The other day, I asked a woman at the doctor’s office if I could take a look at her pen. She gave me kind of an odd stare, so I said, “I’ve got a thing about pens.”
It wasn’t the most elegant way to explain my interest in writing instruments. That got me to thinking about how other people have said it. One thing led to another, and I ended up looking at pithy quotes about pens on the internet.
Here are some of the pen quotes that either amused me or seemed to have a particular resonance:
Table of Contents
- 1 Paul Simon
- 2 Gaston Bachelard
- 3 George Denison Prentice
- 4 Graham Greene
- 6 Mitch Hedberg
- 7 Voltaire
- 8 Thomas Jefferson
- 9 Billy Collins
- 10 Oscar Neimeyer
- 11 Petrarch
1. You want to be a writer, but you don’t know how or when. Find a quiet place; use a humble pen.
Lyrics to the song Hurricane Eye by Paul Simon from the 2000 studio album You’re the One.
2. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream.
Gaston Bachelard, another French philosopher and writer, in his 1960 work The Poetics of Reverie, which examined the expansiveness of language and imagination.
George Denison Prentice
3. The pen is a formidable weapon, but a man can kill himself with it a great deal more easily than he can other people.
Quoted from Prenticeana: Or, Wit and Humor in Paragraphs by George Denison Prentice. Prentice, editor of the Louisville (Kentucky) Journal in the mid 19th century, learned his own lesson the hard way. History has not looked kindly on his more xenophobic writing.
4. My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.
Graham Greene gave this quote about pens in an interview with the International Herald Tribune in 1977. Greene was an English novelist who wrote more than two dozen books, including The Third Man and The Quiet American.
5. I bought a $7 pen because I always lose pens and I got sick of not caring.
A joke from Mitch Hedberg’s stand-up routine. He was known for never going anywhere without his pen and notebook. Hedberg even wrote a fan letter to Uniball and asked about the possibility of sponsorship.
6. To hold a pen is to be at war.
The French philosopher Voltaire wrote this in 1748 to Jeanne-Grâce Bosc du Bouchet, wife of a childhood friend. He also wrote basically the same thing to Marie Mignot, his niece, a few years later.
7. Go on then in doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword: shew that reformation is more practicable by operating on the mind than on the body of man…
Thomas Jefferson wrote this in 1792 in a fan letter of his own to Thomas Paine, the well-known pamphleteer and author of Common Sense. A variant of the “pen is mightier than the sword” idea, except that Jefferson wrote it 40 years before Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s famous line.
8. The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out.
Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States, had this to say in a 2001 interview with George Plimpton in the Paris Review.
9. I pick up my pen. It flows. A building appears. There it is. There is nothing more to say.
Brazilian master architect Oscar Neimeyer, a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and a master of modern design, explained himself succinctly in a 2007 interview with the Guardian.
10. There is no lighter burden, nor more agreeable, than a pen. Other pleasures fail us, or wound us while they charm; but the pen we take up rejoicing and lay down with satisfaction, for it has the power to advantage not only its lord and master, but many others as well, even though they be far away — sometimes, indeed, though they be not born for thousands of years to come.
This is my personal favorite of the quotes about pens. It was written by 14th-century Italian scholar Petrarch in a letter to his friend Giovanni Boccaccio.