A COLLECTION OF PENS
I read a book that says writers can—and even should—write just about anywhere and everywhere. We should write in cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops; on buses, boats, trains, and planes; and where beauty surrounds us in museums, art galleries and places of worship.
Our minds can travel along with our physical beings so that our thoughts can become words that express ideas, which can be organized to form a book, article, play or script. When our words are grouped in such a work, they allow us to say, “I’m a writer.”
What a lovely idea to be able to write anywhere! One can even compose comfortably in a public place in full view and with full view of passersby. We can watch people moving at their own pace giving us impressions and insights for stories and for characters whose voices and personas we want to create. Watching these passersby, we might ask ourselves: “Who are they? Where are they going? What are they thinking about? Are they wondering why I am watching them?”
We can write from the coffee shop down the street or from a café somewhere across the world. Sometimes we just move from idea to idea. Sometimes, in a precious moment, we find a concept that takes hold of us and we cannot let go of it until we have explored it and given it breath of life. Then we must determine whether we should support its development or let it die so we can move on unhampered to the next moment.
When I began to think about this, and then to write about such thoughts, I wondered, “Does it really matter where I write? There might be something special about a person or place that could become the focus of where I might begin, or even end, a story. However, the most important thing was not where I write, but that no matter where, I keep writing.
“I’m a writer,” I repeat aloud to myself when no one is near to wonder whether I might be crazy. I introduce myself as a writer to people I’ve never before met. I need them to believe this. I need to have others believe it so I will also be convinced of its truth. Call it what you may: Ego, desire, or wishful thinking.
Writing has been my heart’s desire since I was a youth. “Such things are not important,” I’d been told. I was raised in a home where there were no books, no music, and no one willing to help me believe in my dream. Remembering that now, as well as many times over the years, still makes my soul sad.
On a visit to a friend not so long ago, I thought about all this while sitting in a lovely guest room in an Inn in Vermont. It was a warm winter weekend, but spring had not yet touched the trees or grass. In Vermont, spring was still miles away.
My friend would not be coming to meet me for a few hours, so I decided to write.
However, I realized I needed a pen. For some reason, I could not find any of the several pens I had brought with me. So, I went into the office like a pilot on a mission and helped myself to one of their free pens. With it already in my hand, I said to the desk clerk, “I’m taking one of your pens. Writers shouldn’t be without a pen.” She smiles in apathetic agreement.
I had noticed the pens when I walked into the lobby earlier that morning. There they were: Vermont green pens with white stenciling on them that promoted the Inn’s name and phone number. Its web address was clearly imprinted on it as well. It’s a new world.
Yes, I could have used my laptop. But it’s just not the same. It’s not the same to someone who feels about pen and paper the way I do. I write on lined pads of beautifully colored paper. I have them in purple and blue and pink. I love the way it feels when my pen touches the paper. I know that when the words appear they are from my voice. Sometimes the words and phrases seem to spread across the color paper as if by magic!
It is right then and there in the Vermont Inn that I decide to begin “A Collection of Pens.” It would be both a story and a real collection. I would collect pens from everywhere and anywhere that I wrote. Then, I would write about my collection of pens. “After all, I’m a writer.”
I decided I would also buy a “special pen” in each city I visited. My collection of pens would remind me of the dream of my youth and the belief of that dream becoming reality in my older age. The pens would have been my paint brush if I had been an artist. They would have been my ballet slippers if I had been a ballerina.
My collection of pens is not meant to be displayed. I don’t really need anyone else to see them. I certainly don’t want anyone to touch them! In fact, there are only a few people to whom I might consider showing my treasures because for me they are precious. They allow my heart and soul to share my secrets and my truths. I hold them tightly when I’m writing for fear that if loosen my grip the ideas might escape. Then, how would I write?
When I hold a pen, it becomes my friend, my lover, my conscience. Sometimes I hold the pen in a long embrace thinking about what I want to do next. Where do I want to go with my ideas or the relationship of my characters? The pen feels my emotions as I squeeze it, tap it, swirl it around, or even put it in my mouth. The pen knows my touch. We are intimate. The pen even knows when to be ruthless and unforgiving, grabbing hold of thoughts before they wander or lose their way.
Together, we are in this pursuit of words and sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters that become a book filled with human dignities, and at times, even indignities. In books, we can find ourselves or lose ourselves. We might travel long distances or take short walks across time and place. We find expressions of all emotions and complications, as in many relationships. We wonder how it feels to be that person, in that place, in that time. We pretend and envision that we could lead that life and occupy a special place in the book.
My collection of pens has helped me open minds and hearts: Sometimes those of others, sometimes my own. I have thought quite seriously about what this collection of pens means to me. I understand clearly and certainly that it is about my promise to myself as a youth that, “I will one day be an important writer.” I had envisioned my books in the windows of bookstores. I had seen myself signing books as a long line of waiting and eager readers came to the table with their purchase of my book and gave me their name to sign in their copy of it.
Today, when people at my book signings tell me about themselves and their dreams, I feel a connection. I understand their hunger. It was my hunger as well to have a dream fulfilled. Some ask me how long it takes to write a book. Others simply said: “Thank you, you’re a wonderful writer.” I beam. I reach out and touch their hand, look at them and say thank you. I really mean it. At the same time, I whisper to myself, “Dear God, thank you for this gift.”
My collection of pens has helped me to reach the dream that appeared to me so long ago. They have been my support and my determination. Too often we writers do not have people who encourage us. Sometimes we have one or two, but it is not always enough. People in our lives tell us we are foolish or unrealistic. We often give them too much power.
To this day, that awful voice with the destructive words and attitude has never quite left me. People who should have supported me said: “Who do you think you are?” Although I long ago beat it, drowned it and buried it beneath layers of hopefulness, now and then, that voice creeps to the surface. I answer by reminding myself of my accomplishments: “I’m a writer. I not only have my collection of pens, I also have the books I’ve written to prove it.”
Copyright © 2011 by Marcia Glenda Rosen