It’s odd at first – having to dip the pen every five or six words to get ink on it, trying to find the right angle, the feathers….. At first the pen jerks and catches across the paper, blotting and splashing the page. Then you realise it has to be held at a certain angle, and once you get that right, it flows across the page.
As for the dipping – annoying at first, but then it becomes a sort of chance to catch your breath, a brief pause to quickly review what you’re writing.
As for the paper – you can’t write on just any paper – the ink bleeds. It has to be a certain kind. The ink gets everywhere – you can see why people are always embroidering penwipes for each other in old novels. They need them!
And you can’t write just anywhere – what with the bottle of ink and the wipes and the paper, it has to be at a specific place, preferably a desk. (And sealing wax – I’ve been playing with that too! You know on TV, when those actors quickly write with a quill pen across the page and then drop wax on it and seal it? They must practice that for hours to get it that smooth!)
But despite these disadvantages, it is quite fun. Sitting there, at my desk,dipping and writing, makes me feel sort of Jane Austenish. Or Charlotte Bronteish if I’m in that mood. Even Charles Dickenish. And it does affect what I write. Not just a Victorian Gothic story (because that’s so rare for me!) but one written in letter form, which I haven’t done before.
I think the advantage is the ‘playing’ aspect. It’s the same when I have a new notepad – I want to play with it, and that means settling down and writing. It makes writing less of a chore, and more fun.
So on the whole – even if you’re writing a pre-twentieth century novel (or even pre-World War II) I’d suggest giving the quill pen a go. Once you get the hang of it, you may find it helps you find an authentically historical voice.