MY BELOVED PEN -- by Jane Kelley


What does it mean to write? I’m not talking about the implications of crafting stories to inspire or inform or amuse. I mean to make words show up on what was originally a blank space. In order to WRITE, an idea somewhere in my brain acquires language. Then a different part of my brain sends a signal along my nerves to my fingers. They tap the keys of this laptop. And then – by an even more mysterious process – those keys signal the word-processing program and letters appear on the screen. These words seem professional. They are tidy. They are uniformly shaped. My bad spelling has been magically corrected. My lines are straight. I appreciate all this help in making my ideas look good, no matter how incomplete. 

Writing is different when I use my cartridge pen. The line from my brain down my arm to the ink feels continuous – almost as if my blood were being spilled on the paper. All my first drafts are written in that way. So are my notes on my projects, my comments, my  maps of fictional places, and my emotings.

This method has drawbacks. Penmanship is a problem. There are times when I cannot read my writing. I'm not exaggerating. I cannot. So I think of something better.

The pen will run out of ink at the worst of all possible moments. Sometimes when my brain is struggling with a thought, I watch the words grow fainter and fainter – a literal manifestation of what’s happening in my brain. I insert a new cartridge. I return to the page – the sentence broken – and I can’t remember what I was trying to write. So I think of something better.

Or the smears – the blots, the blobs, the times when I pressed too hard on the poor nib and something illegible gushed onto the page. Or when I have neglected my pen. Been busy. Been typing not writing. If I pick it up after a long absence, nothing flows. Dried up inside. So I take it apart. I flush it with water. I put in a new cartridge. I start to write. At first, the words are pale. Watery. Eventually the ink is flowing as it should. Because I have thought of something better.

I love my pen. It forces me to think. To take my time. It enables my words to be more than a string of discrete letters. I would never for a moment think of writing with anything else. Except maybe this?

Miraculous Writing Machine made by Friedrich von Knaus 1760

 Jane Kelley writes middle-grade novels in notebooks with a cartridge pen.


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