Fountain Pen Reality Distortion Field

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo extended nib
Fountain pen that is still emitting a strong reality distortion field

All fountain pens have a reality distortion field. Apple is rumored to have one, or at least Steve Jobs was. Maybe, I can’t confirm that. But I am 100% convinced all fountain pens have one. Not all transmit on a frequency my brain receives, but they all have one. How else can you explain my impulse to buy so many fountain pens as soon as I see them, yet once some time passes the undistorted reality is that they provided no more enjoyment than pens I’ve already accumulated?

I’ve been spending the this year trying to break through this field and I think I’m finally breaking through it.

This has allowed me to gravitate to using what I like. I’m also coming to grips with the fact that what legitimately excites the fountain pen community often isn’t what I will like or use. That community excitement certainly stregthens the reality distortion field. For example, J. Herbin Emeraude de Chivor ink has the fountain pen community in a tizzy. Legitimate excitement or not, it’s not an ink that will benefit from the nibs I use or my (lack of) writing style. Yet I want it. Luckily, I’m now able to resist the urge to buy a bottle. It’s the same with soon to be released Twsbi Eco pen. Many are excited about it but I know I won’t enjoy the latest Twsbi enough for it to get any use among my accumulated pens.

Some manufacturers think the reality distortion field is based on marketing and try a little to hard. The Delta Fusion nib is an example. It sounds like such complete BS that it more than negates the reality distortion field that these nice pens generate on their own. The new Esterbrook tried to fuel their reality distortion field with nostalgia but this was such a disconnect from the actual pens that this generated a reality of hate. Note to manufacturers: A nice fountain pen generates a reality distortion field on its own, trying to create one with pure marketing can only lead to disaster.

The reality distortion field gets worse when a fountain pen joins my accumulation. Obviously if I buy a pen it’s reality distortion field is already on my wavelength and it only gets stronger once the pen is added to my accumulation. I’ve noticed this as I reviewed my pens while trying to thin out my accumulation. I look at a pen and my first reaction is along the lines of “I really like this pen, it’s a keeper.” Well duh, I did like it enough to buy it. The reality distortion field has me thinking that this is the only pen in my accumulation. Yet when I look at reality, it’s been over a year (often more) since I’ve inked it up. During that time I haven’t missed it. The reality tells me more about the pen than my distorted emotional reaction.

For example, I recently sold my Kaweco AC Sport Carbon Red pen. I love the way this pen looks, plus it’s a nice writer, I looked at it and decided I wasn’t going to sell it. Yet once I considered the reality, which is that for me Kaweco Sports are pocket pens (and therefore share space with keys, coins, cellphones, pocket lint, etc…) I realized it wasn’t a pen for me. The bright red was far too nice to take this abuse, unlike my raw aluminum version which looks better with abuse. So I always carried it in a sleeve. This sleeve added just enough hassle to using the pen so I never actually used it. The ink eventually evaporated and yet I’d only used it to write a few words. So the reality is, yes it’s a beautiful pen, but not a pen for me.

Kaweco AC Sport Carbon Red with sleeve
A strong reality distortion field but I was able to resist.

On the other hand, I inked up the Black Stonewashed Kaweco Sport to test before selling. I thought this would be an easy choice to sell. I liked it but it no longer grabbed me and I wanted to make space for a new Brass Sport. The reality distortion field kicked in as I used it and I changed my mind, at least for now. I may not get the Brass version. The Stonewashed Sport has been a carry since then and it does get used. The weight of the brass (I assume it’s heavier) and patina would make it a different pen so I still might get it. I just need to decide if three Sports makes sense in my reality. I don’t think they do so to get the Brass I’d have to be willing to part with the Black Stonewashed.

Kaweco AL Sport Black Stonewashed photo
The reality distortion field from this pen trapped me as I was testing it for sale.

One of the things that has helps me focus on, and enjoy, my current accumulation is that I’m burned out of fountain pen reviews. Both reading and writing them. Reviews no longer stregthen the reality distortion field for me. Well OK, some do, but I’ve developed more resistance.

