Let’s Talk Process 3: Your Mightier Than The Sword
On the last new Almost Human, a man and woman in that near-future world declared their undying love for one another by handwriting notes proclaiming it. In thanks for catching the man’s murderer, the woman gives Detective Kennex the pen they used which he, in turn, uses to write a first note to the colleague to whom he finds himself attracted.
Very sweet. And also sad. Because they live in a world where pens are a rarity.
And pens, kids, are awesome. The right pen can turn drudgery to symphony, a word to a sentence, a page to a novel.
It can also determine whether or not you can actually read those notes you jot to yourself at a stoplight, in the middle of the night, or when you’re supposed to be making dinner but this character sketch just came to you and the pasta is boiling over and the meatballs have gone from blackened to burned.
First things first. Your pens need a home. Why? Picture this: you’re in the car, minding your own business, when a song lyric stabs its taloned claws into your brain and, all of a sudden, you’ve plugged your plot hole. Your phone likely has a voice recorder but you usually forget about it because… I don’t know why, okay? I just DO. You come to a red light. There’s a convenient coffee receipt (or paper cup) on the floor. You snag it. Alas, where is the implement with which you can inscribe your master work onto the caffeine stained receptacle? There is none to be found! You look, look some more, find sticky quarters, a bottle that once held hand sanitizer, some very old cheddar bunny crackers, but no pen! You cry out, pound the steering wheel, tear at your hair and weep. The light turns green and you drive (safely!) to your destination, repeating the idea over and over, aloud if you must, reach your destination, run in, find a pen and… your muse has fled, burying your diamond in a pile of shit the size of Texas. If you ever see it again, it will be diminished or misshapen. More likely, it is lost to the sands of time and that pile of shit the size of Texas.
Fine, that’s just how it feels. Still, all of this can be alleviated with a pen case. Said case can also prevent the ruination of your bag in cases of fountain leak (known as: the reason Shiri no longer writes on fountain pen) and gel pen ‘splosion, which seems to happen randomly and for no good reason.
This is mine:
I call it the house that crazy… er, discernment built. Yes, Sanrio characters. You know you love them too (Kawaii Gift Shop can fulfill your yen whether or not you’re actually in Pittsburgh). And when I’m having a bad day or a bad session, or a bad five minutes because I couldn’t find a parking spot, this case makes me smile. We all need to smile a little more. The world would be a nicer place. There are more professional models, of course. Timbuk2 used one from the same fabric as their well nigh indestructible messenger bags that is a lot more sleek but a lot less goofy. There are cheaper models, bedazzled models, plain old, plastic zip bags. You don’t have to be fancy, just know where your pen is. Don’t let hysterical writer pattern baldness happen to you.
Now, on to the contents.
Pens are very personal things. Everyone has a favorite. I don’t understand people who’s favorite is that dry, plain, ball point we all chewed on in high school until they collapsed or drowned in our saliva; said individuals have a right to their opinion, of course, I simply don’t agree with them. I have had many favorites over the years, love-love-love-love hate relationships with all of them because I love them and love them and love them and then, eventually, they reveal a fatal flaw (being discontinued, leaving smudges, exploding in my bag) and I have to go on the hunt once more. My handwriting, when under any kind of pressure or in any kind of rush, deteriorates badly and many pens turn the mess to slush and smudge, therefore depriving me of whatever very important plot point or grocery list (hey, you try writing a grocery list with a kind hanging off of each arm and cats and husbands all over the place) I felt was important enough to write in the first place.
You may settle on one type of pen. I stock a few:
THE NOVELTY PENS. Because I can and, again, because sometimes I need a smile or a quick color change. These are usually permanent markers or ballpoints with fun themes or colors, the hand candy, if you will, of my arsenal. They take up space and add some weight, but they’re cute and fun and they amuse your kids if you’re stuck somewhere and they’re sick of the books you brought and you’re either on an anti-tech kick or, more likely, your phone is dead. I also use them at work because my space is a cube and I stare at a computer screen and the walls are beige and, often, it is the middle of the night. We all need a little pick me up when we’re counting the seconds from three am to seven am. They’ll do in a pinch for a writing session, but tend not to be as ergonomic as their friends.
Next, we have the EDITING PENS. A color that isn’t black is a must and, quite frankly, being in a medical field and being told the only acceptables are blue, black, and red, I like to go wild when I’m fixing up my own stuff. I do usually carry a red pen, but I don’t use it often; I would imagine many other authors have the same phobia of I do regarding pages and pages and pages of red marks rising up off of the desk to drown them in a sea of edits. My editing faves are the Uni Ball Vision Elite with the “hint of color.” The range is nice, the shades are subtle, and the rollerball gel dries quickly, which minimizes smudging. The only issue I’ve found is my tendency to spill coffee or water or tea or whatever on my printed pages makes the ink’s grip on the paper somewhat tenuous. Beware your hand dragging through until you’ve blotted (NOT RUBBED) the wet spot dry. These pens last forever and I have yet to have one leak or explode, despite the vigorous shaking my bag gets several times a day at the hands of children, traffic, or frantic searches for my work ID.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, we have the WRITING PENS. What makes these different from editing pens, you are certainly asking yourself (because if you’ve read this far, you’re as obsessed s I am). I find staying power to be of more concern here, along with continued concerns for legibility. Why the former? Losing edits sucks, but the next time you read through the page, you’ll probably notice you’re missing that comma again. Rewriting ideas are a bit more precious, which is why I tend to use my WRITING PENS as REWRITING PENS as well (my pages are pretty colorful by the time I’m done with them. Taste the rainbow, kids. Embrace the rainbow). For these tasks, I like the Uni Ball Vision Elite in blue with a medium point for style though, as you might imagine, it has the same weaknesses as mentioned above, so I don’t use it if the weather is bad or there is liquid around or when I’m writing on random scraps of paper that don’t live inside the protective, plastic covers of my notebook (you remember the notebook, don’t you?) If I have any, and I mean the slightest, concerns about staying power, I go to the ballpoint. But not just any ballpoint, oh no, because there is nothing as bad as being on a great run and having your hand cramp around that skinny, white, plastic tube begging for a spitball. In such cases as these I turn, once again, to Levenger and their True Writer Obsidian Ballpoint (yep, I monogramed it. I bought it for myself when I published my first book and if it ever gets lost, I want it the fuck back). The company has a range of refill inks and if you’re not sure which one you want, you can try the sampler and figure it out (space ink?) This stuff is as close to permanent as you can get without your fingers being a variety of colors for weeks. It stays intact and, some of the inks, will write on wet paper. The pen itself is pretty indestructible and, as far as the novelty pens have told me, is a pretty decent roommate. The barrel isn’t so thick it’s hard to keep hold of, but thick enough that you don’t have to clamp down, thus preventing badly timed muscle spasms.
That’s how I do it, baby. What’s your take?
<addendum by Shiri>
Holy crap. Holy crap. Levenger has restocked a pen they had in 2011 and had been discontinued. A pen I’ve been lusting after for well nigh unto 3 years. There is no way I can justify $250+ for a pen but look at her… just… just look at her.