I’ve been in the fountain pen hobby for years, on and off, but I’ve never fallen headlong into it the way I have over the last couple of years. A friend’s 30 Inks in 30 Days posts on social media reminded me ‘hey, I like fountain pens!’ in late 2021, and I hauled out my very dusty box of old ink bottles and tried to figure out where I left my pens.

Next thing I know, I’m knee-deep in ink samples and new pens.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that things are wildly out of control.

And I don’t mind! It’s okay! I’m not alone, and I’m not feeling guilty. But it’s certainly true that I have probably acquired slightly too many pens, and definitely more ink than I’d probably use in my lifetime. (It’s somewhere north of 200 bottles at this point.)

“Too many” and “too much” are largely subjective, of course. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I have interesting pens and ink that languish un-used because I have more good stuff than I can get to.

So, after some thought, I’ve come up with a plan about how to make better use of what I have, and how to avoid buying for the same of buying. My goals are:

1. Stop buying ink

…if I have something similar. I have a lot of inks that are very, very similar to each other (who’s got two thumbs and five Lamy Turmaline dupes? this girl!) and within each colour area I have my favourites, so the others just don’t get used.

From now on, I check comparison swatches before I buy.

2. Sell or gift pens

…if they don’t spark joy. I have a couple of pens that were unsuccessful experiments, I have some cheap pens I bought on a whim, and a couple of pens I wanted to love but just never use. Thus my intention: I’m going to sell the reasonably valuable ones online, and gift the AliExpress cheapies at local pen meets and to people who need penabling. I don’t intend to be too hard on myself, but if I can’t see myself inking up any given pen this year, it should find a loving home elsewhere.

Me: Nobody needs three Lamy Vistas, Eleanor.

Also me: Oooh, another demonstrator pen! *clicks ‘add to cart’*

3. Keep fewer pens inked up

I have a terrible habit of inking up ever new pen that comes through the door, and then I wind up with fifteen inked pens at the end of the month and I’ve either got to stick with the same inks (bored now!) or waste ink and flush them out.

So I’m going to try to keep my currently inked list a bit more lean:

  • A flex-y pen (e.g. my Pilot Custom Heritage 912 FA) inked up for headers and fancy display writing
  • A clicky pen (Majohn A1 or Pilot VP) inked in a black ink to replace the gel pen I use in my planner
  • About five pens inked in interesting colours for desk notes, work, journalling, etc.
  • A set of pens inked in specific colours for hobby purposes

4. Find new activities to use my pens

I’m already doing pretty well on this front! One of my main hobbies is playing tabletop roleplaying games, and I keep fairly extensive notes (both out-of-character notes on what’s going on in the game, and in-character notes about what’s going on with my character). I’ve always colour-coded these for easy reference when flicking back through years of notes, and I’ve gradually migrated all these pens to screw-cap fountain pens with strong seals so the ink will stay good for months. With eleven different colours in use, this is a great start towards making good use of my pens.

Next up: drawing and sketching. I’ve been wanting to get back into art for a while now, and I’m hoping this will be a good chance to enjoy my fountain pens and inks in another context.

So there we have it. These might not be foolproof strategies, but it’s not like I’m trying to stop buying pens and inks altogether. I’d just like to be a bit more mindful about what I buy and what I use, to get the most out of my money and my choices. 

I’m sure I’m not alone in wrestling with the questions of “how many fountain pens is too many?” and “how can I use all this ink?” so if you’ve come up with any good solutions please tell me, because I’d love to hear them!