8

How often are fountain pens and dip pens are used today by writers, and why do they use them? Or, if applicable, why not?

  • I write my poetry with a pen and recently got a fountain pen. I like the tactile feedback. Fiction I mostly use the computer for first draft, but not necessarily for a short story. Hard to get statistics on this one. – Terri Simon May 10 '17 at 13:56
  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the number of writers that use fountain pens is unknown. – user34178 Dec 21 '18 at 20:11
  • A few years ago BBC indicated a rising trend in the general population towards the use of fountain pens [ bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18071830 ]. – NofP Dec 21 '18 at 23:38
  • I don't see this question as different from a question about using a particular writing software - why to use it, why not. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Dec 22 '18 at 18:32
  • Usually, authors/writers would use them if they think they've got good handwriting. – iiRosie1 Dec 24 '18 at 19:35

11 Answers 11

7

I use fountain pens regularly, as do my friends over at Fountain Pen Network. I'm not sure how common it is, but writing longhand with a fountain pen certainly isn't dying out.

I became a fountain pen lover when I realized how much easier they are to write with (my RSI improved immensely when I switched from ballpoints, roller balls, and gel pens to fountain pens). Writing with a fountain pen just feels good, and my handwriting is better. I spend less on writing instruments than when I used ballpoints and such, while I have a greater variety of inks available.

Also, working at the computer comes with a host of distractions. I can retreat with my paper and pen to some distraction-free place and get more writing done.

| improve this answer | |
6

Neil Gaiman writes all of his books with a fountain pen.

Neal Stephenson last used a word processor for writing with Cryptonomicon. Since then, he has written everything longhand. Yes, that means all twelve billion pages of The Baroque Cycle and Anthem.

Stephen King wrote Dreamcatcher in long hand.

Claire Messud wrote The Emperor's Children with a fountain pen.

Jonathan Carroll writes all of his novels with a fountain pen.

Shelby Foote wrote his entire Civil War histories with a dip pen!

| improve this answer | |
4

Short answer: I have no exact number. I doubt anyone has an exact nomber at the moment. Maybe some site should run a survey...

Christopher Paolini has stated he's used them recently. But they're not often used, as far as I can tell. I'd use them for the same reason Paolini's stated to: it gives a nice feeling, sets the mind in the right mood, etc.

But it's not practical. So, as I'm not that good a writer, I like to stick to the place where I can write my ideas the fastest (so they won't go flying out the window to the corners of Neverland).

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I'd use them to write some drafts, mostly because of the "inspiration" and "right mood" as you said (I write spanish ,obviously, cause English is not my first language). Some times I write some songs with it and I love feeling the art in the music, and on the paper. – D4RIO Mar 24 '11 at 3:06
  • Spanish is my first language, too, but I can't bring myself to write sci-fi / fantasy in Spanish. Now, talk to me about realism and I can't bring myself to write in English most of the time. Quirks and perks of the trade, I guess. – iajrz Mar 24 '11 at 12:19
4

If you were going to write a piece that you planned to publish, writing it by hand is going to be the long way around. You aren't going to be able to submit it to the publisher that way, so you're going to end up having to re-type it anyway! I don't think any major publisher is going to be willing to deal with a hand-written manuscript, no matter how good your handwriting, and no matter how good your story.

| improve this answer | |
3

There is no exact number, but there are certainly dozens of very famous writers who write first drafts longhand, nearly always with a fountain pen. There are also dozens of actors who use fountain pens constantly when working on a script, or even more often, editing their dialogue in a script they have in a movie or TV series.

Likewise, there are hundred, probably thousands of lesser known and unpublished writers who use fountain pens.

There is at least one scientific reason to write first drafts longhand. We don't actually WRITE words, we DRAW them, and drawing automatically accesses the creative center of the brain. Computer do not do this. Now that we can watch the brain as we perform tasks, we have also learned that a manual typewriter also accesses the creative center of the brain almost as well as a pen, but electric typewriters do not, nor does a keyboard.

I'm hardly a famous writer, but I have earned a living as a writer, or did, before I retired, for more than thirty years. For me, a manual typewriter, and even more often, a fountain pen, was always the best way to write WELL. Anyone can write, but writing WELL is extremely difficult.

The slowness of a fountain pen is also valuable. Extremely so. Many new writers say they use a computer because it allows the writing to keep up with their thoughts. True, but this is seldom a good thing. Very few people have first thoughts that are worth keeping. It's the second, or third, or fourth thought that is valuable, that makes writing publishable, and a fountain pen makes thinking about a sentence two or three or four times before writing it down much easier, especially since it does access the creative center of the brain.

