Complacencies of the Pen

Sunday Morning

by Wallace Stevens

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little…


Complacency: 1. The fact or state of being pleased with a thing or person; tranquil pleasure or satisfaction in something or some one. ~ Oxford English Dictionary

Okay, I have to admit that the title doesn’t exactly express the point of this post (especially the smugness which “complacency” can connote), but I’m too enamored with lame puns to resist.

As I was sitting in my sunny chair this morning, with coffee but minus the oranges and cockatoo rug, I decided to do my hour of writing—by hand.

I’ve written before about the lure of writing longhand, but, until today, I met my new writing goal on my trusty laptop, browser closed, Word document open. So, why the change today?

Since I have been paying closer attention to my writing habits rather than just going through the motions, I have noticed that, when I write on a computer, I spend a lot of time backspacing, second-guessing, typing over. I find it very hard to turn off the editor in my head, who has not yet been called to the office and really should be still in bed while the writer takes her shift.

I also wanted to try out a new pen I got recently, a Pilot Precise V5 RT (note: this is not a paid endorsement!). Finding a good pen that doesn’t glop or run or smear and that moves smoothly over the paper is really important to how well I write and how much I enjoy writing by hand. It probably shouldn’t matter so much, but it does. The other writing implement that works well for me is a good mechanical pencil.

Anyway, I sat in my chair and wrote on a legal pad. An hour later, I had written more than I normally do at my laptop (over 1000 words), and I wrote with fewer stops and starts. I could hear the editor snoring softly, still in bed.

Maybe complacency is the right word, after all. From Merriam-Webster:

Complacency: Self-satisfaction especially when being accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies

Writing without premature editing does require a kind of self-satisfaction and willful suspension of awareness of one’s deficiencies. Otherwise, we backspace ourselves right off the screen. As K. M. Weiland writes in 8 Ways Longhand Writing Frees Your Muse (definitely worth reading if you are interested in this topic), “Removing the temptation to glance up at a previous paragraph and switch out words and phrases allows my raw thoughts to flow onto the page. I don’t judge them, I don’t edit them, I don’t censor them. I just pour them out.”

By the way, the pen was terrific. I’m stocking up.

A Couple of Cool Blogs about Handwritten Letters

Letters in Longhand

Post Girl: “I’m a girl who still clings with much reverence to the kind of writing that I can hold in my hands–my stamps and stationery, my pen-and-ink greetings and salutations, and the triumphant, cool-metal of the mailbox flag. I still harbor an expectant hope in the sound of the mail carrier rustling about in his jeep to find a bundle of mail with my name on it. And I still hold my breath for that inevitable ‘p.s’ that can often say more than the letter itself. In the hopes that I may inspire ONE letter to be written, sealed, and sent(that wouldn’t have been otherwise), I would like to extend the invitation to everyone to read along with me the entirety of all my future correspondence.”

The Letter Jar

Lynn, The Jar Keeper: “I am composing 365 handwritten letters in 365 days. Each day I pull a name from THE LETTER JAR. This paradoxical blog is my way of sharing, in a very 21st century way, the lessons I am learning from my ‘old fashioned’ communication project.”



8 thoughts on “Complacencies of the Pen

  1. Great post, Lisa. I’m afraid writing in longhand is a lost art for me. I’ve never been able to be comfortable with pen/paper. If I wake with a thought, I jot it down on paper by the bed–and looking back I still edit and censure the written. Problem is–parts of it can’t be read when I go back to type it. lol. I’m thrilled for you that your hour/day is going so well.

    • DiDi, thank you! I didn’t write longhand for years and years, mainly because I cringe at the sight of my handwriting (not sure why, but I think it’s a perfectionism issue). Doing more and more of my writing by hand is working for me, but my husband has found word processors to be invaluable, because it saves him from the anxiety of feeling he doesn’t have time or room to revise as much as he’d like. The good thing is that, today, we have so many choices. I love the 21st century!

  2. I can’t write on a computer – except for comments and e-mails. I always write in journals, even my blog has a journal which I first write my entries. I write out my thoughts, type them into the doc, then print out the chapter or concept. Then I take my trusty Pilot Precise V5 RT (one of my favs too) or my Pentel Energel (the only pen I found in my favorite color – purple : ) ) and start editing my work. Then, I re-enter my corrections and start over again. It’s long, but I feel handwriting is more satisfying than typing.

    • Kelsey, you have inspired me once again! (I think I’ll start thinking of you as my muse.) I’m going to start a blog journal, just for keeping track of blog ideas and snippets of possible posts.

      I used to use the Pilot Precise V5 (without the RT), and I loved the fact I could get it in purple and green, but it smears sometimes, and I’ve had two older pens leak inside of bags. I’ll check out the Pentel Energel.

  3. I love using a pen sometimes, it allows for other than linear thinking. It may be age though that makes that happen. There are some cool products now that allow you to write straight to your computer but I agree a pen is still mightier than the sword and much more stimulating

    • Roberta, my son, who is almost 19, still does much of his writing by hand, so maybe it’s not a lost art for the younger generation after all. I have strong opinions about how the (mis)teaching of handwriting can interfere with children’s love of writing: a topic for another post, perhaps! Thanks so much for your thoughts. 🙂

  4. I needed this reminder. This is how I first fell in to writing…on the page with a pen in my hand, utterly oblivious to the existence of the editor in my head.

    “Otherwise, we backspace ourselves right off the screen.” Wonderful word picture, and I think they may apply in other areas of life as well.

    • Deidra, I’m glad that these reminders help other people, too. I love your second sentence!

      Your website is beautiful, by the way. It was interesting to see that you watch the sunset over Lake Michigan. I’m in Milwaukee, so we see the sunrise over the lake.

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