Monday, September 21, 2009

How's Your Grip?

Pelikan M200 Fountain Pen on Moleskine - My first real Bird!

A fountain pen, a ballpoint pen and a rollerball pen all walk into a bar....

Ballpoint pens use oil based inks and require pressure on the ball to make the ink flow. Rollerball pens often use thinner water based inks and though pressure on the ball is still required to make the pen write, rollerball pens (also known as "gel" pens) require less effort to write with than a ballpoint.

Fountain pens use water based inks that move through a feed system to the nib and require the least amount of pressure for them to write - there's no ball that needs to spin. Lightly push a fountain pen across a page and it just flows... For me, writing with a fountain pen is effortless - but then why oh why am I still exerting a death grip on my pens?

I know there have been days where I've thought, "This nib is scratchy" or, "This paper feels weird" or "The ink flows poorly" and I've only just recently figured out that a good half the time, it's not the nib, the paper, or the ink.

It's my grip.

I'm holding my pen too tightly and I'm exerting more pressure on the nib than is actually necessary for it to write smoothly and I'm wrecking the whole fountain pen experience.

Prior to my using a fountain pen on a regular basis, this was my pen of choice. A Paper Mate Stick Pen. I've used them for at least a dozen years and they are still all over my house. (Because Staples only sold them in boxes of like a million...) I loved the way these medium point pens wrote in my journal - loved the way the ink looked on the page - the way each letter was indented into the page behind it. Wait - did I say into the page behind it? Yup. That's how hard I was pressing with a ballpoint.

As I have been consistently using fountain pens for just about two years, I'm not sure why I'm still choking the heck out of my poor Lamy Safari's. The only think I can think of is that it might be connected to my drawing. When I draw my mandalas, I'm usually pretty careful about where I wish to place a line on the paper. Me thinks that results in my holding my pen/marker quite tightly.

And I think that might be a metaphor for my entire life. I need to lighten up and relinquish a little control.

Anyway... just be aware of how you are gripping your pens. A lighter touch might make your life a little easier.


unhalfbricking said...

I've found this too... I have a bit of a death grip on my pens. It's better than it was, but compared to how lightly I let the pen contact the paper, it's still pretty noticeable. It's so hard to train yourself to do otherwise, but I think I'm getting there. More expensive/nicer pens tend to encourage me to write right, or that's my excuse. :)

Anurag Kumar Lucknow said...

My story is more or less like your own! Thankful to be rid of BP and RB.

Stephanie said...

I think that's my favorite part about fountain pens, too, that they only need a light touch to put ink on paper. It makes it so much easier to write - I used to get such cramps from holding pens and pencils too tight and writing too long. So fountain pens for the win!

Shade said...

I suppose it helps that I 'graduated' so to speak.
I originally used ballpoints, and I didn't write a lot then. Then I graduated to a gel pen, and then got nicer and nicer gel pens as I went along, revising my grip as I went. Fountain pens were the last step in it.
It may have made no difference at all, but I've noticed that now that I use a lighter touch on the page and a less kung-fu grip, I can write much longer and faster than if I had a ballpoint. I used to get hand cramps all the time in class and I always had to stretch my fingers and crack my knuckles to help get the hand working again. It's one of the main reasons why I'll never go back to using regular ballpoints ever, ever again--Fountain pens make me *want* to write, and don't stress out my hand like regular pens.

all-my-hues said...

Fortunately, I've managed to train myself to loosen my grip on pens -- I used to hold them really tightly, too.

But relinquish control IRL?? NEVER!!!! :-O <--[control freak]

brad said...

I struggle with the exact same problem. I can't write for more than a few paragraphs before my hand starts cramping. If I'm really concentrating on my letters, I find that I clam down even harder on the pen!

I'm pretty sure it also leads to pressing the nib down too hard. It's been several years of using fountain pens and I still don't have the light touch figured out yet. Sigh!

Erin said...

I am in the death-grip club, too. It used to be so bad, my writers callus on my middle finger would be huge-looking, unattractive. I think fountain pens have helped me loosen my grip a little bit, but I find it hard to loosen my grip without losing control of the pen.

LOL, at your description of the indent going through the page into the next page. Me too.

gypsy said...

For daily writing, I use a med point papermate pen too... it was a lifesaver when my hands were weak prior to carpal tunnel surgery; it was the ONLY pen I could write with for any length of time and I think it was because it flowed without a death-grip! Great post and comments!

Anne-Sophie said...

I have a writer's callus as well.

It is just there because I have used fountain pens for many decades starting in the 4th grade.

I can no longer do a strong grip or my hand barks.

My solution is to place the back of the pen on top of the webbing between thumb and index finger, gently rest the section on top of the writer's callus then place the inder finder on top of the section to gently guide it.
Start writing.

Since I don't post, I cannot use small pens nor thin ones.

Every time I get a new type of pen, I get it in blue and fill it my staple blue ink.
This way I switch pen between long writing secessions.

redcatbiker said...

Did you see the movie "Doubt"? It starred Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It came out in 2008. Meryl Streep plays the head nun at a Catholic school in some city in the northeast U.S. (I think it was Boston...I have forgotten). The movie takes place in the late 50s or early 60s. Streep's character makes a complaint about how the ballpoint pen is horrible for handwriting. She hates this newfangled instrument, and only wants her students to use the fountain pen (probably, those dip fountain pens that have the wooden body and a insertable metal nib...i have a few of them, they do allow one to spread the ink across the page easily, they are inexpensive, and you can--if you have lots of colours of inks, as I do--use all of your inks straight away, no need to refill converters).

Patricia Allen said...

You all have reaffirmed what I was teaching at my pen show the last week. Several people, some kids with a "what's that" wonder at seeing their first fountain pen and some adults collectors saying "I just can't use fountain my pens"--they all would hold them too tightly and wanted to push down.

I showed them how to put their forearms on the table and hold the pen so it kisses the paper. By (in the beginning) moving their hands by moving their shoulders, the movement came through the sliding of the forearm resting on the table. There was no pressure on the nib. Then they practiced allowing the pen to flow 'butterfly kisses' in a 'flight path' across the paper, still using only their forearm for support.

There were very happy responses to this method. Hope it helps someone, for with practice the hand does move, but the fingers do not have to move at all except by choice.

love and Light ~Pat

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