Ideas, I believe, are different. Many write them down so they won't forget them, but my experience, and that of a fair number of famous writers I've known or read about, is that if you can forget an idea, it wasn't worth remembering. When I get an idea, I try to forget it. I usually do. Good. The great ideas stay with me, keeping popping into my head at odd times. This often happens for weeks or months. So I give in and turn these ideas into fiction, or into essays.

They always sell. An idea I can't forget, and a fountain pen to turn them into something that sells, is the perfect combination for selling a piece of writing.

Deadlines have often made me write something with a word processor, and I hate it. Over a lot of years, I've learned to make it work, but "work" is the operative word. It's ten times the work of beginning with a fountain pen, and some quality paper such as Rhodia, or on the cheap, thirty-two pound HP laser paper with lines on it. Great paper for novel length projects.

I also keep a journal with a fountain pen, and this is as valuable for fiction and essays as anything I do.

| improve this answer | |
2

I find it depends a lot on the paper you're writing on. Printer paper of course won't even keep a line from a standard felt tip pen, and therefore is relatively useless for notes or other short-lived things. If you're using a heavier grade though, a dip pen will give a better, more expressive line. Whatever you are writing then becomes more interesting to look at due to the line weight and quality.

| improve this answer | |
2

Clive Barker writes all of his books longhand. He uses a ballpoint, I believe, not a fountain or dip pen. I can't be certain but I'm pretty certain Neil Gaiman picked up the habit from Barker. Joe Haldeman uses fountain pens, as well. For a while Stephen King was using a fountain pen; I believe shortly after his injury. He wrote an article about it.

Hemingway used pencils.

| improve this answer | |
1

I doubt that anyone could post a serious answer to the question. I find myself leaning to pens while writing poetry because, as stated above, it gets you in the right mood and setting. Also it has the additional advantage of not creating distractions (facebook, friends, mail etc).

| improve this answer | |
1

When speaking with Neil Gaiman about using fountain pens (of which I've supplied him with enough [including his first vintage and flex-nibbed pens] that he's called me his "pen pusher") the reason for the switch from computer keyboard to fountain pen for the first draft, in his case, is because of the change in thinking time. Other reasons might include no easy access to the internet to distract you while writing, privacy concerns, cost (vs. a computer/tablet), or simply the romance of writing longhand as a dying art.

If you can type quickly, then using a keyboard is much like doing a Jackson Pollack spatter, instead of a Vermeer brush stroke. :) It's not better or worse, but what comes out is different given how you have more thinking time per sentence and how you can be forced to craft your wordsmithing a bit more.

On the other hand, you could also change your writing with a dip or fountain pen the way J.M. Barrie did when writer's cramp forced him to switch from writing with his right hand to his left (he was ambidextrous), and finding that what you write comes out "altogether eerier." :) Not something that happens with keyboarding and RSI.

As to why most folks don't use a dip or fountain pen, the impracticality of carrying liquid ink (especially while traveling) is one. The speed, obviously, can be a detriment as well as a benefit. And editing handwritten hardcopy is much more of a PITA. Gaiman still transcribes his handwritten first draft onto his computer for later rounds of drafts/editing.

| improve this answer | |
0

I'm a published author and use fountain pens when I am writing first drafts of my novels. I split my time between writing directly at my Macbook and sitting in a comfy armchair or out in the sun with a legal pad and a fountain pen. I've definitely been writing by hand more recently and my addiction to fountain pens is resurfacing. I am definitely going to be increasing my pen collection in the future and have my eye on several that I would love to add, especially a Visconti Homo Sapiens once my budget allows me to invest on one of those. Once I start buying more I will be adding reviews and unboxing videos to my fledgling YouTube author channel :)

| improve this answer | |
  • Ooh pen addiction! I'll have to check out your channel. – Terri Simon May 10 '17 at 13:53
0

I don't know about the use of pens by professional writers; I can only talk for myself, an unpublished amateur.

I prefer writing using a ballpoint pen for the first draft, then typing everything into a computer for editing. It's very practical to carry along a folder with elastic band, with A4 sheets both filled and empty, plus my dependable BIC pen, to write anywhere.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    A ballpoint pen (and certainly a BIC pen) is not a fountain pen, so I'm not sure how this answers the question. – user Dec 21 '18 at 20:12
  • 1
    I strayed too much from the topic, sorry. – jose_castro_arnaud Dec 21 '18 at 22:18
  • Hi Jose! Since this doesn't answer the question, I'm removing it. Looks like you're an SE veteran, so I think you know the drill :D -- but welcome to Writing.SE! – Standback Dec 24 '18 at 5:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.