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How my love of fountain pens changed my handwriting

I figured you all could use a little colour content from TFQ this week. I’ve been discussing serious things like digital literacy, habit building, and productivity. This week is about my whimsical yet life-altering change: handwriting.

As all good stories at TFQ begin, I was in the middle of writing my thesis. It was a gruelling process, and I didn’t feel like I had everything together. My attention span lasted about two to five minutes maximum, and I kept taking short breaks that turned into hour-long Netflix binges.

At this rate I realised I would never see this milestone project through to the end.

That growing anxiety led me to Pinterest. I grew up reading the Harry Potter books like most kids in my generation, and I thought I could motivate myself by looking up Ravenclaw core* because — of course, I would — at this point, I was looking for anything to rekindle my love of scholarship.

And I did.

I found Dark Academia, and I was in love.

Gothic architecture, stunning winter coats, learning for learning’s sake, and a distinct mystique about oneself. There were giant libraries, ancient languages, the sciences, and poetry appreciation.

Granted, 90% of what I found were colonial representations, so I applied Dark Academia values to my roots to make it my own. I started the transformation with the simplest thing I could incorporate into my daily life: handwriting.

Why did I change my handwriting?

Cursive was always my favourite way to write, but, having been schooled in South Africa, that particular skill was drummed out of me at a young age. While my Indian cohorts were refining this skill throughout their school careers, I thought I had lost it forever.

I forgot that never seems to be the case in real life.

In 2020 I resumed my cursive journey. I changed my handwriting because I missed the beauty of learning. My learning process at the time had little beauty, and I couldn’t stand it. I wrote my MA notes in wonky cursive every day, and, my god! It was quite atrocious at first!

With this small, highly experimental change, I instantly felt more in control of the MA process. Information started to become knowledge through physically writing down what I learned, and in just a few weeks, I was out of that unproductive slump. Of course, I didn’t feel great about being unmotivated and wholly distracted for that long, so I reminded myself that I was reading for this degree in unprecedented circumstances. Also, over time, my handwriting became increasingly beautiful, and discovering that beauty every day was a win.

Handwriting varies from person to person, and I liken them to voices. Everyone has a distinct voice, and handwriting is the “sound” of their thoughts. I wanted my thoughts to look beautiful, and with deliberate practice I developed my handwriting "voice", and I was delighted!

Manuscript (print) writing was the norm. Until it wasn't. | Photograph by Shraddha Patnala (2023) ©

The pros of cursive writing (1)

Hand writing plays a critical role in learning and cognitive development. The physical process of writing develops:

  • fine motor skills,

  • better recall of information,

  • improved hand-eye coordination

By the end of April 2020 I had resumed cursive writing exclusively. Notes from my MA reading and daily bullet journals. | Photographs by: Shraddha Patnala (2023) ©

Additionally, cursive handwriting requires patience, concentration, and deliberate practice. It made me slow down and think about what I committed to paper. During this time, I noticed fewer unfiltered thoughts and a more refined inner voice dictating the writing.

My growing collection

Growing into my adulthood, I enjoyed tools that were of higher quality. Although I love disposable stationery and used it regularly for lecture notes and art, I recognised the distinct beauty and posterity of fountain pens.

They looked cool, they were designed to last, and they made an impression.

I was 21 when I received my first fountain pen, a beautiful silver and gold Parker. It was a gift from my partner. It had a comfortable, reassuring weight, and I used it to sign all critical paperwork with that pen. This pen sparked my interest in collecting more such beautiful tools.

The Parker; my first fountain pen. | Photograph by: Shraddha Patnala (2023) ©

When I turned 23, I got my second fountain pen, a gift from a dear uncle. This emerald and onyx beauty was created in Rajamundry, India, by Ratnam Pens, the country’s first and oldest fountain pen craftsmen. This pen was rooted in history and carried me through the first year of the MA programme.

The Ratnam pen and the tissue I used to test inkflow. | Photograph by: Shraddha Patnala (2020) ©

During my thesis writing phase I switched to Lamy and Pilot pens — I’ve always preferred a fine nib, so the Japanese pens became my go-to every day.

My growing collection of fine inks, Pilot, Lamy, Kaweco, and TWSBI fountain pens; my carbon ink artwork; and me, outside for the first time in months, journaling in the park during the lesser lockdown of the pandemic. | Photographs by: Sharddha Patnala & Lewis Dwyer (2023) ©

Now I have a small collection, and I love these pens wholeheartedly. They are designed to help people find joy in the creative process. And for me, that joy is mine to experience every day!

Why do I like old-school tools in the modern world?

I love “old-fashioned” writing tools because they offer a distinct, visceral beauty. I get to be mindful about how and why I’m using them to write. They remind me to appreciate the craft of making such beautiful tools, and use them with patience and discipline.

I am entirely present when I use my fountain pen to write or draw.

I hope you, too, find beauty in the tools of your trade. Until next week, be well and stay mindful!


*Ravenclaw core: pictures, music, textures, literature, and even fragrances that would suit the aesthetic of the house that values knowledge, mastery, wit, and learning.

(1): Ryff TD. CURSIVE WRITING: THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE. URL: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/ Accessed on 27 February 2023.

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Pam Eapen
Pam Eapen

A few thoughts:

1. Cursive is elegance incarnate. And you've really captured that elegance!

2. The only times I was successful taking notes in uni was when I wrote in cursive or stylised slanted print. Basically, mindful writing forced me to pay attention to what I was listening to and parse meaning as I wrote.

3. There are few luxuries as satisfying as an obsession with beautiful writing tools 😍


You and me = same brain cell 😄 I love that writing mindfully is a Thing™️ in your life. When you get your new fountain pen — I literally cannot wait to see it — please show us what the little beauty looks like 💛

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