Last summer I gave up on my fountain pens. It was getting too difficult to find paper that didn’t let the ink bleed through. I kept fussing over my pens. I bought a 1947 Parker 51, which wasn’t working as well I’d been expecting, and my Duofold had stopped working entirely. I decided to stop wasting time and just use ball points. Lately I had even started using roller balls pens. But every once in a while, I’d read about some fountain pen I was interested in, and the itch to get another one would come back. But I kept resisting.
One of the pens I’ve wanted for quite some time is the Namiki Vanishing Point fountain pen, also known as the Pilot Capless. It’s an unusual fountain pen, the only one of its kind. It has no cap, and its nib is retractable, as these two pictures show:
Last week I was walking up Benaki Street and I saw one in a shop window. I went in and asked to look at it. I ran the nib across some paper and across the back of my hand — the latter is something I do with all uninked pens I pick up. I can feel how smooth the end of the nib is that way. This one was very smooth, probably smoother than any other I’d ever felt. The next day I went and bought it.
What impresses me is how it’s both smooth and sturdy. The nib is 18 karat white gold and has just a little flex.
The main reason that I bought it is that I’d been reading that they could be used in Moleskines without feathering or bleeding through. I like using Moleskines. I find the cult surrounding them ridiculous, but at the same time, I can understand it. In an age when people do most of their writing on computers, or some other kind of machine, more and more people are enjoying a return to something simpler and more basic, and something which can carry their own personal character in it: their handwriting, their sketches, doodles, whatever. The marketing of the notebook even satisfies some people’s desire to be participating in some kind of tradition: they’re using the notebooks that Picasso, Hemingway, Van Gogh, and Chatwin used. (As several people have pointed out, they’re not. No one has commented on the irony that the makers of the notebook themselves point out that le vrai moleskine n’est plus.)
I like the notebook because it’s handy. I like the elastic band that keeps it closed. I like the binding that keeps it completely open. I like the sturdy hard cover. I like the acid-free paper, but wish it was more fountain pen friendly. I’ve been lucky with mine. I’ve managed to do a lot of writing in them.
When I’m writing, I have to enjoy the physical act. It may seem silly, but it’s no sillier than writing made-up stories about people who have never existed. If I’m using a ball point pen that makes my handwriting look horrible and has blotchy ink, I’m distracted from what I’m writing. If the pen skips or scratches the paper a little bit and makes even a little bit of noise, it distracts me. No matter how absorbed I am in what I’m writing, I can’t forget that I’m actually holding a pen and gliding it across some paper. (If things are going well, and it’s a good pen, it glides. Other times it just drags and scrapes.)
A few nights ago I noticed that in the month since I started this notebook, in which I’m only writing my novel, I had written over fifty pages. For me this very productive. And there’s a lot more in the previous notebook. I wanted to mention that here, because I often complain about my writing not going well, about not having enough discipline, there being too many distractions. And because that’s why I haven’t been posting much. I’m interested enough in the plot, subject matter and characters that the pen has been gliding a lot, even when I was using a cheap ball point or roller ball.