It’s not even the end of January, and I’ve already been tempted with a slew of new or upcoming pens, dangled in front of me, metaphorically, via the internet. And I don’t want pens, darn it. But the weather is terrible, and I’ve been inside a lot. Also, I’m weak.
On the other hand, because I have zero willpower, over the years I have developed some excellent coping mechanisms of my own, and jealously catalogued others. And I am going to share some of those here, in hopes of inspiring myself. Or, more realistically, in hopes of keeping my attention otherwise occupied, so I don’t buy anything. (See Number 4, below.)
1. The Fifties Popular Culture Method. This is my most-used, and most recommended, method of resisting temptation. It’s simple and effective, and can be summed up in one word: “Don’t.” Don’t resist at all. Give in, immediately. The key is to do so wholeheartedly. You don’t beat yourself up; instead, you congratulate yourself. You aren’t an undisciplined profligate; oh no. You are madcap, fun-filled and aglow with the love of life. You “seize the day.” You embody the mantra that “we only live once.” You never forget that “life is a banquet!”
Your spiritual home is a bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Your song is “Que Sera, Sera.”
2. Reason, Maturity and Proportion. This is where you stop yourself, take a deep breath, and really contemplate “why” you “need” this thing. Why, in a world so beautiful, in a lifetime that’s so short, where every breath you take could be seen as a miracle, where every sparrow’s fall is consequential — and where you already have more pens and inks than a person can use up in a lifetime — does acquiring another “thing” matter?
Your spiritual home is a gorgeous, mountain-side monastery, and your song is “Every Grain of Sand.” (This is not my usual method, but I do love that song.)
3. Delay. This is pretty easy, and especially suitable for those, like me, with a short attention span. Now what was I saying? Oh yes, delay.
Here’s how it works: something is announced and you see it on some social network site or other. Your perfectly normal reaction is, “Ooooh, shiny. Want!” You should absolutely feel free to start looking for it immediately. But I want you to attack that task with determination; I want you to give it your all. Spend a lot of time. Figure out who has it, what the price is, how much shipping would be, what nib size you want, what your friends think, what your “not really friends because they are mean to you about your choices” friends think, what other people (complete strangers using anonymous handles like “LuvFurPens”) think about it, what other stores have it, then whether the nib size you thought you wanted is really the right one, then whether there’s a converter that fits, then rethink the nib size and maybe reconsider the ideal color a few more times.
And then — and this is critical — next you have check how much it is at a store abroad. Keeping in mind that, wherever you happen to live, it will always be cheaper somewhere else.
At which point, you absolutely need to do some more sleuthing, but this time, at online merchants in other countries. Translate some words from languages you do not speak, do the currency conversion, figure out international shipping costs, do the currency conversion on that, too, then figure out if you can add a few things to justify the international shipping, then figure out if you can add a few more things beyond that, so you have enough to qualify for free international shipping. Now, with your cart full of $150, or €75 or £50 worth of items — now, and only now — you can pause. In fact, you must. This is now not just buying some small item that caught your fancy. It is now a Bigger Deal. You need to give yourself time to think. You started out looking for a $20 pen or a $15 bottle of ink; now you’ve got €150 in your cart.
Better start all over again. At a minimum, is it really cheaper when I buy everything? Maybe some of those things are cheaper elsewhere, so the whole basket would be cheaper from another merchant. Or, maybe I should just buy it in my own country and pay the slightly more expensive $20 price, but only get that one item. And maybe I need to compare a few stores right here.
But then, once you’ve settled on a source in your own country, and you’ve got it in your cart — well, of course, now, once again, you should pause.
If it all worked properly, you now have at least two carts full, with merchants in at least two different countries. And, by this point, the minutes have ticked past, perhaps bled into hours. Uh oh. You probably have to do some real work, or make dinner or do chores, or maybe you’re slated to have some actual in-person interaction pretty soon. And maybe, if everything took a good long time, you now feel disenchanted with the stupid item anyway. It cost you all that time, after all, and you still don’t have it. Stupid pen/ink/notebook. Now you’re behind on everything, just because of that stupid thing. And wait, do you really like the color burnt orange? Or a medium nib? Who wants a medium nib? Just forget it. You can go back tomorrow.
And probably, the next day, you won’t even remember that you had to have that thing. Or, if you do remember, you’ll think, meh, it’s not such a big deal anyway. I’m pretty sure I hate the color burnt orange. Maybe I’ll see it in my next club meeting/pen show/trip out of the house. And then I can decide.
Your spiritual home is the internet, and your song is “Lost in the Supermarket.”
4. Deflect and Distract. You can’t buy something if you do something else. Clean your desk (ugh, me lately, and okay this stinks — forget I mentioned it). Better is to read a book. Listen to music. Open the Poetry Foundation’s website: start with the poem of the day, then explore. Talk to a friend. Email an old friend. Find a new recipe to make for dinner tomorrow. Figure out the movie schedules this weekend. Invite a nearby friend over, or out for coffee. Turn on the tv (maybe the Blackhawks are playing). Do laundry. Clean the basement or a closet. Go to the library. Take a walk. Read a blog. Write a blog. Write a comment on a blog! Ah, that’s excellent. Life is beautiful.
Your spiritual home is a seashore at sunset, and your song is (Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay.
5. Self-Discipline. In which you look at all the pens and inks you already own, and realize you should just use those instead of buying something new.
Your spiritual home is a cabin somewhere off the grid, not connected to the internet, and you have no song, because that would require electricity. I find you inhuman.