I admit it, I am a pen addict. I have a weakness for beautiful and often expensive writing instruments. I come by it naturally. My mother’s father had a whole range of fountain pens (including a Sheafer fountain pen in a stand that now sits on my desk at home). My father was always trying the latest, greatest writing tool. Remember the erasable ball point pen of the late 1970s? Everyone in my family had one. So you see, there was no hope for me; it was in my genes from both sides of the family.
My husband had me figured out long before we got married. For our wedding he gave me a beautiful walnut jewelry box and a Waterman fountain pen. Anyone who knows me will tell you I love jewelry, and fountain pens are really just jewelry that you write with.
Given my love for the written word, it isn’t surprising that I naturally was attracted to lovely things to write with. (Or perhaps my affinity to the written word came about as a result of my love of pens — One can never be sure of these things.) And as a scientist with a passion for words, what else could I do but find a way to meld the two into a career?
Yet with every passing year it seems I have less and less opportunity to literally put pen to paper. I compose my thoughts on a computer screen. I edit the work of others on a computer screen. My work is published via electronic media. There are a lot of positive things about this: it is more efficient, it saves trees (and I like trees). Plus, I can communicate with people from all over the world almost instantaneously. With my iPhone I don’t even have to find a computer, I can send a message from where ever I am. My coworkers will tell you it also means they can read what I write, as they often can’t make head nor tails out of my scrawled script.
Yet there are things I miss about the old paper-and-pen approach. I miss the promise of a crisp, clean piece of paper and the comforting heft of a good pen. I missing taking the time to think before I write (pens don’t have Backspace keys). And I miss having to wait. Wait for my thoughts to be read, wait for someone to send an answer. I miss the anticipation of opening the mailbox to see what had come. I miss the sense of adventure of holding a letter that has traveled across town, across the country or half way around the world. An email never arrives in your inbox battered with exotic-looking stamps all over it. Pixels are just…… boring.
So I challenge everyone: Pick up a pen (a fountain pen if you have one) and write just one letter this month. One letter to a friend, a family member, anyone. And if you can’t think of anyone else, write one to me.
c/o Promega Corporation
2800 Woods Hollow Road
Madison, WI 53711