Destined to fail

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.

5 thoughts on “Destined to fail

  1. I can relate to so much of this. It is a common condition! Which is my favourite pen? My next one. Eventually we may realise that the more pens we have, the less we can use and appreciate those we already have. It is a journey to get back to where we began: being content with one pen and one ink.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yeah, it’s an awkward feeling, researching and comparing pens, finally deciding which to buy and placing the order. Then, even the next day, your mind can be wandering to the “what’s next” especially if I’ve ordered a pen while away with work so won’t see it for a couple of weeks. The endless draw of shiny things. As Rupert said, more pens is also less time to use each of them, my collection is at 8 now and already there’s a couple that get neglected.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You and Rupert nailed it, better than me!

      I’ve definitely done what you described: started researching the next shiny thing before the last one has even arrived.

      And the feeling of neglect, too. I know I’ll get back to each of them in the end, but sometimes I ink up a pen and think “wow, why did I leave this in the drawer so long?”

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Pingback: Snippets: the week in stationery | UK fountain pens

  4. A forced pause in my usually steady trickle of pen purchasing has made me stop and think recently – spending ALL my money on a house renovation while looking at a frankly embarrassing pen collection has given my a guilt I’ve never had about my pens, not the little pang when you commit to buy another and then repeat the justifications to make it all better again. More a gut wrenching ‘can you be serious?’ guilt for realising I have frivolously collected one of every nib grinds a certain Italian pen maker produces for their flagship model.

    I have felt that I should choose maybe 5 or 6 pens and sell the rest but then I’ve already had a cull of the ones I don’t much enjoy. Then I found I seem to have an attachment to my hard won collection of survivors, I think because it is testament to the time I spent researching them, finding them, waiting for them to arrive, tuning the nibs that weren’t quite aligned, discovering which ink works best with the barrel colour/ nib in my favourite notebooks…

    In a recent bid to cull a few more (and pay our plasterer), I inked a couple of pens that have been unused for far too long, just to see if they were suitable to be released to the wild again. No. They were nice pens that I really should have used again before now, one reminding me that my tastes have developed and so it seems that pen is much better than I remembered.

    I think my problem now is that I know there is no perfect pen, not least as I have developed different criteria for that status over time, I am more interested in finding the best version of the pen I think is almost perfect for me. That and an obsession with nib characteristics that has lead me to accumulate multiples of a few select pens in a variety of nib types. Or that’s justification for keeping so may of my lovelies.

    One thing is certain: looking at your collection in the tab above, the ratio of your pens owned to pens sold suggests you are a good deal more disciplined about moving on than I am!

    Liked by 1 person

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