The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword
A reflection. By Dominic Watson
What do you buy the Rockstar in your life?
How a “boring” present surprisingly turned out to be the best gift Dominic has received in his adult life (so far).
Once the early bloom of youth has passed, living fast and dying young, no longer seems such a great idea. Punk gets replaced with pragmatism in what amounts to a quiet personal revolution.
For those who start a family, there comes a further biochemical induced personality change. A shift away from a narrow self-centric focus, to a wider more considered outlook. We grow a deeper environmental conscience as Mother Nature’s ever present guiding hand, kicks in to safeguard the survival of our species, ensuring that we strive to make choices so that our children and grandchildren will inherit a planet that is still blue and green and beautiful. At least those of us not thinking the earth is flat or that climate change doesn’t exist do!
Not to be outdone, father time brings his own reward, the gift of wisdom. Arming us with a new-found insight and casting a fresh light and perspectives on the world and our place within it. Somewhat surprisingly, we also discover that there is far more pleasure in giving than receiving, something that our self-involved young mind never really believed.
As the “giving: receiving” pendulum swings in a new direction, many of us take this change to the other extreme by becoming increasingly difficult people to buy presents for [especially if we are watching our calories and alcohol intake!]
As a 45 year old working family man, I definitely fall into this category. It is not that I don’t love thoughtful gifts from my nearest and dearest, it is rather that as a recipient, I struggle with the mandatory present giving dates. Christmas and birthdays are magical times for children and I love to spoil my wife and parents too when I can, but I can’t get my head around the fact that my family members feel obligated to buy “things” for me around these days.
As I have gotten older, I prefer to have fewer things of a higher quality rather than gifts just for the sake of giving. Simply acquiring more random “shiny” possessions does not align with my constant battle to keep a busy family home a calm and clutter free environment. [Admittedly something of a losing battle with the sports gear, toys, paraphernalia and chaos that comes with raising 2 spirited young boys who are into absolutely everything!]
As we get older, the other thing that makes it harder for others to buy us gifts, is that we are often able to afford to buy the things we fancy, be it music, films or clothes and do so, as and when we see them. This means that there is little left to ask for when someone enquires about a birthday or Christmas present list. This unhelpful approach means that for those who feel obligated to buy presents in their desire to be kind, come up with all sorts of unpredictable gifts. As a reaction to this, in our house, we have a present box [a stash of ready presents to give to other people when the need arises.] I am embarrassed to admit that many of the gifts that I receive end up unused and unopened in the present box, ready to be recycled as gifts to other people.
So when I randomly received a “posh” Waterman ballpoint pen from my sister, many Christmases ago, without any great conviction, I tried my best to make all the right noises and look excited. At least the pen was small and did not take up much space. But in the electronic age, what on earth did I need a pen for? Rather like a paper weight, it was something that did not really seem to have much of a genuine practical function, apart from perhaps as some sort of posy object d’art. Yet whilst I did not realise it at the time, it was to become the best present received in my adult life to date. Giving me more pleasure than all of the other gifts received put together.
It had seemed such a boring present and so it remained unopened in its posh presentation packaging in our present box, ready to be recycled as a gift for someone else more appreciative. Until one day almost a year later, fate intervened. I needed a pen to write a birthday card for my Dad and for some reason could not find any of our stash of biros normally kept in the kitchen draw. Having scoured all of the other usual places where I might normally find a pen, I remembered the posh pen.
Having navigated the difficult to open presentation packaging (which had necessitated something akin to a minor outpatient surgical operation) I finally held the pen in my hand. I was genuinely surprised by how good it felt. You hear the phrase ‘ergonomically designed’ used so often in adverts these days that it has begun to sound like white noise. I don’t wish to stray into the realms of wine label descriptions, but it felt really good to hold and write with. For some reason, having a posh pen in my hand for the first time in my life inspired me to take a little more time to write the card and to think a little more carefully about the message I wrote in it for my Dad.
