In life generally, and as stationery lovers in particular, we each have interests and behaviours that drive us. Compulsions, even.
For me, a lot of my behaviour in this hobby is driven by the idea of ‘finding perfect’ — whether that means finally having the most comfortable daily writer, securing the rarest of grail pens, or completing a collection. I don’t like to compromise, but more than that, I have an itch to scratch, a need to look for something new. I justify the expense, and guide my purchases, by believing that I’m at last fixing a deficiency or filling a gap in the pens I already own.
The reality is unfortunately rather different. At least, it is for me.
Simple fact: there is no perfect pen. I will never be satisfied if that’s what I’m looking for. On the other hand, there are thousands of pens that are perfectly good enough, by any standard of comfort, performance and aesthetics. The crazy thing is, I already own about 30 of them — a drawer full of pens in my office that I chose carefully (even obsessively) and love writing with. They’ve survived the culls, so I know in my heart that these are keepers. They’re great. But instead of getting on with enjoying what I’ve got, I keep looking.
I stay subscribed to the shop newsletters. I keep browsing the sites. I check eBay. I visit the pen shows. I read the forums and Instagram and make notes about pens I see. I watch out for sales, both new and second-hand. I find myself wondering whether that new nib, or that section shape, or that new material will finally help me break through into the promised land where all desires evaporate, and I transcend into a zen state of writing, free of further material desire.
I know that constantly pursuing the new is a futile effort. The annoying thing — at least in terms of breaking the addiction — is that at times I do feel that I’ve discovered something that makes a lasting change to my satisfaction in this hobby. The Conid Kingsize, for example, has really impressed me and even changed how I think about writing. The London Fog was worth every penny, even though I already owned a Homo Sapiens. The Graf Classic opened me up to metal sections. The Montblanc 1912 made me appreciate this most storied of brands, and I’m now a proud owner of a Montblanc for every day of the week.
If, back in 2015, I’d stuck with my Lamy 2000 (the old man of my collection), I would certainly be richer, but I’d have missed out on all of those amazing pens that I genuinely couldn’t bear to part with now. All the nibs and filling mechanisms, the hunts and the excitement of unboxing, the friends I’ve met along the way.
I guess the reality is that I keep browsing new pens less in pursuit of something new, but in fear of missing out. What if the next Conid Kingsize is out there? I still kick myself that I didn’t buy a Gimena when they were available. Or an Arco anything.
So I keep watch. But it’s exhausting. Every hour I spend browsing pen shop websites is an hour I’m not writing, reading a book, or learning a skill. And there is always, every day, something new: a limited edition, a one-off deal. This is not a race I can ever finish: no matter how much time I throw at it, there will always be more. In that sense, I’m destined to fail. And yet, when I open my pen drawer, I can’t help but smile.