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Inky and the Brain

You might not be surprised to know that among my many views and opinions, I have given serious consideration to writing instruments. While much of my day is consumed by typing away on the keyboard, I carry no fewer than three notebooks with me at all times, filling each with tasks, ideas, designs, and so on. The paper notebook for me is a scratchpad for my own thought process. There are numerous spiral bound pages in my office which hold early designs for many of the products I have built, and probably more from those more crazy designs which I was not able to build.

What makes writing enjoyable for me, depends on a number of qualities which aren’t found any pencils nor in most pens:

  • Wet: since I’m right-handed and don’t run the risk of dragging my hand through my own writing, I find that a very fluid and wet pen allows me to comfortably scribble notes as fast as I possibly can.
  • Smooth: Related to the wetness of a pen, a smooth roll is very important. I find that ballpoint pens don’t glide as effortlessly across the page as I would like. With pencils, I always feel like I have to etch the page to get a decently thick stroke.
  • Clicky-top: While I can work with capped pens, I abhor those pens which screw outward. I’ve never understood their appeal. I most often see them in hotel rooms, which leads me to believe they’re intentionally dysfunctional to prevent theft, just like those curve-less hangars in the wardrobe.
  • Comfortable: I consider my hands to be very dextrous but they are large and my fingers long. The strain from holding a narrow writing utensil results in too much frustration to be worth the trouble. Pens with a larger section towards the point tend to sit more comfortably in my hand for extended periods of time.

For over a decade, I have been a big fan of the Pilot G2 “Gel” pen. I would purchase boxes of these pens and then snarl at anybody who attempted to pilfer one for their own uses. Consistently, I would use a single G2 all the way until it had expended its last bit of ink. Then, assuming nobody else had exhausted my supply, I would start in on the next pen sitting in the box.

Recently however, I have adopted a simple fountain pen. One which I purchased at an office supply store over a year ago, with which I hadn’t previously bothered spend time.

The flow on the fountain pen is phenomenal. It is strong enough that I intentionally purchased some new notebooks with a bit more thickness in the page in order to reduce bleed-through. The heavier weight of the fountain pen also feels much nicer in my hand, and in turn makes my notes feel much more consequential, even the trivial scribblings in between meetings.

One aspect of the fountain pen which I didn’t fully appreciate, when compared to the G2 and other such pens, is that the fountain pen results in far less waste. Rather than throwing out a 7” piece of plastic every few weeks, I’m plopping a little cartridge into the same pen over and over.

If you’re not already happily writing notes, don’t consider this an endorsement for a specific type of pen, but instead, a challenge to explore the wide variety of pens and pencils out there. Even with poor quality hand-writing like mine, the right tool will make your written words that much more enjoyable to write.