Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Hopeful, Euphoric Process of Pen-shopping

Confession: I like to shop. Clothes, of course. Shoes--she closes her eyes reverentially and breathes in slow and deep, trembling just a little--I love shoes. Book stores. Gourmet food shops with jars of minced shallots and strains of peppers and spices I've never heard of. Their little rectangular boxes of water crackers so beautifully packaged, I want to buy one, not to eat, but to make my kitchen shelf look classy. Or just because I like how it feels, the smooth plastic-wrapped package in my hand.

Even an ordinary supermarket has its appeal. The produce section always excites me to great promises of healthful cooking for me and my family. And yarn shops. Oh, my oh my. I could spend days, I tell you days (!!), wandering happily around a yarn shop, breathing in the different textures and colors. Recently, I confessed to my Sunday School class: yarn shops are like crack shops to me. I keep taking hits and getting dizzy and euphoric and extremely ambitious. (I was supposed to be teaching said Sunday school class, btw. Adults, but still. Drug humor in church. Might be the last time my pastor puts me in charge...)

And yet, I have to say, there is nothing that makes me weaker in the knees than the pen aisle at Staples.

When I was in college, my friends called me Officina, goddess of office and paper supplies. Nothing excited me more, in those days, than finding an item that I only stumbled upon occasionally then and haven't been able to locate in all the years since: the half-pound pad. It was a simple, unlined pad of different colored, pulpy-textured paper. Exquisite. I used to find them at the Dollar General Store where my roommates and I also purchased pink non-slip whale decals for the bathtub in our off-campus trailer.

Many days, now, it's the physical act of writing more than the emotional or intellectual process that lures me to the desk. I put my laptop aside for a while. Pull out my favorite writing implement. I'm a purest: I love the flair pen in black or green ink. An unlined notebook. Utterly blank, until I ruin it. The feel of the page beneath my palm as I go.

This is what I do when I'm having a bad day: I stand in the pen aisle at Staples or sometimes, in a pinch, Walmart and take a ridiculous amount of time making my choice. It's a luxury, that time, worrying over something inconsequential and wonderful, still, in its own right. I purchase the pen, and it's one of my many superstitions as a writer, like a ball-player wearing a certain pair of socks. It's full of good intentions, this pen, like the produce aisle at Food Lion. It's a three-dollar commitment to myself, too. To this thing I do. The writing, the writing, the writing.

What about you? Any favored writing instruments, kind of paper? The talismans of writing? Every hope for a good story, in the shape of a flair pen?