What Does Your Writing Implement Say About You?

The Atlantic

You may not be aware of it, given that you spend all day typing on a keyboard or pecking away at your favorite emojis on your iPhone—and when you do try to pick up pen and put it to paper, the scrawl that emerges is like that of a psycho killer, or maybe a very important medical professional—but the rise of the status pen is upon us. As Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan writes in the Wall Street Journal, "In an age dominated by tech gadgets such as cellphones, a pen can still make a potent statement."

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In fact, yes, Jan-Patrick Schmitz, the president and CEO of none other than Montblanc North America, one of the snazziest pen-makers of all, tells Lu-Lien Tan that your pen says a lot about your personal style. A pen is just like a tie, or a watch, or the car you drive, or your murse/purse. Thus, "Mr. Schmitz always carries at least two pens with him during his workday: one tucked in his briefcase's pen holder and the other in an inside jacket pocket." One is a functional roller-ball, the other a fountain pen, "which he reserves for moments when he wants to take time to express something."

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Schmitz is a pen guy, so as you'd expect, he has more than 100 pens in his personal collection. He likes the colorful ones, in "eye-catching but elegant designs," and will choose a color that matches his mood. He doesn't like black ink, preferring different colors for different moments. And, of course, functionality of the pen is key, too—it can't just be about looks. Sometimes, he even uses a pen with scented ink; usually, vanilla. 

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This is all very interesting. I have wondered for a while if we're in the age of the death of the pen, and how pen sales will keep up with diminishing demand. I keep a few around my desk, but they're mostly purely functional, and are only used when needed, which is rare, for the scribbling of a few words or the signing of a check (also a malingering item, in my view). Often when I go to use one, I find the ink is gone, and I must sadly throw it away, saying goodbye to it like it were an old friend I'd ignored for years. But in long-ago days, like when I was in high school, the pen had a different role in my life. I purchased the ones I liked the best in all colors, and could not wait to use them. Sometimes I would be gifted with a "statement" pen, topped with pink feathers or studded with rhinestones or filled with candy or shaped like animals. Those pens have been long forgotten—until today. The statement pen! Schmitz is right. We should all have a statement pen. It makes writing better. Because every so often, you will need a pen. Perhaps what will save the business of pen-making is if pens truly do become art, or, at the very least, an accessory loved as much as your new handbag. 

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So, what might your statement pen say about you? 

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A crusty old plastic ballpoint you found in the office supply closet that's really a computer tech room. You are all about getting it done, and you're doing it one day at a time. Also, you are likely to hold the pen in your fist, having forgotten how to use a pen, so often are you instead typing on the computer. Pens! What strange creations are these. Wiggle your fist a bit, press the tip of the pen to paper, and a line emerges. You have just discovered fire. 

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An adorable child's pen. Say, Hello Kitty, with a stamp at the top, or maybe Hello Kitty herself? Not that Hello Kitty is just for kids, nosirreebob. You are a creative spirit full of whimsy and must not be crushed by the judgments and small minds of others. You love sticker books, ice cream, and watching Nickelodeon. And collecting Hello Kitty stuff, obviously. 

A roller-ball pen. Ah, remember when these were all the rage? So much better than a ballpoint, so much easier to maneuver, a veritable Jaguar instead of an old jalopy on the page. The only trouble with the roller-ball is that when you leave it uncapped and lean on it during the day the ink soaks into the sleeve of your shirt, or the skin of your arm, and you're covered in pen juice, and that can be embarrassing. You have aspirations, and if you have a gel roller-ball pen, those aspirations may lie in the fields of math and science.

A pen that does something else at the same time that it's a pen. Like, a hair-clip pen. Or a penknife-pen. A screwdriver-pen. A pen that can open beer bottles. A pen that writes for you. A pen that conducts electricity. A pen that is also a magic wand. You are a multi-tasker. 

A fountain pen. Someone's fancy.

A Cross pen (in 10K gold). You graduated from college or high school and received this as a gift from an elderly relative and have never used it, instead, allowing it to languish in its box, because you mostly just text with your iPhone. And it's too pretty to use, until the day you do, and then—d'oh!—it's out of ink. You will accomplish great things. 

A red pen, any brand. You are a copy-editor, the ideal combination of persnickety and helpful. You show your uniqueness in the brand and shade of red you choose.

A highlighter. You are an academic, or currently in school. 

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One of those pens with all the colors. Remember these? The wide-barreled, rocket-ship-shaped pens with the different colored levers at the top? You were always fighting over who got to use this pen with your other siblings. You could press the color of your liking down and the pen would write in that color. This was a pen that bespoke of individuality in predetermined conditions! It's an existential pen. Of course, blue and black always ran out first, because those were the colors you were most likely to use, and maybe you only wrote in the weird green color once, because no one could read it if you did, but having this pen was like buying in bulk and stashing all the goods away in your cabinet. Just knowing the colors were there, if you wanted to use them, was a certain kind of special peace. Until your brother lost the pen.

A felt-tip pen. You are the most tactile of writers. You also like to wear socks in bed, and to walk on carpets barefoot. At night, you fall asleep to the rustling leaves outside your window, or the recorded sounds of an ocean. 

An EpiPen. You are dangerously allergic to something. Keep this on hand, just in case. 

A "slender pen" with a "creamy shell cap, rose-gold fittings and a dark purple stone." You are Mr. Schmitz, on a day in which he chooses this pen. You are a pen aesthete of the finest sort.

An alcohol-ink fillable pen. You are an office-drinker. No, no, no, do not drink that pen.What you need is a pen-flask: "The pen tip unscrews so the stainless steel chamber can be filled with about an ounce of booze." There you go.

The artisanal pen. Oh, shhhh. See also "a feather and quill." What are you, the Marquis de Sade? If you're going to do this, you need to really do it, and you should probably be Shakespeare. 

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A Sharpie. You are moving, maybe? Or, you moved once or have kids who go to camp or go to camp yourself, and for some reason whenever you need a pen to make a list you only find Sharpies around and so you write your list with them and the scent is both pleasant and overpowering. You believe that once something is writ, it should be there for perpetuity. Those Sharpies with the tops that click to reveal the tip of the pen? You love clicking those. It helps you think.

A pen with invisible or erasable ink. You are a little bit insecure (sorry), or a spy. 

A pencil, #2 lead. You work in a school, or go to a school, or once went to a school, and the smell of pencil shavings takes you right back, wherever you happen to be. You can even remember fondly the indentation that pencil made on the side of your finger whenever you held it too tightly, like when you were taking your AP biology exam, upon which you unfortunately did not do very well, though it wasn't the pencil's fault. You are a nostalgist. 

A crayon. Not a pen. You might be a kid, or you play one on TV. 

A keyboard, a mouse, a trackpad, your fingers. You are the future. 

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