I’m a guy who loves his journaling. I spend a lot of time helping people who say they want to write more do exactly that — but I teach writing as a personal, reflective experience more than just a skill to build, or a talent to be mastered.
Writers, aspiring authors, part-time journalers and budding creatives tend to feel a lot of struggle around something like journaling. They get stuck around the ideal approach (like over-regimenting their practice with strict habits), or how to measure if they’re making progress (counting number of pages or words written, for example).
These hang-ups suck the joy, magic and spontaneity out of creative self-expression. The artfulness of the experience becomes lost.
In today’s post, I want to share with you my favorite fountain pens for writing by hand (and some options that are affordable for any budget) that will make your journaling practice an entirely artful, personal, and meaningful experience.
By intentionally adding unique, special tools — like a beautiful fountain pen — into your writing practice, you may find that your writing becomes easier, because your writing tools contribute to a more fun and interesting creative experience.
Creativity doesn’t happen in a bubble — the tools you use, like the environments you write in, all feed back and influence the experience. If you want to write more, try making the practice more enjoyable.
These are the pens that helped me fall in love with mine.
Black Barrel, Classic Design, Medium Nib, Black Ink ($12)
My friend Ben Austin, who’s a devout writer and brilliant speaker and coach, generously bought this pen for me as a gift in 2015. It was my first fountain pen. Ben insisted that fountain pens would change my journaling practice, and he was right.
Although seemingly clunky and old school, fountain pens bring an elegance, temperance, and intentionality to the art of writing. They make the art more artful.
When you start to build a little collection and fill each with different inks, you realize that choosing a different instrument on each day is another nuanced (and colorful) act of personal choice and self-expression.
The Pilot Metropolitan is an affordable fountain pen (around $12) and comes with ink cartridges, which are pierced for use upon inserting into the pen — that means no messy filling or spills. It’s a great introduction into the world of fountain pens for an awesome price.
Black, Extra-Fine Nib (L01EF) ($120)
The Lamy 2000 is a strong, sturdy, traditional fountain pen that boasts countless design awards and a permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art. A healthy investment ($120 – $170) for a lasting pen once described to me as “basically bomb-proof,” the LAMY 2000 is made of black fiberglass and brushed stainless steel with a 14ct gold platinum-coated nib.
Basically, James Bond would write with this pen.
I love my LAMY and have been using it consistently for the last year. I’ll often travel with this pen, because it’s quite reliable and relatively unfazed by things like pressurized airplane cabins or dramatic swings of temperatures (like going from freezing temperatures in Rhode Island to tropical climates in Cuba), something that other fountain pens can be finicky about.
I opted for the ultra fine nib for sharp line work, which suits my typically impatient pen strokes.
Perfect Pairing: Noodler’s Black Waterproof Fountain Pen Ink – Bulletproof, 3 ounce
Noodler’s Black Waterproof Ink was recommended to me to be paired with a LAMY 2000, and this has been the pair that I’ve worked with ever since. Fast drying, waterproof, and very thin ink that lasts a while to boot (for around $12), Noodler’s Black almost has the same sharpness as writing with a Pilot G2 Extra Fine roller pen, only it’s coming out of a super sharp pen that looks really cool and writes even better :)
I primarily write with this ink in my LAMY 2000 in a German-made Leuchtturm1917 notebook, whose pages hold the ink and nib to perfection.
One day at my parents’ house, I was showing my dad my aforementioned Pilot Metropolitan and nerding out about the renaissance of fountain pens. He said, “Wait here,” and left the room. Coming back 5 minutes later, he tossed a bulky black pen across the kitchen. It was submarine in shape with elegant gold trim.
“This should write better than your $20 pen,” he slyly quipped.
My dad was gifting me me his 30-year-old Montblanc Meisterstuck 149 fountain pen, at least an $800 pen, which at the time it was gifted probably cost someone closer to $2,000.
So, yeah. I accepted the gift.
This pen is not a realistic investment for most of us (after all, I inherited mine), but there’s something really special about writing with an extravagant instrument like this.
The flagship Montblanc Meisterstuck 149 is regal, being individually numbered and hand-crafted with 18K gold nib and clip. It’s an instrument that affirms a sense of dignity and confidence in one’s own self-expression. Of course, I still write a lot of forgettable junk with mine.
For its bulky appearance, the pen is lightweight, easy to clean and relatively uncomplicated to travel with (though I tend to leave it at home!). I inherited a medium nib, which, although makes for a touch larger pen stroke than I prefer, is still quite lovely. Each Montblanc is individually numbered, too, which makes each instrument feel particularly unique.
Perfect Pairing: Burgundy Red Montblanc Ink
I was told that Montblanc inks are the best for use with their pens — and frankly, I thought it only right to fill a fine pen with fine ink! The burgundy red ink glides lightly over the paper, shining in a lively pink hue when the pen is just filled, and gradually fading a little darker as the well of the pen diminishes (I think it concentrates the color of the ink as it dries up to this shade of nearly-black). An indication that it’s time to rinse and refill, the pen reloads effortlessly with a little practice, and a spare towel to wipe excess dry.
I bought this particular bottle of Burgundy Red ink because it was something different than ordinary black — and it was on sale for around $14 at the time. Score! The same bottle is now around $20, but the bottle will last hundreds and hundreds of pages.
Does the pen really matter?
Do you need to invest in a $2,000 fountain pen?
Of course not!
These tools won’t make or break your writing. It’s not the tool you use that makes the writer. The pen you write with won’t make you a better writer or “look” like a “real” writer.
These fountain pens are what I have come to use and enjoy because they make my writing practice more fun.
Because a really nice fountain pen — like a really nice journal — can help your writing practice feel more artful, more creative, and way more personal. More “you.” In other words, these tools can help make the act of writing feel like it’s more than just skill-building. They can make the art of self-expression more “your own.”
If the pens you use make you feel more expressive and invigorate your creative energy, your writing will certainly be better for it.
P.S. – Got some tools or resources you’d like to recommend? Email me. I might include them in a future round-up post of your recommended tools for journaling.