• John Lucas

My Seven Year Pen Itch

I’ve noticed as I’ve got older that I’ve started finding my brands. In my twenties I never really thought beyond the item itself. If I liked it, I bought it. I never considered repeat buying. In fact I went out of my way to avoid it, as if it showed a chronic lack of ambition and a paucity of imagination. I might have bought a great pair of jeans, but I couldn’t possibly buy the same pair again when the first wore out. It seemed an alien concept, up there with having the same meal on the same day each week, or blocking out sex time with my girlfriend in the diary. Some things just aren’t meant to be regimented.

Now I’m in my late thirties I’ve realised just how much time and effort it saves when you just know what you like. And how much more pleasant it is to be surrounded by the things that you like. I guess in my twenties I moved around so often and lived in rented houseshares so much of the time, that there wasn’t a great deal of point putting too much thought and effort into nice things. There were other priorities. Like drinking, clubbing, and trying to have spontaneous sex.

Since life has become more settled I’ve realised that I like certain brands more than others. I know the deodorant and aftershave I like to wear. I know the shampoo and shower gel. I’ve been repeat buying the same three styles of jeans for the last few years. The same goes with shoes, tops, coats. I’ve settled on a look.  I even know what washing up liquid I prefer to use in the kitchen, what kitchen roll and what detergent.

As a writer stationery is very important, but again for a long time I didn’t pay much attention to the kind I actually liked. This seems really strange to me now. Take pens for instance: I’d mix things up the whole time. If I picked one up that felt good in my hand, which wrote smoothly, then great. I’d spend a few weeks enjoying my long hand and note taking. If not, then I’d found a dud. I’d suck it up and wait until the next time I was in the stationery shop to get a replacement. But again it would largely be pot luck. I never considered trying to find my brand.

When I was in Los Angeles a couple of years ago I visited a bookshop on Sunset Boulevard. I found a couple of books I wanted to buy and I thought I’d buy my girlfriend Laura a little present while I was there. She really likes dogs and I saw on display a bright orange pen with a dachshund along the clip, so I bought it for her. Little did I know at the time that this was to prove the start of an obsessive love affair. Between me and the pen.

It was smooth and shiny. I loved the way it felt in my hand. It wrote like a dream. I loved the bright orange colour and the cute dachshund picture and two little doggy bones on the side. I loved the way the clip curved like the contours of a sports car. I loved the way the pen twisted on and off with a deeply satisfying click.

The pen in question is a Seven Year Pen made by Seltzer, so called because apparently they can produce up to two metres of writing per day for seven years before they run out of ink. What stamina! Environmentally friendly too. The average person would only ever need eight in their lifetime!

I found ways of using the Dachshund more and more frequently until Laura allowed me, charitably, to adopt the pen as my own. Writing had never felt so good. But it didn’t stop there. Seltzer pens aren’t available in the UK but I went onto their website and discovered that they had numerous other designs, most of them as appealing as the Dachshund. I went Seven Year Pen crazy. I’ve now got twenty-six of them, each one with a style, look and – I honestly think – personality of its own. I’ve got a bee one, an elephant one, a lobster one, a whale one, a guitar one, a peacock one, the list goes on.

For a while I felt a little overwhelmed by them. I felt like I needed to come up with a system. I felt like some pens were going to be neglected in favour of others. I couldn’t rest easy with that thought, not after they’d brought so much joy to my life.

What I’ve decided to do is use a different pen each week, so each pen has two weeks each year of writing time. At the start of every week I make a note in my diary of which one I’ve chosen and I also keep tabs on just how well I write over the course of the week. Not that I blame my own poor performance on the pen, but I do feel a bit warmer towards that week’s pen if I feel like I’ve produced some good work.

It’s made writing a much more pleasurable, more tactile experience. And at this rate I’ll be able to keep writing for another 182 years!