Maria Konnikova

Welcome to my blog. I’ll do my best to update it regularly (or semi-regularly, at the least…) with news, writing updates, and other assorted thoughts. Read, enjoy, and please share your thoughts and comments. If you’re looking for psychology pieces at the New Yorker, you can find them here. If you’re looking for my old blog about literature and psychology, Literally Psyched, you can find it here.

Hour glass illustration

Lessons in writing

April 4, 2012

As in, lessons in writing, quite literally. Not typing. Not printing. Writing. If you’re using that artifact of yore, the fountain pen, how do you know the proper way to hold it, the proper way to angle it on the page, the proper pressure to apply, lest you unknowingly ruin the nib — and are thus forced to revert to less glamorous/capricious means of self-expression? I happen to write most of my fiction longhand–with a fountain pen, no less. The question for me was more than academic when I first held the alien instrument.

I was happy to discover that I wasn’t the first, and that my concern was in no way a product of the modern age of paperless communication. Here, a primer from A new booke, containing all sorts of hands (1611), from the Folger Shakespeare Library:

And here, a modern version, courtesy of Montblanc, which I have to admit is much like the original, if a touch less poetic:

I think I’m more impressed by 1611. “How you ought to hold your penne.”  Good, naught. How can you not love it?

Images from The Collation’s “Spotlight on a Calligrapher” and the Montblanc website “product care” section.


  1. JoseAngel says:

    My keyboard’s my only pen, alas, but a son of mine has developed a passion for fountain pens and inks and reads specialised forums and websites on the subject and makes me order special inks and nibs online, custom-made by cult followers and originals. It’s a whole world of tiny niches for people with special taste out there. I suppose there’s also hidden corners for people who still use typewriters, and, who knows, even vintage computers from the 1980s.

  2. I hold my pen in the other hand so I am unsure if it is “good or naught”, however I think I may begin to use a suitable mirror to aid me in astute compliance to the proper method, then all should be write with the world! However the text will then be flowing in the opposite direction plus upside down and backwards. These are magnificent challenges every writer must face. Plus my chellspecker is not functioning properly. Oh bother…

    Loving what it is that you do,


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