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.
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.
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.
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.