Alpha Pen

I am a magpie. If it is shiny, gadgety, or streamlines some function that I didn’t even know was difficult I must own it (I have a hard time keeping track of my money, as you may imagine). Despite this, I have never seen the point in shiny shiny pens, especially as in hospital pens go missing or break on a daily basis. I have several times found myself writing with a pen that not only isn’t the pen I started the day with, but isn’t even one I’ve seen before and one I have no recollection of acquiring. It is a weird feeling to be that unaware of your surroundings that you don’t even notice what you’re holding in your hand.

Of course, blue pens are forbidden in hospital notes, something about photocopying.

Prior to a fortnight ago the nicest pen I’ve ever owned was a Parker fountain pen in school and since starting doctoring (or even university) it was a luxury to write with something that wasn’t a cheap biro. I contemplated getting a nice pen once, maybe when I started F1 or graduated or something, but figured: why get something nice when it’ll probably just disappear?

Enter Kickstarter. In browsing around I wound up backing a pen called the Alpha pen; it was shiny, I liked the pitch, and I crumbled under pressure. It is solid aluminium, has a screw-cap (how impractical!) and takes Mont Blanc refills (which are surprisingly inexpensive considering, although obviously not as cheap as Bic biros). It was made by a machinist best-known for making LED lights over the the US who was branching out, and I plumbed for the early bird aluminium version. It looks amazing and has a pleasant heft in the hand, and has a metal clip that feels like it will last until the end of the world. This is good because I am a fidget and usually break the clip off a pen within 24 hours. I’ve been writing with this pen for weeks and the clip isn’t a millimetre out of place. The only improvement I’d make to this pen is to have one in copper – bug-killing bacteriotoxic copper would be a hit with infection control and lets face it, copper is just so damn shiny.

Mine's the left-hand version

I write nearly all day. The image of doctors portrayed by TV is dramatic and all and although there are difficult moments the single most time-consuming aspect of my day-to-day life is writing. I write prescriptions, clerkings, histories, blood results, ward round entries, investigation requests, on-call reviews and more, every hour of every day. When I see a new patient I spend 15 minutes talking to them/examining them and then half an hour writing drug charts, admission documents and X-ray requests. Why was I doing this with a piece of crap pen when I could be enjoying the experience a lot more with a better one?

I took the Alpha pen to work, and it was (is!) great. Every time I write something, I notice the pen and the difference it makes. My handwriting is still doctor-poor; it’s not faster or more readable (although the jet-black ink does look more awesome and, as a bonus, photocopies my unreadable handwriting fantastically), but the experience of writing is transformed for the better. I even love the screw-cap I feared would be this pens undoing (ha) – there is a pleasant intent to it, a purposeful “and now, I shall write!” It feels like a second-long ceremony every time you put pen to paper and every time you finish up. It has changed my perspective on writing essays of text in the notes to a positive experience rather than a trial to be overcome.

The idea that a pen is a refill (cheap) and a holder (expensive) is a good one to keep in mind. The Mont Blanc Fineliner refill this pen takes is smooth as butter and is a quality piece of kit – the Mont Blanc pens I’m sure are equally lovely but cost the earth. Writing with a nice pen might be transformative but it’s not worth remortgaging your house.

I don’t think I will ever go back to normal pens at work. The Alpha pen has changed my outlook on that completely, and I’ve gone from being a pen cynic to a convert in the space of a fortnight. My fear of losing it has been mitigated by the fact that I notice when I write with it. The screw cap ceremony reminds me to pocket it when I am done rather than leaving it in the notes or on the desk or just blanking it so it vanishes. Environmentally, I don’t know if refills are less wasteful than the avalanche of pens I used to get through – probably, although the best scenario is to go to something that just takes liquid ink and therefore has minimal wasted materials. Who knows?

Bottom line: I have never really appreciated pens and now I can’t understand why I didn’t.. My experience of writing is changed, my job is improved, and all down to a single length of aluminium and some ink. Write a lot? Give it some thought.

In pieces, refill-free

Credit for all images to Prometheus Lights


3 responses to “Alpha Pen

  1. As a trainee teacher, my (already fairly fervent) love of all things stationery has only increased in fervour. I have a beautiful fountain pen, but largely write with quality rollerballs because they have such a smooth action, and my fountain pen needs some maintenance right now. I also have a wonderful set of good quality Staedtler felt tips – not something a doctor needs, sure, but for prettying up and clarifying notes at uni, or making a comment on a child’s book extra-special, nothing beats them. I’ve had them for two years now, and they still show no sign of running out. Magic!

  2. I concur and I see you concur as well…we both concur! I got my Alpha from the source a few weeks ago and had a chance to meet Jason and see all the stuff he has going! Wow…got the Alpha matching QD keychain flashlight too to make it a set.
    Sometimes I just take it apart and put it back together for fun. Loving the medium rollerball as much or more than the fineliner. Just so ya know Jason has copper flashlights and gave me a brass front piece for the alpha for fun so a copper Alpha is a request away. We shall carry on with style my friend. Smiles, Jim

  3. Pingback: Ink | Running with Stethoscopes·

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