A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My pen snobbery is a thing of the past, but what about pen bias?

A highly magnified image of the tip of a ballp...Image via Wikipedia

When I was a younger lawyer, just a few years into practice, I was at a giant firm. An important firm. A prestigious firm. At a prestigious address. With prestigious clients.

I thought I should have an important and prestigious pen. Not because I wanted something pleasing to write with, but because . . . well, bottom line, it was simple pretentiousness. I wanted other people to see me with the pen.

So I bought a Montblanc ball point for $99 at Office Depot. (That's not a Montblanc in the photo, just a cool close-up photo of a ball point.) And while the writing experience was a secondary consideration in the purchase (at best), I was still looking forward to what I thought was going to be an amazing writing experience. It turned out to feel like any other ballpoint. (Maybe I wouldn't think so now, with my more refined "pen palate."). But I used it anyway, because I was pretentious.

Bad me. Bad, bad me.

I didn't really care about my pens, and having an expensive one didn't change that. I ended up losing it within about two weeks, and it served me right! Better yet, no one but other lawyers in the office ever saw me with it, and I can tell you they weren't impressed.

Now that I'm "into" pens and paper, I'm not worried about pretense at all. I buy now for my own enjoyment. While I might like to show off the Waterman Carene I plan on buying next month (as soon as Flax announces its May sale), I won't be buying it to show off. I'll be buying it because I think it's beautiful and writing with it will bring me pleasure, and it won't matter to me if I'm the only one who ever sees it.

I am, however, worried — just a little, really — about a bias based on the price of a pen. I haven't spent much on any one pen yet. My most expensive is the Pilot Knight ($48). When I buy that Carene, am I going to believe that it writes better than the Pilot Knight because it really does, or because I spent 5 times as much on it?

UPDATE (9/23/10): Chris at Pens 'n' Paper takes on pen snobbery.

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1 comment:

  1. Call me a relativist, but I think of pens as writing _differently_ from each other, not necessarily "better" or "worse," although some nibs are just plain bad.

    I have $1 pens that write really well but I do not necessarily like the other characteristics of the pen. I have a $5 pen that writes really well (it's a piston-fill Wality pen from India) but it's too big for me. I have a $200 pen that I love to look at but the nib is a bit too stiff for my taste. I have lots of pens in between that I decide to use depending on the mood, on the kind of paper I'm going to write on, the kind of "writing opportunity" (e.g. I always take a Pilot VP to meetings rather than a screw-cap pen). And I have a bunch of pens of various prices that spend most of their time unfilled because I'm not crazy about the way the nib hits the paper or how it feels in my hand.

    Price is only one variable, but I don't think it has a lot to do with "good" and "better."

    I hope you enjoy the Carene though, it's a very nice piece of pen (even if Waterman pens just don't feel comfortable for me).