I take pens with me practically everywhere. Even when there’s little likelihood that I’ll actually write anything, I still like to have a case with multiple pens on my person or in my bag.
As I’ve written in my ‘travels with pens’ series over the years, I plan the selection of pens I take when travelling days in advance. In the distant past when I used to go into the office to work, I used to load my bag with pens the night before, along with choosing my tie and cufflinks. (I may be a weirdo, but I like to prepare…)
Now in Covid times I barely leave the house, and no matter where I am I’m rarely more than 20 seconds from the pen collection safely nestled upstairs in my home office.
Yet I still take a pen case downstairs with me in the morning.
Why? I guess I like the ritual normality, and I take some comfort from having these precious and empowering objects with me. Like a talisman as well as a useful tool.
I also enjoy the nature of this interaction with my collection. Choosing just three or four pens — even if it’s an artificial selection that I can reverse at any time — has the same delicious difficulty as choosing the next chocolate from a selection box. Like when someone asks you what your favourite books or albums are, it triggers engagement with memory, and I enjoy the tingle of mild stress.
The ritual forces me to think about my collection in helpful ways: why do I never pick this pen? Do I have too many pens like this? Why do I always choose this one over this one? Which ones do I pick, but never actually write with? Which ink colours do I find myself actually picking to use, and which make me leave favourite pens in the tray?
Nowadays, honestly, choosing the day’s pens is not a decision I can agonise or luxuriate over in this analytical way. It’s often done at 5am in near-darkness, with a toddler in one arm, as we blearily make our way downstairs for the day.
Making this snap decision takes seconds, but I still find myself following certain logic for how the choices fit together. Take this morning, for instance.
I knew I wanted to spend as much time as possible with the new Visconti Lava Color that arrived yesterday, so that was my first choice.
It’s inked with the magenta Vinta La Union, so for my second choice I went for the Onoto Sequoyah, which not only looks and feels very different from the Visconti, but is inked with KWZ Turquoise.
With stone and plastic pens covered, I picked a fuss-free metal one, the ystudio Portable Copper, inked with green Edelstein Aventurine.
Then I looked for a fourth, and skipped over a lot of pens inked with blues or reds before I saw the Leonardo Cuspide inked with Scribo Grigio. But then I remembered my Lamy 2000 Black Amber was also inked with Grigio and I hadn’t used it for a little while — sure it’s also a metal pullcap like the ystudio, but very different in feel.
So there we go, I had my four, in less than ten seconds.
Will I write with all four today? I may not write with any of them, to be brutally honest. I’ll be looking after a toddler, cooking and cleaning, wrapping some Christmas presents. Not much need for pens. But it’s nice to have interacted with my collection even for a few seconds, and it’s a comfort to know I have this little totemic bundle with me wherever I go — even if I don’t make it out of the house today.