Yesterday was Autistics Speaking Day, at least on the Internet, anyway. A lot of new ‘days’ have emerged, including 4th May to mark Star Wars day and a couple of weeks ago was Ada Lovelace Day, to commemorate an early computing engineer and by early I mean Victorian. I think every day should be celebrated though there comes a point when you need to live your life and not be on permanent holiday or ‘Internet holiday’ mode.

Anyway, yesterday I only saw it was Autistics Speaking Day on Twitter later on in the day. I couldn’t be bothered writing a post after writing one about walking in Edinburgh. So, here is a belated post, all about pens.

I have a lot of pens. Day to day, I carry two, a black ball-point and a fancy gel or ink pen in blue. The former is for regular writing, notes, signatures, while the latter is my proper creative pen. At the moment I use a Zebra Z-Grip Flight for my boring pen. It looks good and is light in my hand. Most importantly it doesn’t smear on the page. I bought it in Morrison’s. My fancy pen came from Paperchase and is an Uni-ball Vision Elite. It is also light in heft but writes quite heavily in dark blue.

So why am I writing about pens for Autistics Speaking Day? A pen for me, like most people, is a tool. It is also a sacred object and yet easily thrown away. Incredible words come out of pens as a sort of conduit. The pen is mightier than the sword, after all. But mainly because when I feel stressed, I can slip a pen into my hand, click or just hold it and it’s fine, I have some degree of control again. In academic books, it’s called local coherence and people find it in different ways. When I was in London a couple of weeks ago, I was in Liverpool Street Station at rush hour. What I did was focus on the PA announcements, listening to the rhythm of the place names as recited. On the Underground, as I often do on the Glasgow Subway, I kept my eyes on the map or on the adverts. Other people do other things. Some stim and make noises or actions. Others visualise a happier place or time. I think that’s true of lots of people whether they are on the spectrum or not.

I usually click the pen at least twice, which is of course practical as getting ink over your hands isn’t an ideal scenario. Usually it’s my boring pen I use as most fancy pens I use have a lid. Sometimes I click more, sometimes less. Even when I don’t have paper to write on, I will always have a pen either on me or nearby, just in case. Thankfully I don’t have meltdowns much anymore and I have well-honed strategies about keeping myself okay. Carrying a pen is one of them though it’s more than a crutch as I’ve said: it’s a tool for life.

A story to finish on. A few years ago, I went for the day to the Samye Ling Buddhist monastery in Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway. I was particularly captivated when I was there by a little island surrounded by a pond. It had a little Buddha sitting on a pedestal and lots of windchimes. People had left a little something of themselves there, prayers, buttons, money, I think. I took a pen from my pocket and left it there, my sacred in a larger sacred place.


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