Speaking for myself, I find that for the first one or two months that I really like all new pens, unless there’s something obviously annoying or frustrating about the pen. I tend to focus on and enjoy what I like and it overwhelms any negatives. I don’t break through the reality distortion field until about the third month and understand the true personality of the pen, good and bad. By this time I’ve also begun to understand how the fountain pen fits (or doesn’t fit) into my own usage patterns. So while I can review a pen with every intent to be objective, it will take about three months to be truly objective about what is and isn’t reality with the pen.

I never realized just how many reviews are now done using products provided free for review by a vendor until I started filtering them from my Sunday links post. I’m not religiously against review units (I include them in my Fountain Pen Links tumblr), and this is a whole different rathole, but I wanted fewer links and a way to highlight bloggers spending their own money so I started filtering out review units.

This has caused me to read fewer and fewer reviews. If it’s a pen I’ve never seen I may read it, otherwise I’ll just scan it or maybe even ignore it completely. The reality distortion field does makes it tough for me to completely ignore them. For disclosure – I have received two pens free for review and found I didn’t really like it for the reasons mentioned. While those two reviews still seem valid to me after time has passed I didn’t particularly enjoy doing them as I felt there was an artificial time deadline. So I won’t do them anymore. I think a good reviewer needs time to get beyond the surface of a pen and see if it stands the test of time. So if the review, sponsored or not, is for a relatively new pen, I now consider the reviewer to still be under the influence of the reality distortion field. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not, but thinking they are helps me be objective about the fountain pen and suppress the urge to have every fountain pen.

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite capped on mirror
The reality distortion field is finally weakening as we near 4 months together.

All these sponsored reviews being done on newly arrived fountain pens only seems to stregthen the field the pens already generate. This is good because the business and hobby grows as more people are engulfed by the field. But it did make it harder to me to step back and just enjoy the hobby and not be racked by gear lust. This doesn’t mean any of these pens are bad or that the reviews are wrong, but they can’t be read in a vacuum or by ignoring the reality of how I (or you) would use the pen.

So how will I continue to fight the reality distortion field?

Starting with last Friday’s post about how I use the Fodderstack XL I’ll be writing about the things I’ve used long enough to know they’ve earned a reason to use them. Plus they’ll have worked themselves into their unique place in my stationery life.

As I mentioned, much of what causes excitement in the fountain pen community just doesn’t work for me. So I’ll spend more time writing about my more mundane uses. It’ll be therapeutic and maybe I’ll find I’m not alone in enjoying the more boring side of fountain pens.

How do you resist the reality distortion field? Or do you not even try?

For the original written draft of this article I used a Pelikan M805 Stresemann with an extra fine nib and MB Toffee Brown ink. It was written in a Field Notes Workshop Edition. While not bad, it was a considerably less than perfect match-up for me.

16 thoughts on “Fountain Pen Reality Distortion Field

  1. Ray,

    Thanks for an intersting post.  You’ve identified something in the “fountain pen distortion field” that all fountain pen users have to negotiate.  There’s the overall distortion field that accompanies the discovery of fountain pens (and inks) themselves.  Then, there’s the brand, the grail pen, the vintage, the “best in class”, and the personalized nib distortion fields, just to name a few of the more obvious ones.

    I had been thoroughly bitten by several of the above, and have enjoyed the process of identifying my own overall fountain pen and ink reality.

    Like you, it’s fallen (for a peculiar combination of reasons) on the Kaweco Al Sport pens.  The physical form factor, design choices, build quality, and writing experience of these pens has captivated me now for months, with the result that several former favourite pens have gone entirely unused.  I’ve also had the same experience with inks, having developed a surprising preference for Noodler’s Zhivago.

    Also, I too have decided against immediate purchase of the TWSBI Eco.  I’ll watch the reviews of this pen, and may or may not order one down the line.  But, a year ago I would have enjoyed the force field of its appearance from this most enjoyable of experimental brands and been keen to acquire it a.s.a.p.

    • Hi Raphael,

      It is fun determining what I like and what my specific reality is. I’m glad you mentioned it.

      You mentioned Vintage for which I have a complete lack of resistance. My vintage pens have gone unused for a long time (just one or two inked up this year) yet there’s no way I’ll part with them. I’m happy just having them as a piece of history.

