“Each night when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
Do fountain pens ever get tired? Do they need to lie down after hours of incessant scribbling? Do they require that much-needed respite from the rigours of writing, allowing the ink that has flowed relentlessly on their nibs to settle down, as the author ends his jotting for the day, closes his notebook, and ruminates on the thoughts he has immortalized on paper?
Stephen King, a highly regarded and multi-awarded American author of suspense, horror, fantasy and science fiction, and whose works – Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Dark Tower series, Firestarter, Shawshank Redemption – have sold millions of copies, shared his insights on how to be a better writer in his memoir “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” Listing the 22 lessons King has learned, Maggie Zhang wrote in the August 11, 2015 issue of Business Insider:
“20. When you’re finished writing, take a long step back. King suggests six weeks of “recuperation time” after you’re done writing, so you can have a clear mind to spot any glaring holes in the plot or character development…King compares the writing and revision process to nature. ‘When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees,’ he writes. ‘When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.’ ”
And as authors pause to recharge, so do their pens adjourn to take a respite from their writing labours.
This allusion to nature is pursued by writer Kristan Hoffman in “Fallow Fields – An Argument for Letting Your Creativity Rest,” who argues that to overcome writer’s fatigue, creativity should be allowed to rest over what she calls “fallow periods traditionally used by farmers to maintain the natural productivity of their land…re-balancing soil nutrients, re-establishing soil biota, breaking crop pest and disease cycles.” The “fallow fields” metaphor actually has its roots in Biblical antiquity, and in 1400 B.C., God revealed His laws and ordinances, even for agriculture, exhorting the Israelites thus:
“You shall sow your land for six years, but on the seventh year, you shall let it rest and lie fallow…” [Exodus 23:10-11, New American Standard Bible]
The idea was that a sabbatical period of rest after six continuous years of farming would benefit both the land and the people, and as the ground lies uncultivated, the nutrients of the soil are renewed, and the earth is restored.
But oftentimes, the challenges of writing – editorial deadlines, a compulsion to mass-produce, and the relentless pursuit of profit – pressure the pen wielder to continuously extract every ounce of his creative juices (and his ink reserves!) without pause. Yes, the pen is mightier than the sword, as Napoleon Bonaparte declared (his actual words were “Saber is always defeated by mind.”), but even a blade should occasionally seek solace in its scabbard, just as the mighty pen should sometimes repose in blissful slumber.
With the perfectly horizontal slope of pen rests, the best sleeping position for fountain pens poses no conundrum. Storing pens flat and parallel to the surface causes the ink to be constantly in contact with the nib, and keeps it wet enough to start writing right away, but without allowing gravitational force to leak the ink into the cap. After all, there is little comfort in sleeping upright (nib pointing up), let alone on one’s head (nib pointing down).
And as the first rays of the morning’s sunlight slowly stir the fountain pen from its self-imposed hiatus, it slowly but surely stretches and straightens its cap and barrel, its nib and feed refreshed and eager for another day of committing to paper its wielder’s thoughts and reflections – an ode to his love, a rhapsody in song, a farewell note to a dear friend, perhaps the second chapter of a promising novel, or just a contemplation of the times and seasons in which he lives.