Is that REALLY a pen?

A few years ago, I replaced my laptop with a Surface Pro. It's amazing; it's completely changed my relationship to digital documents, e-books, etc. To get the most out of a Surface, though, you really need a Surface Pen. But for months, I hesitated about buying it. They run for ~$100, and that seemed so exorbitant.

Except that's actually less than a good few of my pens. And unlike those fountain pens, I use the Surface Pen every single day. It's therefore decidedly more practical, more necessary for my workflow. I use it to annotate PDFs, which has saved me a lot of money in printer paper and toner. Plus storage space. I do most of my drawing on the Surface rather than on paper. And yet somehow it was incredibly difficult to justify that price.


Part of it is undoubtedly that fountain pens are just more fun. They're luxurious because they're unnecessary - a splurge to make my work less daunting. I love the ritual of cleaning and re-inking a pen. I love the variety of nibs. The Surface Pen, on the other hand, lacks that variety. I can give it different ink colors in Adobe Acrobat; in Fresco, I can turn it into a marker or a brush. But it's still itself; it still feels the same against the screen.

But part of it is because fountain pens have really warped my sense of what is "expensive" vs "affordable." I've noticed this with other purchases too. I spend money on pens that I'd blanch at if I were buying a mechanical keyboard (also vital for my workflow) or paying to get my bike repaired (to keep me safe on daily commute) or even just a grocery bill (you know, to keep me alive). But really, it should be the other way around. Should I buy this pen when it could cover a week's worth of groceries? Or more importantly: can I afford to buy this pen AND get groceries? Well, one, probably. The issue is that it's never just one pen, or one bottle of ink, or one notebook.

People in the community sometimes joke about how $15 once seemed an insurmountable sum to pay for a single pen and then the next thing you know, your collection is worth a thousand or more. And if you can afford it, more power to you. I love reading people's experiences with pens outside of my reach. But after buying pens over $100, I started having panic attacks. Because I couldn't (and can't really) afford it. Realizing how much this hobby had cost me drained my love for pens for some time. And then, oddly enough, I ordered some Kaco Edges (maybe $20/each?) and realized that I just prefer using cheap pens. They can be just as reliable - if not more so - than their expensive counterparts. I can carry them around without worrying about them being irreplaceable.

And so I'm going to be selling off some of my pens, like my Falcon, over at FPGeeks. And I'm going to set a price limit on new pen purchases and stick to it. (Post on that incoming.)

Even in the midst of all this turnover, my Surface Pen is safe from the purge.