Will Spector, '23
“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.”
I came across this statement while browsing an online fountain pen forum several years ago. As a self-proclaimed “insider” of the fountain pen niche, I realized that I had become oblivious to the newcomer’s perspective. What had once been an antiquated item in my mind had developed into a passion. But what I’d forgotten was that as my image of fountain pens changed, the generally accepted image remained. Upon mentioning my hobby to others, I would receive weird glances or questions because (though I didn’t realize it) the hobby was odd. But I didn’t mind. Once Covid hit I found myself spending more time perusing the internet for new pen or ink reviews. The more I searched, the more interesting stuff I found. The wealth seemed never-ending.
From time to time during my six-year fountain pen journey, one question would come to light: was I addicted? Sure, I loved pens. That was clear from my search history and incessant babbling to my family about writing instruments. But addiction? “Addiction,” though normally associated with negative habits—drugs, alcohol, video games—sometimes seemed to be the most appropriate delineation of my interest. The reality of pen addiction is well-documented. Stories of other confessed fountain pen druggies spending entire paychecks on the latest Montblanc LE or counting ink bottles to realize that they had amassed thousands were just as common as accounts of individuals going cold-turkey and swearing off buying pens for the foreseeable future. The narratives came suspiciously close to those told of more widespread addictions. However, I used these stories as reassurance, not as warning signs. “I’ll never spend $100k on fountain pens like in those horror stories,” I’d convince myself. “That would be insane!” But I often found myself unconsciously taking the “Oooh, shiny” approach to pen browsing, telling myself that those expensive pens that I couldn’t afford now, I would definitely purchase when I was older.
I still can’t decide where to draw the line between love and addiction. Sometimes I have to return to the question of “why was I interested in pens in the first place?” I’ve always liked the idea of something collectible and usable that could fit in a pocket. Of course, nobody buys a fountain pen for practicality—they are, by definition, less practical than their ballpoint successors. There’s just something special about filling a fountain pen with a beautiful ink and sitting down to write instead of pulling a BIC out of your pocket to jot something down. Each word you record feels more significant, and the connection between the writer and the content being written is closer. I fear that the urge to obtain every attractive pen or spend more time coveting pens on the internet than actually writing might take away from the intimacy that accompanies having a small collection that you use everyday. Achieving fountain pen nirvana—that is, being totally and completely satisfied with what you use—might be the only way to avoid addiction.
Whether or not I’m anywhere close to that point, the fountain pen hobby and the people associated with it have been among the best experiences of my life. Even though some people (including myself) might get “too into it” at times, as with any hobby, those impulses can be controlled, and the beautiful aspects of the hobby far outweigh periodic overinterest. Frankly, I’m very lucky to be a part of the fountain pen community and I look forward to the years of interest to come.
I’ll offer a few statements as a gateway in case you’re interested. As I mentioned, fountain pens are actually a really popular and amazing hobby, and I think everyone should try one before deciding they’re not for them.
1. (Many) Fountain pens are environmentally friendly! Instead of a cheap plastic pen that you discard after it runs out of ink, you can refill from a large glass bottle that lasts you months.
2. Fountain pens come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and price points. Unless you are vehemently opposed to them, it’s pretty much guaranteed that there’s a pen for you out there.
3.There are lots of opportunities to meet with and discuss pens with other people, like pen shows, local pen clubs, and online forums.
4. You can change ink colors and properties whenever you want, so the pen can reflect your personality or mood.
5. Fountain pens make writing more meaningful and fun!