I stumbled upon a review of pens this weekend and went out to buy the highest-rated one on the list. We were heading to the office supply store anyway for back-to-school shopping, and I took the rating guide from Good Housekeeping with me. I already have a pen that I like to use for daily tasks. There is also the one that I take out of my bag with a flourish, and fill up my notebooks with its ink. But in my collection there are those duds. The ones that don’t fit my hand, or take real effort to push to get the ink out or came for free from a hardware store. None of my favorites are expensive pens, but to be a signature pen, the pen has to make me feel happy. I figured I’d see what the raters liked, and hope to find another favorite.
If you haven’t been lured into the world of pens before, the first takeaway is that not all pens make your handwriting look its best. If the size of the ball point is too narrow, I develop “Dreaded Spidery Hand.” My letters become thin and hard to read. Wider balls make my handwriting look pretty, easy to read and even make my writing seem more confident. The kind of handwriting you’d want on your wedding invitations, even.
Good Housekeeping says they “lab-tested” 43 pens to come up with their recommendations. The overall winner was the Pilot Pen, Dr. Grip Center of Gravity. I found a Dr. Grip, although not the “Center of Gravity” style. The one I purchased was the “Full Black” style. Dr. Grip was in its packaging so I didn’t try it out in the store. What I concluded at home, is that it is too heavy and the tip is too narrow for me. I felt like my hand wasn’t big enough to master this chunky pen. I’ll have to see if the “Center of Gravity” is a lighter style to hold.
In contrast, the Gel Xtreme rollers by Yasutomo give my writing a very nice look. These ones are bright, but they come in tamer shades as well. The pens are narrow but there is just enough friction between the roller and the page, to give my hand a kind of control that feels very good. I received a package of these for the holidays, and I’ve filled whole notebooks with their ink. The only drawback with gels is having to be careful not to smear the ink before it is dry.
Sometimes a pen from a memorable trip can be the one that makes you feel the best. The ones I got from London at Heathrow make me feel happy each time I use them, and have the advantage of being a good pen as well. Not that they aren’t cheaply constructed, yet the ballpoint is wide and writes with ease. The last time I was there I bought at least four packets, so I would feel free enough to use them, instead of saving them for special occasions.
If you don’t buy enough, then you’ll feel less likely to use them. I’ve got one from Balmoral Castle in Scotland, that I’ve had for years and still in its original packaging, but it isn’t seeing much use. The pen from Paris is equally languishing in my various pen holders.
A writer I admire, Curt Colbert, editor of the Seattle Noir anthology as well as co-writer of the Pepe books (Dial C for Chihuahua), uses the Zebra F-301 The Original. When not in use, it sits in his shirt pocket giving off a James Bond kind-of-vibe. The photo I have is the M-301 Mechanical Pencil, but you get the idea. This is a classy pen with sleek lines and a comfortable profile that makes for good control. It is his signature pen, maybe even literally. I bet he uses it when he does book-signings.
The delight of trying out pens at an art supply store definitely counts as a great way to reconnect with yourself as a writer. The University of Washington Book Store has a great section in their basement and notepads to try out the pens. Blik on Capitol Hill has the Gel Xtremes.
Do you have a pen that you just love? I’d love to try out your recommendation!