IT SOMETIMES HAPPENS that Dr. Boli is approached by young writers eager to absorb some of his wisdom and experience. What, they ask, does a writer need to succeed in his chosen art?

Invariably Dr. Boli gives them the same answer: good ink. A writer can get by with indifferent paper, provided it does not feather the ink; and the last time Dr. Boli checked (which he admits was some time ago) a gross of steel pens, even of the finest quality, could be had for very little money. But the ink itself must be chosen with great care. Dr. Boli would even go so far as to say that no one can be a good writer without good ink. To a degree seldom sufficiently acknowledged, the flow of ink determines the flow if ideas.

An ink too runny will blot the page; too thick will clog the pen. But ink of exactly the right consistency—that is one of the great pleasures in a writer’s life. Words, sentences, whole paragraphs roll off the tip of the pen without another trip to the inkwell.

Dr. Boli would like to be able to recommend one particular ink and be done with it, but—alas!—the question is not as simple as that. The ink must be matched to the pen.

Dr. Boli himself is partial to the Esterbrook No. 910 Cashier’s Pen, a very fine and somewhat flexible point for which a thin and free-flowing writing fluid is best. The same ink would blot uncontrollably with a broader nib.

Recently Dr. Boli has been informed of certain developments in mechanical science that would supposedly render pen and ink obsolete. He hopes that he may be forgiven a certain degree of skepticism. Until the new mechanical wonders have proved themselves beyond a reasonable doubt, he will continue to advise young writers to devote particular attention to the choice of ink.


  1. RBH says:

    It is perhaps presumptuous of me to take issue with you, Dr. Boli, but I must object to your cavalier dismissal of the role of the pen. It is not merely the determinant of the proper consistency of ink, but is intimately associated with one’s writing style. I have found that when I use a thicker pen with a broader nib and the proper ink, my writing becomes florid, with similes flowing off the nib like water over the Falls of Niagara plunging into the abyss below to be carried on the sea beyond. On the other hand, a thinner pen with appropriate ink produces lean sentences.

  2. Leaf says:

    My favorite ink comes from squid.

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