The pen is the tongue of the mind. — Horace
This weekend I found myself on the search for pens. Not just any ordinary pens, mind you; but, Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball, fine line, in the color black, please. What can I say? I love the way they balance in my hand. And the ink—glides like a figure skater on new ice. My writer’s journal almost groans in ecstasy when I break one out of the package.
Oh, I’ve used other pens—absolutely hate ball point pens. They skip all over the place. And don’t get me started on those ones that bleed ink right through the paper. For our anniversary one year my husband gave me an elegant silver number with my name engraved on it. It sits in a fancy leather box on my desk because I love him. The pen, though, too heavy.
Now I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m a bit obsessive. I know it. But hey, I’m in good company, especially when you take a look at the quirks some of the more recognizable authors have possessed over the years.
It’s said that Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain had a thing for wearing only white, even after Labor Day. Poe, of course, wore black.
Lewis Carroll, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf preferred to stand while they wrote.
Balzac drank at least fifty cups of Jo a day. Faulkner went for the whiskey. Be still my heart, Jane Austen nibbled chocolate.
Thoreau and Dickens wrote best after a long jaunt. James Joyce had to lie flat on his stomach.
Nabokov wrote his novels out in pencil on index cards that he kept in a slim box next to his bed. Only Bristol index cards and a sharp, but soft tipped pencil with an eraser head on top would do.
And Rudyard Kipling shared my proclivity for the blackest black ink. I once read somewhere that he fantasized about keeping an ink-boy around to grind him the best Indian ink. Hmm…
Yes, those quirks and idiosyncrasies make writers an interesting lot, or at least a fascinating case study for anyone in the psychology field. Quirks or not, what one has to remember is that these writers created an environment conducive to writing and well, wrote.
How about yourself? What do you need to be the best writer you can be? Do you need to listen to some Soundgarden to get you started? Read a few sonnets by your favorite poet? How about a cup of tea? Do you work best in your husband’s old college sweatshirt? Don’t be embarrassed. Whatever it is, go ahead, flaunt it for all it’s worth. A happy writer is a productive writer, even when the ink runs dry.
Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves; New World Library; Revised edition (August 24, 2010)