How to love your Ballpoint Pen

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

If you want to know one thing about me, it's that I love ballpoint pens. I plan to tattoo one on my body eventually — and if that's not a horrifying enough image, imagine the poor souls who have to listen to me wax philosophical about the importance of ballpoints to the American dream. Or something like that. Point is, I've had this obsession for as long as I can remember, and it ain't going away.

As an impressionable youth, I took in the prejudices of the 'professionals' I was trying to emulate. The pros don't use pens. And I wanted to be a pro, right? So I shelved my pens and used them only while doodling in lectures. It took me years to figure out that pro tools are only pro tools in the hands that wield them. Meaning, if sand in the hands of a pro can wow, then why not a pen in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, and more importantly, who cares. I took what I had before done out of love and devoted more time to it. By some stroke of luck I didn't make the mistake most people make when they choose to take their hobby 'seriously' — they make it like work. I didn't ruin pens for myself, as I suspect many people have over the years, by letting people guilt me into seeing pens as a non-serious tool. I suspect in my case, the 'stroke of luck' was, well, that I still needed a pen to write with. There was always one underfoot, so although I kept my 'serious' pursuits to more prestigious mediums, I still used pens in secret, so to speak. By that, I saved myself a lot of discontent.

I don't know much about how ballpoint pens work; I've never thought too much about it. Vaguely, I know that there's some sort of ball involved. More importantly, I think, is that after years of using pens I know what I like, and what I don't like. I can articulate it, and I will. If you disagree with me, I hope you'll speak up. Tell me why.

Truthfully, I'm not sure what I hope to accomplish by writing this blog. I don't have a grand master plan; don't know what each post will be about, or how far afield I'll go in search of topics. Beyond the goal of writing about ballpoints, I do have a hope. My hope is to bring the study and love of ballpoint to more people. I'm a firm believer in fueling obsessions 'til they burst — or yield their fruit.

Much of the idea behind this post came about after reading Paul Graham's excellent articles How to do what you love and Hackers and Painters. I would advise anyone to read them, because they're amazing, and lucid, and articulate....just awesome.

P.S. I apologize for the initial mess that will be this blog. As I develop it and learn the tools, its look should stabilize and new features will appear. Happy drawing!

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