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Hand written version of this blog post, plus fountain pen, and laptop mid typing up

Some years ago I started using fountain pens for my handwriting. Not old vintage pens, but newly purchased models. At first I was fascinated by them as amazingly engineered beautiful pieces of art. But as I used them more and more I found that they helped me with my creative work, helping me to produce extended pieces of writing far more effectively than typing straight into a computer.

Of course you don’t need to be using a fountain pen to produce good handwritten work. But I find them to be the easiest and most comfortable writing experience I’ve ever used, far easier and more effortless to write with than e.g. a Biro. I also find them more comfortable with my neurological illness hands, needing much less physical effort to write with. Also on environmental grounds they can be a very good option if you write a lot, especially if they can be filled directly from bottled ink, which is the type of fountain pen I prefer to use.

I used to write extended text typing straight into Microsoft Word on the computer, especially for more scientific type reports. But now I am very prone to just staring at the blank screen, or editing the text too much as I type, when I should be getting the core words down.

I do find that distraction free writing apps like Ulysses help me to an extent. But by far the best solution I’ve found is to hand write first drafts. Again I start with a blank page before me, typically a ruled A5 notepad, but that doesn’t stop me this time. Even with just a rough initial idea of where I’m going I quickly write loads of words, including writing on aspects of the topic that I hadn’t anticipated writing about beforehand.

I use this method for longer academic paper writing as well as smaller pieces such as blog posts. For example I can hand write a 1000 word blog post in 10 minutes or less. It just takes me a few minutes then to type it up, editing quickly as I go, and I’m done.

Now this technique won’t suit everyone. I’m not even sure why it works so well for me. Yes I like the experience of writing with good pens, but I think it’s more that hand writing like this puts me into a very relaxed but still focused frame of mind. And that is highly conducive for generating good word content.

I definitely wouldn’t suggest that everyone rushes out to buy a fountain pen. But maybe some might benefit from turning away from the computer screen and its temptations – social media, web surfing, and extensive editing options in Microsoft Word – and trying a more traditional approach of generating words.

If after reading this you do want to try out fountain pens there are many options, ranging from extremely low cost to very expensive. Cartridge filled ones can be a good entry level option, but piston filled ones that use bottled ink can be greenest. My neurological illness hands cope very well with piston fillers, including filling from bottled ink. My top favourite fountain pens are currently two Italian ones, made by Visconti and Leonardo, and then in 3rd place my trusty Lamy 2000, a German design that has been in production ever since 1966, and still looks futuristic, as well as being a thoroughly reliable and comfortable writer.

Fountain pens benefit from thicker paper than standard printer/copy paper. I tend to use refillable Atoma-style journals, hand writing each draft, then taking out the pages (Atoma pages can be removed and reinserted as much as you want), typing it up, then discarding the original hand written version.

In the UK good online retailers of fountain pens include Cult Pens and Pure Pens. In North America Goulet Pens is a very reliable firm to deal with.

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