I once went to London to attend a “master class” by a famous writer. It was actually a lecture in a room with 200 or so folding chairs. When the writer was finished talking about her dog and her cottage in the woods, she opened the floor for questions. Someone asked, “What kind of pen do you use?”
The magic pen. The magic paper, computer program, time of day, mantra or tea. Yes, I grew up watching Bewitched, too. Longing for the short cut, the magic wiggle. Waiting for the fairy godmother, or the red shoes that will make me famous before they kill me.
I had an epiphany in that moment, as banal as an acknowledgement of the reality of one’s own mortality… or a slogan: just do it. But like anyone saved on Sunday, drunk on Tuesday, part of me continued to look for the portal to the muses – a one-night stand start to a long term relationship.
Good things take time.
Five years ago I sort of climbed out in front of my life and started to take charge. I realised that if you’re ticking that 46 and over box on the survey, your fairy godmother probably isn’t coming.
I started simplifying my life. Making room. Choosing.
A few years ago, a good friend told me about her own quest to simplify: to own one beautiful hairbrush; one exquisite pen. She inspired me. I’ve been looking for the one pen. The magic pen.
I bought a gorgeous pen when I visited her this summer. Handmade. Looks like the sea. But the ink flows unevenly. I don’t use it when I write every morning. It just sits on the desk looking pretty.
I steal pens. I tend to borrow them and walk off with them. I have a callous on my left second finger from writing. My hand is formed to writing utensils. Yesterday, when I cleaned my nightstand, I found 9 pens in the drawer. Most of them completely unfamiliar. Things I “borrowed” from students or colleagues, surely. Pens migrate from school and back again, hitching between the pages of textbooks and notebooks.
But last week I realised the school is stocking the supply room with different pens. Thin, scrawny pens.
I had no idea I was so accustomed to the cheap blue pens I’ve been using for years. I didn’t realise I’d been using the same pen every morning the past year. Things happen when you don’t notice them. Habits form.
I had to borrow a car to drive out to the office supply store to buy my own box of pens. The cheap, plastic pens that the school no longer supplies.
My one pen.
This sucks. I really wanted my one pen to be exquisite.