’re mechnical drawing pens, designed to be perfect and indelible. When I was bored I would doodle the most amazing, close lined letters and patterns. Finally, I gave up when the care and feeding up such a persnickety writing implement became too much. Marisa had a bout with them, and came to the same conclusion. Soon she’ll have to come out of the closet with soft spot for lip balms.

  12. Heliologue

    As a young boy, I had a pencil shaving collection.



    I had a friend who had those wackily-colored “Yak” pens (I think that was the name, but god, it must have been about 1991), and we pretty much just shaved them down to nubs just so I could put the colorful shavings in my collection bag.

    As a junior high student, I carried around a bundle of about 10 or 15 pens and pencils in my pocket. A had a black ballpoint, a black gel, a blue ballpoint, a yellow highlighter, a .5mm mechanical pencel, a .7mm mechanical pencil, a green ballpoint, a pink gel, a purple gel, a red ballpoint, a red market, and probably some others.

    Curiously enough, whenever I would find a pen or pencil on the ground, I would end up using it for well over a year. Then, when I would buy, say, a 10-pack of the same kind, I would lose them all within a month. Why I spent money on writing utensils at all is still a mystery to me.

  13. Katey Schultz

    oh so much of this sounds so familiar. my ultimate writing pen is of course the black uniball. and they remade them last year so they don’t explode on planes anymore – super bonus.

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