Aside from my hobbies and several projects, I spent a considerable amount of time poring over my writing tools — fountain pens and mechanical keyboards. To be fair, I’m attracted to everything you can break apart and piece together. I want to understand the mechanism behind my tools.
I’ve always been fascinated with building something.
The Obsession Starts
on Fountain Pens
I started collecting fountain pens five years ago. I wanted a pen I can confidently use. I was young — and admittedly a bit pretentious — and I wanted to make a statement before I even speak or deface a piece of paper. I wanted to have something that stands out from the rest of the pens there were during the “toxic studygram” phase.
But I think it’s a bit premature to call it a “collection.” I barely started, and I still have a great deal to learn and pens to try. I like how fountain pens feel, mainly their weight, and the fact that their inks flow from the barrel to the paper. It’s as if you’re bleeding out the words on paper. A bit morbid, but I like that idea.
I learned most of what I know by watching Neil Gaiman’s interviews. I liked that he thinks choosing a fountain pen is a personal thing, that you’ll know it’s the right pen for you as you as you try it. I’ve certainly tried some, but I don’t think I found “the one” just yet.
I’d give it more time.
On Mechanical Keyboards
Of course I can’t do all my writing with my fountain pens. I am a professional and amateur writer. That is, I write content for my various clients, but I burn the midnight oil working on my literary projects. No matter how much I love the analog writing, I need to transcribe my work one way or another, right?
Plus, I need to learn how to code for several of my research methodologies for my Master’s thesis. If you don’t know yet, I’m juggling my MS Microbiology degree with my job as a Science communicator and Content Writer.
That’s how I justified to myself why I needed mechanical keyboards in my life.
Then, the obsession began. My boyfriend, Jewel, invited me to a several Facebook groups for keyboard addicts, and we’ve never looked back.
We started by buying pre-build keyboards with a pretty respectable choices of switches. We became irritated with the rattles of the key stabilizers; we bought lubes and grease for the key switches so they would sound better. And before we know it, we’re buying individual parts for our custom-built keyboards.
We’d easily spend 7 hours fine tuning the switches and making sure they’re adjusted to our liking. Now, we have ten keyboards combined. Eight of which are mine. Recently I’ve decided to take a step back from building keyboards because (1) I can only use one keyboard at a time so 10 is definitely too much, and (2) I’ve spent more than my average monthly expense on my keyboards already.
I can see myself building a premium, bespoke keyboard in the future, those that cost $500 or more. However, now is not the time. I don’t want to be the person who cares more about the tools than the actual work. I don’t want to spend 7 hours fine tuning my switches when I can use that time to write or to code.
This time I want to earn it. I want to stick to my writing and research goals, and then I can start thinking about a new keyboard again. Just like with fountain pens, more premium keyboards weigh more, and in my mind, I associate that heft with the importance of words. I’m not sure if other writers feel this way, too, or if I’m just making this up, but who’s to say?
Regardless of my denial and self-justification, I found some advantages to using these writing tools.
Why Fountain Pens and Mechanical Keyboards Are Better
1. Customizable. Because you can disassemble and rebuild your tools from scratch, you can design them however you want. You can change the nibs of fountain pens so the writing will be as thick or thin as you like. You can change the ink color and use the same pen for different purposes. You can even change it to a flexible nib so you can properly do Calligraphy.
2. Environment-friendly. If your writing tool stops working, you don’t have to throw away anything as long as the other parts of the tools are good. It’s pretty easy to find references on the internet should you need to troubleshoot or fine-tune anything. This means you’ll throw out things less and only buy parts that are needed to fix your perfectly usable pen or keyboard.
3. They’d last for years. In my experience, as long as you take care of your pens, the only thing you need to buy constantly is and ink bottle. As for the keyboards, you don’t HAVE to change anything. Most people in our group customize their keyboards for aesthetic and personal preferences. If you really need to fix something, everything you need is in the various online shops.
4. They’re personal. I know it’s not always right to get too attached to inanimate objects. Our possessions don’t define the owners, right? But actually, in a way, they do. Throw the brands out of the window and just consider how each of the things were found, were considered before buying, were kept and cared for, and you’ll have a good idea about the character of the owner. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a few things I genuinely and intentionally chose than to have a humongous pile of disposable tools I don’t care about in my closet.