The following Monday, I took the pen to work and began to use it to sign letters. To my immense surprise, the novelty did not wear off and my wife quickly bored of me raving about how good it felt to hold and write with. At the time, all of my letters were word processed and printed, but as I signed them, I started to take the time to hand-write a personalised P.S. message on much of my correspondence. It felt good to use and it felt great to take a little time to think more about who I was writing to and how I could continue to be professional and efficient. I was also demonstrating a degree of personalisation to show the people I corresponded with, that they were not just an anonymous number as part of a robotic process in a business machine. This was not a conscious decision, it was something that just evolved. However, the feedback was great and my level of engagement with customers improved and relationships genuinely became deeper and richer. We all like to feel that we are good at what we do and deep down, whatever our role, we all want to feel like we make a difference is some small way, so this gave me immense joy.
And it was through this organic feedback that my mind suddenly opened up to all sorts of new possibilities to the power of the pen.
“The pen is mightier than the sword” kept flashing into my mind.
If I was creating such positive relationships, resulting in happy outcomes with customers, what else could I achieve with this pen?
I began to make the time to write hand written thank you cards for suppliers too, for example when they had done a really great job, or delivered on work for my company at short-notice to a tight deadline. This made me feel good and I’m aware that it made them feel great too. We all like to be appreciated.
On the conclusion of projects with customers who I had enjoyed working with, I began to write letters to thank them for their business and with a genuine interest in staying in touch, without there being any future potential business reason.
I bought a page a day diary that I kept close to me at all times and kept the posh pen inside it, scribbling down ideas as they popped into my mind (anyone who knows me, will understand how that quickly filled up!) Whenever I thought of one of my wider family I would make a note in my diary and then follow it up with a quick handwritten letter, to tell them a little news and to let them know they were in my thoughts. Before this, I had often had the same thoughts and appreciation, but had never taken the time to follow it up and communicate it to them.
I began to get myself more organised – greatly enjoying the dopamine hit I received as a reward each time I ticked an item off my list. I bought a hardback notebook and began to sketch out personal goals and targets. One of these was to “write a book” it was in this same notebook that I began to expand on and manifest the idea in the real world.
Now some 10 years later, the pen has become a prized possession and is something I still use every day. In the Social Media age and with the price of postage much higher (but still very affordable for letters] I believe that hand written correspondence is a scarcer thing than ever and for the recipient, this makes it a bigger deal and even more exciting. The pleasure of this form of communication and ‘giving’, is also still very much mine.
The pen still feels great in the hand and still writes beautifully, but it is now rather battered and scratched on the outside. To me it is the closest thing that I could have to a real life incarnation of a wand. A magical object that possesses endless possibilities, limited only to whatever my mind can conceive. I have no doubt that it will help me create another book. Yet in its battered state, its resale value is negligible. In real terms it is worth less the cost of a nice cup of coffee, though it has intrinsically become one of my 2 favourite possessions (the second is my guitar.) Both have been on a journey with me and in my mind, form an extension of my personality. I hope that one day my sons will treasure my pen and my guitar as part of my legacy and use them to similar effect to bring joy, achievement and space and time to think and express themselves.
If you are looking for a present for yourself or someone you care about, you could do a lot worse than a posh pen.
If you buy a pen as a gift for someone that has not read this article, maybe this poem will help them to put it to good use much faster than I did.
My Gift to You
The pen is mightier than the sword,
It is often said,
I give it to you in the hope, that your words will be read.
In a binary world of clicks and likes,
Of busy days filled with strife,
I urge you to use this pen, to better shape your life.
To take time out, to simply think,
to feel and then to write,
To wash away things from your past that make you feel contrite.
Freeing you to manifest dormant dreams that lie within,
This device holds the power, your words to share,
This tool is powerful, so use it with care,
More wand than sword it contains the power to give or take
The gift of love, of laughter
The gift and promise of happy ever after
With this pen you can change or even save a life.
Use it wisely, use if fairly
But whatever you do don’t leave it in the box and live a life less daring.
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