Plain Jane has offered some especially compelling thoughts on how to identify a nerd. She provided some articulate musings about the various categories into which you may pigeonhole a nerd (tragically, ornithology nerds did not make the cut). You may be a computer nerd (gamer, programmer, hacker). You may be a Sci-Fi nerd (Trekkers, Jedi, Battlestar Galactians). You may be a Fantasy nerd (Starks/Lannisters, Hobbits/Elves, Dungeons/Dragons). Admittedly, these are broad categories; you can belong to all three or none at all. What is important is that whatever your nerd-thing is, you are passionate about it. A string of nerd connections led me to a really great quote by Wil Wheaton. A woman asked her what advice he would give her infant daughter on being a nerd. The full video is here, and you should totally check it out. In part, he said:
I think a lot of us have realized that being a nerd, or being a geek is another word you’ll hear, I sort of use the words interchangeably, it’s not about what you love. It’s about how you love it.
So, there’s going to be a thing in your life that you love. I don’t know what that’s going to be; it might be sports, it might be science, it might be reading, it might be fashion design, it might be building things, it might be telling stories or painting pictures, it doesn’t matter what it is. The way you love that, and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes being a nerd awesome.
This quote is somewhat serendipitous, as I had been planning on writing this article for some time. I am a nerd in many ways, not the least of which is the three aforementioned categories. But an element of my nerdism exists in a somewhat atypical place. I am a nerd (although a beginner, novice nerd, a n00b, if you will) of an ancient form of technology. I have a deep passion for something which the average person takes for granted. I am a fan of pens and paper.
I’ll let that soak in, like so much ink drawn from a vial into the converter of a high quality fountain pen and then applied to a paper stock of about 80g or higher. You know, one that absorbs the ink quickly, with no feathering? Man, that’s hot.
If the internet has taught me anything, it’s that whatever you like, someone else likes it a lot more and has created a website about it. One of my best friends turned me on to a website called The Pen Addict. This guy knows his pens. More to the point, this guy knows things about pens that I didn’t even know you could know. He is seriously invested. I took his suggestions from the Top 5 Pens article and bought many of the pens. (In my defense, the most expensive pen I bought was no more than $5, although you could spend way more.)
I won’t bore you with the details of the pens I purchased. I’ll leave it up to you to check out what Brad Dowdy has to say. I will also skip over the total geek-fest that is the two pads of paper I typically use, as well as the pencil case I have purchased. Suffice-it-to-say, I just can’t bring myself to use the Bic pen most cashiers try to give me. Evidently I am not only a nerd, but I’m also an elitist.
The important thing, as Mr. Wheaton made so very clear, isn’t what I’m passionate about, but simply that I am passionate about it. I honestly believe our culture is moving to a place of greater acceptance and, because of this, the disparate nature of nerd vs. cool is beginning to be obfuscated. With shows like Game of Thrones winning major awards, with the proliferation of nerd things like Doctor Who and The Avengers, with those heretofore too scared to stand up and speak out, it’s no longer about being a nerd, it’s about publically liking something. In my heart of hearts, I think this shift in our culture is largely thanks to the internet. Flaming aside, more people are talking to one another. More people are exposed to more things and, as a result, we no longer need to hide that we like something hitherto unpopular. Wil Wheaton said you could be a sports nerd. That’s straight-up mind-bendy.
In the meantime, I will not hide my passion. I will yell loudly and proudly! I will declare to all my friends, “The Kuru Toga is the best mechanical pencil I’ve ever seen!” Will people mock me for how emphatically I talk about pens? Almost certainly. It doesn’t bother me though. My passion is greater than their disdain, and that’s all that matters.
Write that down.
Dickie started to write this article by hand in a show of solidarity to pen lovers everywhere. After a few minutes, his hand started to cramp and he got sleepy. He completed the article on his computer, but his pens were proudly displayed on his desk the entire time…in a show of solidarity to pen lovers everywhere.