Writing is a thing of the mind. It is in essence the arrangement and placement of words, a very virtual reality. Unlike visual art, which is made out of paint and paper and ink and wood and clay and suchlike, writing seems to be pretty much distanced from any physical reality. Or so you might think.
But it is not so. Why, in the dead of night, when I should have been off to bed, have I suddenly come to this black-on-white conclusion? Because of a pen.
Ours is a household well-populated with writing instruments. There is one on top of the fridge, one on the veranda, one or more at each computer, one on each bedside table, a few for every car, some extras in a drawer, and one in just about every bag, computer bag, handbag or backpack – you get the idea. The slightest rumour of pen drought has me scurrying off to buy some more.
One can never have too many pens or notebooks.
In general pens in their physicality are either unobtrusive or annoying. A few months ago, through some inane contribution to the pages of Reader’s Digest, I was awarded a fancy fountain pen. Valued at forty dollars, I was told. I did not like it. Its tip felt scratchy on the page. It jarred my senses and sensitivities. I was glad when its ink finally ran out.
Most of the time I don’t even notice the character of pens. Seldom do they give me any pleasure. When writing, I much prefer a pencil. It might be some association with drawing or maybe a childhood memory of learning to write – soft on the upward stroke and harder on the down. But then, I was taught to write with a paintbrush on the back of my mother’s paintings, so that can’t be right either.
However that may be, the pen that is keeping me up tonight is a cheap three dollar one* I picked up from the local news agent. I love the feeling of the marks it makes on paper.
It slips and slides and wriggles
it whips out words
across the white expanse
ready to churn out a poem a story a novel a dance
(I cannot put it away yet.
I will let it play yet.
Give it free reign, why not?)
Let me tell you a story, any story, my life story. Or give me a list to jot down or a letter to write. Just don’t let the words dry up tonight.
Oh, for the physicality of writing!
Oh, for the love of a pen!
* If you needed to know, this one is called Papermate FlexiGrip Ultra 0.8F.
I love words; there’s no denying my addiction. Words in and for themselves: languorous, confabulation, gossamer, ethereal… Even more so in my native Afrikaans: koekemakranka, bollemakiesie, abjater, pypkan, verkneukel, ietermagog. I could go on for hours. And don’t get me started on word etymologies, tracing a word back to its first blooming hundreds of years ago.