11 September 2012

Quill and Qwerty

The quill and the QWERTY. Well, the quill and qwerty keyboard, anyway. It's amazing what's come out of those humble tools in the last, oh, four millenia. (I do believe the ancient Egyptians already used the quill to draw their strange cubist pharaohs, so, yes, four millennia. If not more.)

I did a bit of writing with a dip pen the other day (I'll tell you about that some other time), and found myself quite astonished that the likes of Austen were able to write whole books with that method. And they had really fancy handwriting, to boot. Once, a long time ago, I tried using a proper quill, i.e. a goose feather carved to shape with a sharp knife, and I couldn't manage it. Scrape, scratch, splatter...

And now I'm so used to the computer QWERTY keyboard that I'm starting to find myself amazed how anyone could write whole books by hand at all, even with a regular pen, be it ballpoint, fountain, gel or felt. Or a pencil.

For me, ballpoint would be out of the question; I get hand cramps from those things in very short order. Gel isn't much better. Felt is okay, but my writing instrument of choice for anything meant to be permanent is a fountain pen. Yes, an old-fashioned fountain pen. Though not quite as old-fashioned as the one in the picture; that one belonged to my grandfather, so it's from no later than the 1950's, maybe even as old as the 1920's or 30's. It's the plunger type, with a piston ink reservoir in the belly.

No, the kind I use are the ones I learned to write with, back in Germany in the 70's, with neat and tidy ink cartridges to put in it. Usually royal blue, but when I got to my teens I really enjoyed paying a bit extra and getting the fancy coloured inks. They even had scented ones for a while in the little junk shop where I liked browsing. My grade 11 math teacher was not impressed with the yellow and orange; he said he could barely see them on the page. So I had to switch back to turquoise, and green, and purple. I even had brown for a while; but I can't remember what the scent of that one was. (No, it definitely wasn't what you think! Get your mind out of the gutter.)

Now, I just rattle my fingers over the keyboard, with great speed and inaccuracy. My backspace button gets used about as much as the space bar, I think.

Life, the Universe, the Quill and QWERTY. What's your favourite writing tool?


  1. Actually i like pencil. Impermanence rocks!

  2. Oh, my goodness, I couldn't agree with you more. I've been typing so long now that my handwriting is atrocious! And I don't even enjoy longhand anymore. (I remember a time when I did!)

    Fun stuff. Of course, life is our inspiration~ <3

  3. I used to prefer the roller ball pens with the liquid ink that looks like fountain pen ink. The ink usually dries to slow and I end up smudging it. QWERTY for me now,

  4. Wow I have gone through many stages with writing. Pencil is great for flow and easier to erase then ink, and doodling when I am at a loss for words. I tried my hand at calligraphy in my mid-teen, interesting. Ball point pen-medium and paper have been therapy for me as I had my grandmother as my first pen pal and when I really got into journaling in Bible school. QWERTY was not my friend until fb chat, now I fly like the wind. I still long for paper and pen but most of my communication is electronic. And I have made sure my teen children don't loose touch with the art of hand written letters, they must send one for each gift received on birthdays or Christmas. :-)

  5. I had those, too!!! The cartridge fountain pen with the different coloured cartridged - eminently cool. I'm going to have to find myself another one. Anyway, I have written novel-length pieces in pen. It hurts. I had to tape my writers bumps, and it hurt, anyway. Not worth it unless you're a teenager determined to suffer for her art. Now I use pencil. And printing. My cursive sucks. *hanging head in shame*

  6. Anonymous11/9/12 21:15

    I love writing by hand, and I do have an ink pen and some cartridges, though I haven't used them lately. I also type well, so I enjoy the best of both worlds!

  7. Anonymous12/9/12 06:40

    This is my favorite pen - http://www.amazon.com/Pilot-Precise-Rolling-Extra-12-Count/dp/B00006IEBI/ref=pd_sbs_op_1

    It's the only pen I can use for creative writing. Other pens are fine for grocery lists and such, but for the last fifteen or so years, if I don't have one of those pens on hand, forget writing stories.

    I do almost everything with the good ol' keyboard these days, but I have one story I am still stubbornly insisting on writing longhand, because I think I lose some of the magic of creating with typing and while I'm willing to make that sacrifice for speed with most, at times I just need that pen scratching against the paper, and so then I pull out that one story and write some more in that. Until my hand cramps, anyway.