Celebrating the Ballpoint Pen


Today is (unofficial) national Ballpoint Pen day. I could claim that to celebrate it, I originally wrote this post by pen, but that would be a lie.

In actuality, the ballpoint pen and pens like it are my writing medium of choice. Especially if using orange, green, or purple ink (I have a penchant for secondary colors). I also enjoy the ballpoint’s predecessors: quill and fountain pen, pencil. I find that I am more in touch with my story, and the ideas that support my story, if using the tactile pen and paper.

As regards the paper… A writing colleague informed me early on that a writer is best served by a pad of yellow legal paper. This, I heard over and over again, so I followed suit and yes, it’s a handy resource and does lend itself to my writing style and tendencies. But I also carry a small notebook with me at all times and have been known to jot down scenes on scraps of paper when in need. No napkins yet, but when the ideas strike, I choose not to be selective.

Back to the pen… According to nationaldaycalendar.com, June 10 is the anniversary of the ballpoint pen patent filing by Hungarian brothers László and György Biro in 1943. The origin story is reported by Daily News Hungary as follows… László, editor of a newspaper and painting and sculpture enthusiast, spilled a bottle of ink when working with several tiny balls (no, I don’t know what the tiny balls were for). As the balls rolled across the table, trailing the ink, the invention was born. It took a move to Argentina, assistance from his brother, and repeated testing to result in the final pen.

Along with my trusty notebook, I always have multiple pens handy. These are the tools of our trade just like the measuring tape for the handyman or the sidearm for the law enforcement officer. Though my pens did fail me this May…

It was while interviewing a couple for my archiving work. They had invited me to their house for dinner and I opted to write my notes, rather than rely on my trusty recording device (that’s always on hand as well, if only as the Voice Memo app on my phone). About 15 minutes into interviewing and before we tucked into our dinner, pen #1 failed. I played it cool and grabbed #2 from my bag. Pen #2 petered out about 15 minutes after that! I took this failure a little harder but now, working on our pork chops and broccoli, I had #3 in hand. But alas, #3 joined the conspiracy. I fought to revive #3 but with no success, I was forced to ask my interviewees for a fourth. So far, it’s high among my most humiliating moments as a writer (I’m sure there will be many more).

However, the pens work more often than they fail and so, “All Hail the mighty Ballpoint Pen!” May we write many more stories together.

"Words without thoughts never to heaven go." ~Shakespeare

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