Beautiful Writing Tools

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typewriterfountain pen

I was thinking recently about the beauty of old-fashioned writing instruments. I sit here typing this post on my computer, after having drafted it first by hand, a writing habit I always try to follow. Drafting by pen slows down the process and forces me to focus on the immediate words I am choosing rather than my thoughts flying ahead to other parts of the piece. By slowing the writing down, my concentration increases and my writing becomes stronger.

Regardless of the length of the project, from a short story or article to a novel, I always work in this method.

On taking a break, I put down my pen, admittedly not a very special or beautiful item, and began to consider writing implements from the past. The two pics I found of an old manual typewriter and a fountain pen and paper are things of beauty. Not only do they capture the tone of a past time, but they also suggest the power and solidity of that writing.

It has been many years since I have used a manual typewriter, and I am not going to claim that they are more efficient than a computer—that would be silly, but they are stronger, made out of metal and intended to last a very long time. There is a kind of beauty that is encompassed in items that were created to last a long time, not to be thrown aside after a mere year or so of usage, like most contemporary electronics (a rant for another day—the ecological disaster that might come as a result of our “recycling” of computer and phone parts). There is also an aesthetic quality in the holding of an old, well-made pen, something created to work in the hand of the user. I am not being nostalgic, looking for the non-existent “good, old days” but commenting on a characteristic that we seemed to have lost in our current desire for speed and convenience, and that is quality in the crafting of items.

Again, I am not searching for a golden age but acknowledging that we have lost something as we have gained speed.

I admit that I do my revisions on the comp, especially because I am a terrible typist, but I still love the feel of a good pen in my hand while writing. On special occasions, I do use a quill pen, ink bottle, and parchment to draft letters to my beloved wife. That, however, is a private matter!

I wonder if anyone else sees the beauty in these writing tools.

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3 thoughts on “Beautiful Writing Tools

  1. John Roccaro

    I keep an old typewriter, shiny and black, the words Smith and Corona emblazoned in gold script letters across its face, more as a museum piece more than as a writing implement. It is a reminder of just how difficult it was to use one, and an object of industrial art and design. Its sensual implementation in intricate steel parts and glossy paint, its immobile weight and the sound it makes with each keystroke or carriage return – so musical that a musical piece was written for it.

    Handwriting is another matter altogether. As a student, I learnt “cursive” and block lettering and spent many hours at the drafting board, and in art classes, drawing freestyle. I don’t see how anyone could work science and math problems on a keyboard. For me, doodling and back-of-the-envelope conceptual drawings are an absolute necessity which a computer keyboard can never replace. Consider the old saw about the iterative nature of design – “back to the drawing board!”, does “back to the CAD program!” serve as an adequate substitute or as a joke? I’ve tried drawing on an iPad and found it severely lacking. There is something important about the sensual experience of holding a pen or pencil in my hand, feeling its impress upon paper, the sound and feel of the friction as its tip is drawn across the paper and the effect on the quality of the line as it is created, now thick, now thin, now dark, now light as I vary the pressure and speed of movement. Just the knowledge that I can rapidly, at the flick of the wrist, whimsically scribble, cross out, encircle, underline, relocate phrases with arrows, squeeze tiny notes into margins and doodle or sketch in figures seems to give me a feeling of bold freedom and confidence that I simply don’t get from blinking cursors, keys and cut/paste.

    Perhaps someday a beautiful robot stenographer can take my dictation, as I don’t think I could afford (or even find) one in human form.

    Yes, I do find the old writing implements to be beautiful.

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  2. Casey

    You are not the only one! After I read this I immediately thought of a segment the CBS Morning Show did about a “Typewriter Renaissance” of sorts. Here’s the link: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iX8Y4fWgOjw
    I agree, there is some nostalgic about a typewriter and handwriting. I think it’s a shame students are not bring taught handwriting these days. I was in a classroom where none of the students could even read cursive!

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