Falling out of Love with a Pen

Recall the moment you first laid eyes on that gorgeous piece.

Maybe it was the online description, the breathtaking photos, or just a moment of weakness. With butterflies in your stomach, you tapped "add to cart" and now, it's yours, forever. 

Looking at your dear companion now - the one you've spent numerous days in contemplative silence - something has changed. 

"It's not you, it's me," you confess.

In this article, I discuss the ways one might "fall out of love" with their writing instruments and what to do when the honeymoon is over.

Why do pen enthusiasts "break up" with their pens?

Despite whatever preference in intimate relationships we have, pen enthusiasts are most certainly not monogamous when it comes to pens. While some private collections far outnumber the selection at a brick & mortar shop, most seasoned pen geeks will admit to having at least 20-50 pens. Some might have just as many pens inked at one time. We have lots of pens. Sometimes, more than what we know to do with.

So, why not keep collecting? When does love for a pen sour? On Instagram, I polled the online pen community with the question, "Are there any pens you’ve fallen out of love with? If so, why?" To gather more information on the motives to sell pens, I also studied the recent Sell/Trade listings on the r/Pen_Swap subreddit to see the reasons sellers had for offering their pens for sale.

Expectations not met

In this age of internet e-commerce, it is rare to physically handle a pen prior to purchasing it. With so many shapes, colors, sizes, nibs, and filling mechanisms, picking a fine pen isn't a one-size-fits-all affair. Unless you try it before you buy it, there isn't any way to fully know if the pen is a good fit for you until you've already committed to buying it.

Plus, some pens look "better on paper" (pun intended) and fail to live up to the hype. Despite all the information available at our fingertips - youtube reviews, blog reviews, customer reviews - a pen might still fall short of our expectations. Especially, if there is an issue with inconsistent quality control.

While there are many Pilot Vanishing Point/Capless collectors that hold this decades-old model in high regard, folks like @bluehorseyellowcow encounter nothing but disappointment, "The nibs have been unreliable, as has the retraction mechanism, and the converters leak inside the pen. I have four--all with these problems."

Your experience most likely will not be the same. There's a reason why the Vanishing Point continues as one of Pilot/Namiki's most popular pens since the 1960s. And, it's not because they always leak or have nib issues. Now, I'm not discounting the critical issues that lead to @bluehorseyellowcrow breaking up with the VP. It's totally possible to receive dud pens, even if the brand has a sterling reputation. I want to illustrate the point that even the most attractive, highly-regarded pens could lead to heartbreak because they do not meet expectations.

Catch & Release

Imagine all the pen enthusiasts in the world are fishing on a large boat in the middle of the ocean. When someone feels a tug on the line, they have a good idea that they've hooked something they can keep. As I mentioned, expectations don't always align with reality. When that happens, folks perform a "catch & release."

These days, fine pens are being released in smaller, limited runs with seasonal availability. While pens are not nearly as lucrative as shoe collecting, they do incite the same feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Pen pals with an itchy clicker finger might encounter more instances of "catch & release" or a one-night "pen stand."

Change in tastes

Throughout our lives, change is always a constant. Your taste in pen colors, shapes, materials, and nib sizes is apt to change as much as your palette for food over the course of a lifetime. If it didn't, you'd still be eating chicken nuggets at a fine restaurant - not that there's anything wrong with that.

Speaking from experience, I started my journey into fountain pens with EF and F nibs. Originally, I was concerned about ink feathering and bleed-through with broader nibs. As I explored new and exciting ink colors, I wanted to see more shading and sheen. So, my taste broadened to include medium, stub, flex, and architect nibs.

Although @elizabeth74 fell in love with the acrylic material of a custom Edison Mina fountain pen, she admits, "it's not one I'd go for now." While you wouldn't wake up one day and decide you prefer a partner/spouse with different eye color, these cosmetic changes in taste are totally acceptable in the pen world.

Liquidating value

Most of the "for sale" listings on the /r/Pen_Swap subreddit aim to liquidate the value of their writing instruments, often for other pen purchases or to fund a major life expense, like higher education.

This reddit user, for example, is selling an entire pen collection to purchase a "grail" pen and put money toward college.

In some cases, limited edition pens appreciate in value, even if they've been used. Although I would not recommend pens as an investment vehicle (not giving financial advice here), it is possible to buy a pen, use it for years, then resell it for more than you originally paid. To retain the highest value possible for your pens, be sure to love and care for them during your time of ownership.

Hedonistic adaptation

When starting the pen hobby, newbies tend to choose pens at the lower end of the price spectrum. After all, you wouldn't want your first pen to be a $2,000 Namiki Emperor, right? I'd much rather make a rookie mistake on a $27 Kaweco Sport than an $800 Montblanc 149. Yet, as the newbie dives deeper into the rabbit hole, the $30 Lamy Safari starts to lose its exciting appeal when standing next to a Lamy 2000.

The Pilot Metropolitan was @downthebreatherhole 's first pen. Brian confesses, "They are great little pens, but I just don't find them that interesting with everything else that is available out there." It's hard to compete with premium Pilot offerings like the vacuum-fill 823 or the flexy nib of the Custom 912 FA or the hand-painted artistry of the Yukari Royale.

Setting the bar higher isn't all about status and prestige. While you'll find that many reputable starter pens can serve well for many years, upgrading to a higher price bracket pays off with a premium writing experience that will last a lifetime. If you do decide to go "next level," collectors tend to keep the first pens that kindled their love for the hobby.

Too many pens, not enough time.

Pen enthusiasts tend to be terrible at estimating how much pens, ink, and paper they will need to accomplish their creative projects. In an ideal world, we use our pens more than we're connected on the internet. In reality, some days I might jot a few tasks in my bullet journal and that's it.

Most fountain pen enthusiasts have enough ink to last them several lifetimes. Pair that with an excess of unopened notebooks and you have too much supply with not enough demand. We had good intentions, of course. We aspire to record our daily lives, craft that epic sci-fi novel, and develop our calligraphy skills. Yet, life gets in the way and we realize that perhaps the herd needs to be culled.

Unless you're strictly a collector, pens are meant to be used and appreciated for their function. When the collection gets too out of hand, pens get neglected. One Redditor selling their pens writes, "Most of these pens have been sitting in my pen case for too long and I want others to enjoy them."

Ultimately, you want to love the pens you own. You want them to "spark joy" in your daily life. If you fall out of love with a pen, it doesn't carry the same emotional weight as an intimate relationship. There are others that will love and appreciate your pen long after you've parted ways with it. So, let it go and do what feels "write" in your fountain pen journey.