If you’re like me, you’re familiar with the tingle. You know the one I mean, that tingle you get when you see a pen on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or in a blog post, and it speaks to you. And because of that tingle and the pen whispering in your ear, “Buy me. I’m cool/colorful/limited/dazzling,” you buy it. Then there’s another tingle when the pen arrives in your mailbox, and yet another when you share it with your friends, either in person or though social media. That tingle—it can become very addictive.
And then the pens start to pile up. Well, they’re stored carefully in cases and holders and boxes, but, man, suddenly there a lot of them. You start thinking, “Where’s that Micarta or the orange Jetstream or that Kiwi Green Retro 51?” It all starts getting a little, shall we say, blurry— all of these pens and inks and papers—a little overwhelming. A little—maybe?—excessive. (After all, you only have two hands. And really, you can only write with one of those.)
That was me at the end of 2014— a year in which I bought a “healthy” number of pens. I don’t regret any (or very few) of those purchases, but as 2014 turned into 2015, it seemed like a good time to ratchet down the buying a bit. Not to swear off new pens altogether, but to really think long and hard about what I want and why I want it.
At first it was hard. There was that TWSBI Diamond 580AL Orange Fountain Pen, which, in the past, would’ve been an automatic purchase. But I have a couple of 580s and do I really need another one just because of the color? Right now, I’m saying no. (My Lamy Safari and AL-Star collections seem to indicate otherwise, but that’s another story.) Then there are the hard-to-come-by Kaweco ART Sport fountain pens, with cool looking acrylics and a very good price. SO TEMPTING. But I’m happy with the Kawecos I have, so I passed (after a lot of internal debate). And you know what, the more I let some pens slip by, the easier saying it became to say no. I even experienced a teeny tiny little tingle from THAT— from saying no.
I’m in the middle of yet another round of the Whole life Challenge, and I’m treating pen purchases much like I’m treating dessert and bread and salty snacks. Instead of automatically gobbling a handful of cookies or chips because they’re in front of me, I REALLY think about what I want to spend my precious points on. When I really want cake, I have cake. But I don’t eat cake just because everyone else is, or just because it’s sitting there. Knee-jerk actions have been replaced by thoughtful actions, and I’m far healthier because of this change. The same goes for my pen “consumption.”
It’s easy to get caught up in your friends’ purchases and recommendations—to get dazzled by what is new and shiny and gorgeous—but it’s also fun to shop in your own “store.” It’s been eye-opening inking up pens that have fallen by the wayside—not exactly forgotten, but definitely neglected. There are some real gems that I’d forgotten about—a pen that feels especially good in my hand, one that glistens with stunning colors and depth, and another with a nib that sings. Since I can’t buy ALL the pens (darn!), I can surely do a better job of using and honoring what I already own.
NOW, in the interest of full disclosure, we interrupt this post to say that I bought a pen. Yesterday. Like, while these thoughts and this post were in the works. But I let this pen purchase simmer for four or five days to sort out why I wanted it. Does it add something to my collection, or am I just looking for the quick thrill of coming home to a package in my mailbox? (Back to the WLC analogy, am I snacking on donuts for the sugar fix when what I really need is a good apple?)
I let the pros and cons percolate, had a little email exchange with the vendor, and ultimately decided to make the purchase. But lately, in many cases, I decide to pass. So…progress. (To be clear, we’re not talking big money. This is a $35 dollar pen, but even those $35 dollar purchases can add up.)
I hope this doesn’t sound preachy. I don’t want this to sound preachy. And— really— I’m just preaching to myself. For, you know, a moment of weakness.
In her song “Soak Up the Sun,” Sheryl Crow sings, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”
Smart woman, that Sheryl.
Messed up the lyric a little, but still.