“No, not that one.” On the shelf to the right of the expensive gift pen sets I indicate another box, a cheaper, bulkier one. Thirty pens for $3.59, not bad. “I’ll take those, and a pack of pastel writing pads.”
“The legal pads are on sale today. The pastel ones are almost twice as much.”
“I know, but I’d like the pastel.” I require the pastel, I almost say, but I catch myself in time because I don’t want to be That Customer.
Since my Great Migration to computers years ago I have less need for actual pens and paper, but there are still some things I prefer to write out by hand. Brainstorming a new work from scratch is one of those things, but without my favorite cheapie pens and correctly colored paper, the center cannot hold and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world–my apologies to Mr. W. B. Yeats. If the barrel of the pen is too thin or too thick or the wrong shape, if the ink is blue and not black, if the paper has three-ring holes or has the wrong texture, or worst of all, is yellow ruled legal-size paper (oh, the horror – !), then all is not well in my universe. I can’t think properly, I can’t concentrate on what I have to get done, and I might as well go do the dishes or throw in a load of laundry or go outside and weed the garden because I’m not getting any writing done today.
Just kidding–sort of. The look and feel of writing materials does matter to me, perhaps more than it should. I would rather use hot pink or Christmas green ink than blue (never, ever blue!), and I would sooner scribble my ideas on the back of a grocery store receipt than on one of those ruled yellow legal pads. If I had been present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I would have held up the entire process because the quill came from the wrong bird.
I can remember life before computers, but I can’t imagine life without one. Neither can I imagine life without my pink, green, and purple writing pads and my grade-school quality black ink pens. These things satisfy my inner need to control freak about my working environment, and that’s OK. Just don’t get me started on pencils…or erasers…or sticky notes…