      Thanks for reading,

  2. Great article. Your articles are insightful, well written and entertaining, and I always, unfailingly, enjoy them. But this particular item resonates with my own personal experience. I could hardly have put it down to paper as clearly as you have. Some pens and mechanical pencils I have owned and used daily for decades, literally, while others adorn my drawers for purely aesthetic pleasure or because they are simply clutter I have lying around. But when a writing instrument is beautiful, well crafted and eminently usable, it is a keeper. Such is the case of my three Sheaffer Imperials from the early eighties, and of my three humble Pilot fountain pens. Daily use showed me they are all keepers. Such is the case of my Pilot Shaker mechanical pencil — I have used the same model for thirty years, and my current one is the third (and I keep a fourth one in the drawer for fear of its being discontinued by Pilot). Although I own, and like my Uni Kuru Toga and my Pentel Graphgear 1000 and Kerry, great pencils on their own, the Pilot Shaker wins out every day.

    • Hi Cristiano,

      Thanks for the compliment and I’m glad you enjoyed reading it and I’m especially glad you have some Sheaffers.

      Thanks for reading,

  3. Great article. If Fountain Pens are your passion, why try to eliminate the reality distortion field? Remember, the entire secondary market depends on it!

    • Thanks John, glad you liked it. You’re right, eliminating it is probably impossible ( at least for me), but I do need to control it since it helps me enjoy what I have.

      Thanks for reading,

  4. This was one of the best articles that I have read about fountain pens in a long time. You make some very valid points, all of which lead me to come back to the saying “less is more”. I think that you have to use a pen for a while before you know if it really fits in with your “writing life”. There is little doubt that the internet and online blogging community have speeded up the process by which one learns about new pens and inks and this has led many people to acquire more of these faster than they might otherwise have done. Sometimes in life, it pays to reflect on what you already have.

    • Chandon,

      Thanks for the compliment. I agree and I’ve tried to deliberately slow down my purchases and what until I know which existing pens the new one will replace. Or, I suppose, know it won’t replace any but be happy with that.

      Thanks for reading,

  5. Well said. Thanks for putting these thoughts in to words.
    I like the way you note it really takes several months of use to fully understand and appreciate a new fountain pen after the initial period of infatuation.

    Buying new ‘must haves’ interferes with that cycle at times but it does sometimes allow you to rediscover some of your pens at a later date during a buying hiatus.

    • Hi Ken,

      Thanks for reading. I like your thought of discovering existing pens during a buying hiatus.

      Thanks for reading,

  6. Really useful meditation on acquiring fountain pens or any other items we are interested in. I went through this a earlier this year after discovering Massdrop and getting a Monteverde pen that I like, but don’t know if I will keep it forever while I also found a LAMY pen that I love despite many people not liking it for various reasons. I too have tried to think more about the pens I have and enjoy using and less bout all those other pens out there that I may or may not like as well. Trying this with ink and journals as well since honestly I have plenty of both for the foreseeable future!

    • Hi Mark,
      Glad you enjoyed the article. I managed to barely resist Massdrop. Good deals bit not for pens that were ideal for me, or were a pen I already had, so I was able to resist. I did just get some new ink but I am trying to be better with that too. It’s a completely different rat hole.

      Thanks for reading,

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  8. The Stresemann’s reality distortion field has dampened almost to the point of disappearing for me, mostly because Chartpak can’t be bothered to send one to my friendly local pen store, and I don’t want to buy it from anywhere else. Pretty soon I’ll give up on it and get something else, I suppose.

  9. Whew, thought it was just me. Good to see some common sense in the ranks.
    Really, how many times does a Lamy Safari need to be reviewed just because it’s a different color? It’s still the same pen it was 20 shades ago. As much as I love my pens, I don’t get to write all that much. And I sure don’t understand having half a dozen pens inked at the same time. My work consists of about 10 hours a day with an electronic beast. I have learned to be patient when buying a new pen. If I don’t like everything about it I don’t purchase it. I appreciate your being honest about it. I enjoy the pen community but it really wears thin reading the same thing from a dozen different sources. Carry on!

    • Hi Colburn,

      I can understand having a dozen pens inked at once 🙂 But you are right, I end up using the same few out of the dozen. I have 7 at the moment, although ones a dip pen in an inkwell so I don’t really count that one. The fewer pens I have inked up the more I enjoy them.

      Thanks for reading,

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