Steve and I were watching YouTube last night and we watched an hour long interview with renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about fountain pens. Because we love fountain pens. And science. And because at heart we are old, old people.
And Dr. Tyson, bless his heart, was so adorably, geekily delighted with his collection of Space-themed fountain pens, and although the interviewer was trying to wrap up he kept showing us more and more pens and talking about their nibs and the ink he chooses to put in them and why he always has to have a pen that posts, which is a term I had not known but means that the cap has to fit on the back of the pen while you are writing. He insists on this because otherwise the pen is too small and insubstantial for his large hand and for his comfort. And he demonstrated writing with one of his pens, and the interviewer pointed out that he holds it a long way back from the tip.
And Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “If you hold it too close, the capacity for flourish is reduced.”
LOVE LOVE LOVE this.
Because of course it is. You can put words down on paper if you are holding the pen right up by the nib, but those words are going to be made up of tiny cramped letters. And maybe tiny cramped letters don’t necessarily imply tiny cramped thoughts – but maybe they encourage them. Maybe if you are writing using only the muscles of your fingertips you have to channel all of your creativity through the tiniest possible part of your body, whereas if you can take that metaphorical step back and write with your wrist, your arm, your shoulder, your body – maybe more of YOU can get through.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I TALK ABOUT WITH MY STUDENTS ALL THE TIME. THIS IS LIKE THE OBOE.
If you play the oboe with your face and your hands, there’s a limit to what you can get. If you manage everything from your embouchure, you can get finesse. You can be very accurate and sound very pretty, but you don’t get FLOW and you don’t get CONNECTION and you don’t get COMMUNICATION and you don’t get FLOURISH.
Those things come from the AIR. They come from trusting the oboe and blowing THROUGH it and allowing your whole body to participate in making the music and sending it out into the world.
We’re still in the early weeks of our teaching year, still just starting to gear up – but I can say confidently that the words, “More AIR, less MOUTH” have come out of my lips at least a dozen times so far. And that’s BEFORE I watched the Director of the Hayden Planetarium be joyful about his pen.
Thank you for the inspiration, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson!