To the first question: No, I certainly do not need 53 inks. I already have more than that. I don’t want to reduce them to 53, thank you.
To the second question, well for those of us who spent the 1980s productively, which means listening to New Order, that’s been answered already, and set to music. “It’s never enough. It’s never enough until your heart stops beating.”
Because, oh please. Asking me whether to stop buying ink is like asking Jack Daniels if you should give up alcohol.
But I assume my friend meant: does she need 53 inks. I hesitate to say what anyone else should do; everyone is different. But this is my rule: do what makes you happy.
Generally, my thought is, if you’d like an ink, and you have the money to spend on it, and it makes you happy, then why not?
Now it’s possible that you want only one or two inks. If that makes you happy, I think that is great. For years I had exactly one ink, because that’s all I needed. I was perfectly happy.
Or maybe you don’t have space. My son went to college with one ink. He was happy just to be able to bring one fountain pen and one ink.
Then there’s always money to consider. Everyone has financial limits. Overspending does not make a person happy.
But if none of those apply, and what you’re asking is “should” you do something, it’s more complicated.
An economist (or your spouse) would suggest that you consider the marginal utility of that extra bottle of ink. If you’ve got a lot of ink already, I bet you do that anyway. For example, you might think, I already have five nice red inks, and I don’t use red ink every day, so do I really need a sixth red ink? Will I use it enough to justify the cost?
I think that’s sensible. When you’ve already got a lot of ink, you probably put the brakes on yourself more often. But sometimes that sixth red ink is really special. And sometimes the sixth ink is really the right red for you.
So it’s good to consider how many other bottles you already own. But I don’t think that marginal utility is necessarily dispositive here.
Because we’re talking about frills and fripperies, bits and bobs. Inks are tiny bottles of gorgeous liquid color. They add fun and sparkle to the everyday; perhaps they lend a dreary task a little lift. Rational calculation only takes you so far. And it can sometimes even take you in the wrong direction.
I’m thinking of a common thing we all do, which is to compromise. You like an ink, but it’s expensive. You buy a cheaper one instead in the same color range. I suppose sometimes it works out. But often that compromise leaves you feeling like you made a mistake, and you regret not buying the one you really wanted.
This may not be a totally rational area. A rational person could argue that a red ink is a red ink. You don’t buy a ballpoint or marker in red and critique the color of the ink, do you? You probably don’t even notice it.
But, I think that if you are a fountain pen ink fan, part of the process of buying fountain pen ink is the making of small distinctions. We have so many wonderful choices among so many inks. Finding a perfect red, or even six of them, is part of the joy of fountain pens in the first place.
I would compare it to being a wine enthusiast, or a fan of tea, or anything like that. The joy of evaluating, and of savoring, ink is part of the fun.
And, for me, here is the thing: it’s supposed to be fun. It’s not about 53 bottles versus 23, or 123. There is no one right answer. When it stops being fun, that’s when you stop. Temporarily or permanently. We all do.
Because sometimes you just need to be in the moment, to stop searching or evaluating. When that happens, enjoy the inks you have. Breathe, metaphorically. Perhaps you can pick up an ink you haven’t used for a while. Or just use ordinary blue or black for a while. Or cull the collection if you want. Clear the decks.
Because at some point you’ll probably once again see an ink that captivates you, that makes you want to put pen to paper, that seems to mesh with how you are feeling or make you feel more creative. And if you can afford it, and it makes you happy, then why not?
An ink may be a little thing. But an ink you enjoy can be a thing of beauty. And Keats knew: a thing of beauty can be a joy forever.