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How to Choose a Writing Instrument and What It Says About You

21 October 2019

From The New Yorker:

Cormac McCarthy purchased a powder blue Olivetti Lettera 32 mechanical typewriter in a Tennessee pawnshop, in 1963, for fifty dollars, and used it for the next five decades, producing an estimated five million words tickling its ivories. An author’s instrument is more than a tool; it is an extension of his very soul. With that in mind, choose your weapon carefully. (I use the Olivetti Lettera 22—an earlier model—myself.)

Ballpoint pen: Let me guess—you probably have a great idea for a book that you’ve been meaning to write but haven’t actually got around to starting?

Fountain pen: You don’t use contractions because you think that they degrade the language, and your epigraphs are all in Latin. You include epigraphs in everything you write.

. . . .

Manual typewriter: You spent six hundred dollars on a typewriter that you’ve used twice.

No. 2 pencil: You keep one behind your ear because you think it looks writerly, but exclusively use it to jot down to-do lists.

Pencil you can only sharpen with a pocket knife: You have gone camping two or three times in your life and bring it up at least once per conversation.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

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13 Comments to “How to Choose a Writing Instrument and What It Says About You”

  1. Netbooks and desktop computer hunt-n-peck writer here.

    What it says about me is that my speling is the pits and even I can’t read my own chicken-scratch. 😛

    MYMV and you get it done your own way. 😉

  2. Nah, not the guide I would have been looking for 🙂

    I hate ballpoint pens. I like fountain pens, gel pens and rollerball pens — he left the last two off the list; an unforgivable oversight. My first typewriter was a beige Royal thing, and I felt a teeny bit cheated when I discovered typewriters could be cool colors like pink or Tiffany blue.

    But I wouldn’t dream of going back to a manual typewriter, let alone my electric one (Smith Corona Mark IX), which I think my parents shipped to my aunt in another country. Probably they may have secretly liked not having me write stories on it at 2 a.m. 🙂 Fortunately, they waited until we bought our first computer before doing that.

    On occasion when I used epigraphs they tend to be “clues,” and are sometimes taken from poems, but always in a language that living people speak, i.e., English 🙂 I do reserve the right to make a future exception for Latin mottoes that are utterly bad a**.

    • Yes! Gel pens all the way!

      For longhand.

    • I hate ballpoint pens. I like fountain pens, gel pens and rollerball pens — he left the last two off the list; an unforgivable oversight.

      Heh. I completely agree.

      When I’m feeling a bit blocked, I write fiction longhand with a G2. When the story is rolling, I type it on my laptop.

      I usually write blog posts on the laptop. I always write in my journal with a G2. 😉

      • The G2 is just an average gel pen – there are much better options out there; for example, right now my pocket pen is a Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.4mm with a dark (Navy?) blue ink.

        The problem with gels and roller balls is that they don’t work on a lot of surfaces. Fortunately for the times you need that, there are hybrid inks such as the Uni Jetstream (which I often use as a pocket pen) that are MUCH better than a standard ballpoint.

        Then there are those who love felt tip or fiber tip pens like Sharpie pens or the classic Flair pen (I’m not one of them).

        • The Jetstream is my favorite ballpoint. Blue. 🙂 It’s the smoothest ballpoint pen I’ve ever used.

          The 207 Uni-ball Signo is my favorite gel pen. Blue.

          Everything’s gotta be blue for me. 😉

  3. I use a Pilot Dr. Grip gel pen, and write longhand before typing up words on my computer. Just published my 29th title.

  4. This is one of those satire articles, right?

    Non-digital scribbling is not searchable. Period. I need searchable EVERY DAY.

    I’ll never get around to transcribing those hieroglyphics in that mountain of used notebooks.

  5. Fatuous BS. But, hey, it’s the New Yorker.

  6. No one, including me, can read my handwriting so it has to be typed. I don’t actually have a favorite instrument; anything with a keyboard will work although it HAS to be a computer for spell-checking and corrections, so I guess that says something about me.

  7. Speaking of Sharpies… I love ’em. But in my former writing life as a digital imaging & printing guru, I tested them for lightfastness/print permanence. Example being: signing artwork or photographic prints. Result: really bad. Like fading away within weeks. So if you want your (displayed) writing to last, never use a Sharpie. Good old carbon (lead) is the clear winner in that category.

    • There are definitely some pretty permanent inks out there; JetPens probably has a page on this. Just to give one example, Platinum makes fountain pen ink with carbon in it.

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