As prehistoric as it may seem, I’m considering the purchase of a fountain pen. When I was in grammar school, my stepmother used to lend me her special pen to do my homework. The nib was the size of a needle’s point, yet it allowed the ink to flow across the paper with a smooth movement, like a swan gliding across a pond. The barrel, too, I recall, was pleasing. Fat like a cigar, it was easy to grasp in my small hands. From it, words poured faster, it seemed, than I could create them. I thought it was a magical pen and I’ve never encountered its duplicate, though for years I have looked.
To be honest, I haven’t used a fountain pen for a long time. When I make a grocery list, for example, I use a ball point pen. There’s no grace in a ball point pen. It’s purely functional, like dental floss. When they were first invented, everyone rushed to buy one. How wonderful, they exclaimed, never to need India ink or to deal with the messy blobs nibs sometimes left on the paper.
I don’t write manuscripts with any sort of pen, now. I use a computer. No more scratching out lines and scribbling over them as I did when I wrote longhand. But if I ever chose to return to writing with a pen, it would have an ink barrel. I’d want to feel again the smooth glide of words forming beneath my fingers, as I did when I was a child.
Scientists understand that connection between the hand and the brain. Research shows that when Lucy, the prehistoric mother of us all, decided to stand upright, she freed her hands for tasks other than locomotion. In response, the brain rewired itself to process the new tactile sensations. This “ability to manipulate physical objects tracks uncannily with the acquisition of speech.” (“The Science of Handwriting,” by Brandon Keim, Scientific American Mind, Sept/Oct. 2013, pg. 56) What’s more, when the hand began to track with the eye, gestures like pointing became possible, the precursor to language. (Ibid, pg. 56)
Typing, unlike longhand, breaks that flow between eye and fingers, which is why some educators decry any proposal to drop cursive writing from the curricula. Hand-formed letters are the building blocks for a sturdier mental architecture, they argue. (Ibid. pg. 59)
Intuitively, I believe them. After composing my drafts on the computer, I sometimes edit with a pen, sensing that brain/hand connection.
(Courtesy of www.howtomakeonline.org)