Columns > Published on October 14th, 2019

My Literary Tattoo Isn't a Book: It's a Pen

Photo courtesy of the author

I’m a big fan of tattoos. I haven’t always been, but it’s like I woke up one day halfway through college with this idea in my head of the tattoo I wanted, and once I got that one, I couldn’t stop. I now have four—three on my right arm, and the original on my left.

My third tattoo, which I got at a little shop in Mexico City, is my literary tattoo.

I call it a literary tattoo and not a bookish tattoo on purpose. See, I’m aware (of course I’m aware) of bookish tattoos, and how gorgeous an artist rendering of your favorite book, series, or quote can be. Sometimes I scroll through Instagram and stop dead on a picture of someone’s book-inspired tattoo, and I just feel...gah! So pretty!

For a long time, I wanted my own. I’m a reader, after all! I’ve been a reader since I was five years old and started reading the American Girls series by myself, far outpacing my mom’s ability to read a few chapters aloud at bedtime, and leaving her, quite frankly, bereft of that mother-daughter time (I know she felt bereft because she has, in fact, told me several times. Love you Mom!)

It mattered to me greatly to find some way of immortalizing my love of books and words and stories in this way.

But I just...I couldn’t think of the right thing. I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, but despite myself there was no stand-out quote that I’ve long cherished; no image that I’d love to recreate in tattoo form.

I’ve read countless articles about bookish tattoos, hoping for inspiration. It mattered to me greatly to find some way of immortalizing my love of books and words and stories in this way.

And yet...nothing.

Until this past April, when I was on vacation in Mexico City, making a last-minute appointment to get a tattoo. I wracked my brain for what I might like, and suddenly it dawned on me: writing.

Or rather, an implement of writing.

See, as much as I was a reader first (and I do mean first. It was one of my very first defining personality traits, and I spent the bulk of middle and high school in bed or on the couch reading rather than hanging out with friends), I’m predominantly a writer now.

Writing is as necessary to me as breathing, as integral as the blood circulating in my veins. When I’m not writing, it’s either a sign that I’m depressed, or the lack of writing is about to help trigger a depressive episode.

Writing is how I connect to the world. It’s how I let people know what’s going on with me. It’s also how I share the passions and projects that matter to me. It’s just such an important part of my life.

As a first grader, growing up in Italy, we were given erasable pens to learn to write our first cursive letters. Once we’d mastered the lettering, our teachers made us move on to something more permanent: fountain pens.

Not the fancy kinds, the quill or glass ones you can still buy in shops, the ones that don’t write very well.

No, these were simple plastic pens, the ink coming from a refillable little cartridge.

But the way they wrote! There was something entrancing about the richness of the color on the page, something glorious about watching the ink slowly dry in front of you. It felt magical, like I could craft new worlds and they would come to life because of that pen.

So I did. I wrote stories and drafted books all through elementary and middle school, always going back to a trusty fountain pen.

Eventually I moved on to writing on a laptop, and these days I’m not even sure where my last fountain pen disappeared to (though I still have the box with nearly a hundred ink cartridges so...that’s good, at least), but sitting in my Airbnb in April, trying to think of a tattoo, it dawned on me that the perfect literary tattoo wasn’t book-related. It was writing-related.

And who knows, maybe someday I’ll find my perfect bookish tattoo. Maybe some line in a cherished novel will jump out at me and I’ll need it etched into my skin forever. Maybe I’ll have my own book published, someday, and want to commemorate the achievement with a tattoo (in fact, I’m positive that would be the result); but for now, I’m content with my pen.

It doesn’t just represent who I am today, it’s also a reminder of my childhood. Writing with fountain pens is so tied to growing up in Italy, and I doubt I would have used them if I’d gone to school in America. My childhood overseas played (and still plays) a huge part in making me who I am today.

My past and my present are equally represented in my fountain pen tattoo, and really, what more can one ask from ink sketched eternally into the body?

About the author

Karis Rogerson is a mid-20s aspiring author who lives in Brooklyn and works at a cafe—so totally that person they warn you about when you declare your English major. In addition to embracing the cliched nature of her life, she spends her days reading, binge-watching cop shows (Olivia Benson is her favorite character) and fangirling about all things literary, New York and selfie-related. You can find her other writing on her website and maybe someday you’ll be able to buy her novels.

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