As a poet, I am fanatical about pens. However, I also happen to know how to do calligraphy, so take my original fanaticism and multiply that by a thousand. For me, the type of pen that I use is dictated by the occasion. Traditional calligraphy pens, like the dip pen, are for formal invitations and announcements. Brush pens are for marketing projects, and I use them when I want to be more playful.
The one time I can remember that I insisted on using calligraphy pens for my own benefit was when I had my sweet 16 birthday party. Although the party itself was quite informal, the occasion was a milestone, and I waned everything about it to be deliberate and formal.
It took me weeks to make the final guest list with the names of people I wanted at this party. Although I knew lots of people were interested in attending, I only wanted people here who really had some history or good memories in common with me. This was definitely not a brush pen occasion.
I practiced writing each name at least three times on a sheet of graph paper before I took out the ink well and calligraphy pens to write on the invitation. This gave me some time between each name to really make sure my invitation decisions were final. I still cannot believe what a major production a part for a 16 year old was becoming.
I found my mother buying into the entire formality of it all, too. She could not wait when she got home from work to see whose name was being written in calligraphy next. I think that by the time the entire invitation process was over, she knew the names of everyone on the guest list better than I did.
Because the first part of the party involved us sitting down to eat a dinner, I also wrote the place cards for everyone in attendance. My mother had asked me several times if she could help and I still insisted on doing it alone. I knew she was quietly learning the calligraphy alphabet for the style I had chosen, and I could not let her out-shine me.
This process gave me a new respect for the amount of care that parents put into choosing their children's names. I made sure that my calligraphy pens wrote each name with the proper spelling, a detail that would have been left to chance with an ordinary pen. I got so many compliments on the handwriting for those invitations, that I have done party invitations this way ever since.
In situations that are not as formal, I enjoy most of the things that a brush pen offers. I still struggle sometimes with how long to press down and how much ink to release, but since I am often "at play" when I have the brush pen in my hand, I figure there are no wrong moves.
One of the ways that the brush pen helps me is when I'm writing a new story and mapping out characters and settings on graph paper. I know there are very few writers who still use graph paper, but it is really crucial to my creative process. I like that I can choose to either write words or draw images and still be making progress on the new work coming out of me.
My time with the brush pen is also an ultimate test in patience and control. The dip pen frustrates me if the ink drips onto the paper before I start writing. With the brush pen, I am controlling that drip. If something comes out looking messing, I just keep writing and transform it into an image or something other than what I originally intended. Who would know?
I have this secret dream that some day someone will find all of my process journals where I have been busy with a brush pen and try to interpret some new and profound intention behind my work. Of course, there is like a thousand percent chance that they are wrong about whatever they think, but I have seen scholars creating an entire body of work on a wrong assumption and have the concrete "proof" to back it up. It is all hilarious to me.
In writing, the process is always about how the words come out of you. If you are typing on a keyboard, the process can go pretty fast. Before you know it, thousands of words are blinking at you from a screen and you cannot truly recall how they got there. You just know that you gave in to the speed of the keys and made your way to the finish line.
The brush pen and the dip pen, however, force you to slow down. You become deliberate in how you choose and write each word. This process forces you to stretch beyond your usual boundaries and find the "something new" that will keep you relevant and inspiring. You are submitting to the process without any regard for time.
I also love calligraphy pens because they give me some kind of flashback to the past eras when writers created some of the timeless works that we are still reading and talking about. In almost all accounts, people have written the first drafts of these works with some kind of pen ink from a well and it has been transcribed to survive for generations.
Thinking about how writers did all of this before the convenience of modern tools is inspiring. It forces me to look inward and determine how and where I am spoiled. I do not know what it would do to my process to have to rely only on a piece of paper and the ink from a calligraphy pen. Thanks to the Internet and other tools, I may not ever have to find this out, unless I am brave.