Pen anyone?

The interesting thing about being a writer is that everything is work and nothing is work. No matter what we are doing in our daily lives, we are generally thinking about writing about it. And, when we are at work, we really don’t always feel like what we are doing is work.

My point is, sometimes the line gets blurry. An example of this would be my recent search for last minute Christmas gifts. I found what seemed like a brilliant idea in a blog for writers. The blog showed, sort of, how to turn ordinary clear ink pens into pretty pens. There were no words with this blog, just photos.

Then a friend said one of her gift recipients had asked for pretty pens from Santa. “No fear,” I said, “I know how to make them and I have tons of pretty paper from my trek into the scrap booking realm.” So we bought some pens.

Sitting down to work on this project, I thought it would take me a few minutes a pen and I would soon have a whole handful ready to stick in a stocking. Wrong.

Turns out, there is a reason they didn’t put words with that blog … curse words wouldn’t have seemed appropriate.

First off, getting paper to wrap around that tiny little ink cartridge is no easy task. I tried double-sided tape (which I thought would work) but it was too thick and kept the paper from fitting into the plastic cylinder near the tip of the pen. So then I decided to just tape the paper onto the ink cartridge.

Of course, when I did that, I had the paper too far up on the cartridge and needed to slide it down some. I couldn’t slide it down, though, because I had already taped it to the cartridge.

While working with the paper and the tape, I pulled too hard and the ink cartridge came out of the plastic barrel but left the paper inside. That would have been great except that when I slid the ink cartridge back in, you could still see gaps in the paper, and the cartridge was still visible.

Some 45 minutes later, I had three pens completed in condition that I would consider “gift-able” but not as perfect as they looked on the blog. The pens cost around $3 for six of them and the paper and tape were free because I already had them on hand. However, if one figures labor and frustration into the deal, those last minute stocking stuffers come off as rather expensive.

I am sure the groove I bit into my tongue while preventing myself from using salty language will heal someday. But I did end up with something to write about for the morning.

Back now to my original line of thought: If I made pretty pens for a living, this experience might have been a total failure. However, since I write for a living, I get to explain my dreadful attempt and (hopefully) make you all laugh a bit. Now the experience is a success and not a failure.

JERRIE WHITELEY is city editor of the Herald Democrat. E-mail her at