Expensive writing implements and associated distress

Evidently some writers are prepared to shell out $20 apiece for Faber’s old Blackwing pencils. A box goes for a cool $250.

One essayist explains that the Blackwing

has a sleek and unique design, and if you’ve ever used one, you know it is a very smooth-writing and easy to use pencil. Its famous slogan ‘Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed’ [Ed. note: reminds me of an ex-boyfriend’s approach to — oh, never mind] is no exaggeration.

The little rectangular erasers look cool, granted, and probably deter biting (you know, to revive the eraser when you’ve worn it down). Still, we’re talking about pencils. Meaning that you stick them in a sharpener, grind them down, and then they go away.

More power to you if you’ve got twenties to burn. But reality check: even a million dollar piece of graphite and every shiny accoutrement in the Levenger catalogue can’t make somebody a good writer.

When I write longhand, as I do at least a third of the time, fancy writing implements distress and intimidate me. If I used a $20 pencil, I’d be so concerned about every single word that I’d freeze up. I wouldn’t write a thing.

I really don’t spend much time thinking about what I’m using as long as le pen moves quickly across the page.

My thoughts about notebooks are similar. Sure, Moleskines and journals filled with paper aged in special Grecian water and hand-beaten by young virgins who’ve recently bathed in pure olive oil are lovely to behold. But I can’t scribble bad dialogue, inept character studies, and poorly-rendered scenes on paper that costs a buck or more a page.

I know because I’ve tried. Friends have given me beautiful journals and notebooks imported from whoosy-whatsy, and I’ve sat in donut shops staring at the blank pages for hours before writing three words and carefully crossing them out. Now the notebooks sit in an ornamental stack at the corner of my desk.

The literary greats may have a justifiable attachment to their drafts, but mine are crap. Although I write longhand anywhere — in bed, on the subway, walking down the street — I tear out each page and throw it away as soon as I type the words into the computer.

I’ve had flings with every kind of notebook: the steno pad, the three-ring binder, spirals of varying sizes. But in the past year I’ve given my heart to the good old black-and-white composition notebook. There is none better.

At $2 for the college-ruled model, the price is right. It’s portable, but not so small that you feel like you’re writing a cheat sheet. The book holds together when you tear out pages. There’s none of the fallout you get from a spiral. Plus, people assume you’re still in college when they see you writing in a comp book. Which, come to think of it, actually isn’t so exhilarating once they get a look at your crow’s feet and ask when you “went back to school.”

To agree, disagree, or extoll the virtues of your own writing implements, send email to writingimplements at maudnewton dot com.


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