A Pen in the Hand

StaplesHave you noticed that the pen selection in Staples, Office Max and Office Depot is dwindling? Likewise, leaving is the wide assortment of paper-based notebooks? I love pens, I love paper. As a true gourmet of pen styles, types, and inks, as well as an expert in paper thickness, color, and size, I am beginning a period of mourning for not only the imminent end of these tools, but more important, the end of an era where a person interacted directly with her words.

Oh sure, you could say the same is true with a person typing away on a keyboard – she is interacting with words, right? Wrong. She is interacting with an intermediary that is steps away from having her words on the paper. She is missing the touch, the feel, the smell, the Zen of putting a pen to the paper, and perfecting the swirls and flourishes of handwriting.

Believe it or not, I love my laptop, adore my Kindle and can’t live without my Smart phone. In this world, there is a place for each of these things – an intrinsic, necessary and vital place – in education, business, government, and play. What I don’t love is the disappearance of life’s graces and refinements, those things, those practices, that make us truly purposeful. Consider: a thank you note written by hand on sweet-smelling stationary, not a cryptic note sent by impersonal email; a poem penned under a shade tree on a sultry summer day, not typed away inside on the laptop; a recipe, hand-printed on an old-fashioned recipe card decorated with red and white gingham borders, not one printed from the computer .

006My point is not to condemn technology, nor is it to say everything we write should be done by hand. The monks from many moons ago taught us that copying the Bible by hand was not an efficient, cost-effective way to go. Rather, my point is to make a case for the pen in hand, to teach kids penmanship, to encourage the Zen of writing, and to preserve some priceless, irreplaceable measures of humanity.

About Writing and Louis L’Amour

For years, with imperious and quite faux intellectualism, I by-passed the shelves in libraries and bookstores that homed the Western genre. The books on those shelves were akin to the ones packing the Harlequin romance shelves, or so I presumed as I marched by, head held high, to more scholarly selections, until …

One name, one author, in particular began to intrigue me: Louis L’Amour. I was struck, and initially turned off, by the number of books on the shelves by this author. I figured they were all about cowboys and Indians, the written versions of Apache Rifles or Bullet for a Badman. Well, they’re not.

Here’s the short version of how I became acquainted with Mr. L’Amour. First, I always read when I’m at the gym. I have a routine – first thing is to retrieve the book holder, second thing is to mount my machine, and third is to get in gear, start swinging along while reading. This has initiated various conversations relating to ‘what are you reading,” and such. In one of these conversations, a gent mentioned  Mr. L’Amour was one of his favorite authors. By the caliber of his other favorite authors, I began to wonder if my previous assumptions were off. Then  I was discussing books with someone in my online book club, and she too mentioned L’Amour as a very good author, naming two or three specific favorite titles. Wasting no time, I got on Amazon and ordered those titles.

They came, I saw, they conquered!

Louis L’Amour is a compelling writer with numerous passages of profundity about life, and these below, about his craft of writing. These passages are from Fair Blows the Wind.

“You may well ask, if I know so much, why am I not writing successfully … well, I know what should be done, and I can talk well of it. But … I have not the will to persist. I tell myself I shall change, but I do not. I try to hold myself to a schedule, but I am diverted by the flights of fancy in my own mind. I dream of it, want it, talk of it, think of it, but I do not do it. Writing is a lonely business and must be forever so, and I am a social being. I want and need others around me and the loneliness of my room is a hateful thing.”

“My old master… used to say that writing was not only talent, but it was character, the character of the writer. Many are called, he would say, but few are chosen, and it is character that chooses them. In the last analysis, it is persistence that matters.”

It’s writing season for me. Always in late spring, since a girl in high school when I’d lay dreamily on my white chenille bedspread, windows wide open on steamy sultry evenings, the intoxicating scents of honeysuckle and roses bewitching me into writing truly AWFUL poetry!  Ah, though I do view that work with fondness and a certain level of respect (yes, I still have it), it was full of adjectives, superlatives, and drama, just as this passage. It also weighed heavy on the dark side, my way, I suppose, of dispelling the demons that lurked within.

But I DID IT! I wrote, just as I am now. Truth be known, I am not at all a disciplined, organized writer who sets by the day and the clock, X-number of pages punctuated by endless cups of coffee that could hold a spoon upright by the end of the “set” writing period. No, I am a write by the muse sort of writer – one who goes about the business of living until I find a thought, issue, or passion about which I simply must expound. To be honest, I do wish my Muse would stop by and visit more often, but, as they say, it is what it is.