The Pen and the Sword

My broken PowerBook is a workhorse that takes the brunt of my writing, whether it’s letters, short stories, blogs or anything past the first draft of a novel. But when I’m putting down that first draft of a long work, typing just ain’t writing for me. I want to feel the words coming out in ink. I want to have a tactile connection to the page.

I like to write in a big journal that has room for my big hands, room for 250 words on a college ruled page, and room for a whole novel in three journals. More than enough room, because that first draft is going to include all kinds of things that don’t work, things that get cut when I type it up.

I like my paper heavy enough that I can feel the pen digging in a little. With heavy paper, the ink doesn’t expand. And I like a pen that’s not too fine and not too thick. Call me Goldilocks, but the Uni-ball Vision Micro is just right. It’s my favorite pen. I love them and go through boxes of them. It’s the pen in the picture at the top of this blog, kicking back on a page of The Devil of Echo Lake.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. As a student of martial arts, I play with both and I agree. The Uni-ball Vision is made in Japan—the same island that gave us the finest swords on Earth. It’s a good tool. And maybe it’s just me, but killing off a character with a pen just feels more dignified than doing it by tapping keys.

Before practicing Iaido, the student places his sword on the mat in a ceremonial way and bows to it. It’s a reminder that the weapon must be treated with care and respect. That moment of reflection can insure that you end the session with the same number of fingers you went in with. I’m not going to suggest that writers bow to their pens before writing—we put enough pressure on ourselves without adding ritual. But it wouldn’t hurt to reflect that you are wielding power when you pick up a pen.

How about you writers out there, do any of you still like to work in long hand? Do you get something different out of it when you do?


One thought on “The Pen and the Sword

  1. Lee Thompson says:

    I’m a total longhand writer. Glad I stumbled across your blog, Douglas. I like the way you think. I’m going to have to check out the Uni-ball Vision Micro. I use Bic Velocity Gel but they’re kinda messy (and I write sloppy when the story is burning through me.) Yep, off to the store. Keep up the great posts, man.

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