photo by: The Scribery Co. on Instagram

Ode to a Pencil

I can never seem to hang on to a decent pen.

I lose them, I misplace them; I leave one unattended for two seconds and suddenly someone has commandeered it.

A pen is not simply a pen. Use a crappy pen, and see what I mean.

Recently, one of my favorite notebook supply stores shipped a beautiful pencil with my order. It occurred to me: why don’t I just use a pencil instead? What’s wrong with the noble pencil? When did we stop using pencils?

True, there’s nothing that compares to the bold black lines of a good pen. The smooth indelible mark that says, “I mean this — no question about it.” Then, of course, there’s the endless spectrum of colored pens, which are the favorite of bullet journalists and adult coloring book fans across the web.

But can you shade with a pen like you can with a pencil? No, you can’t. Can you have autonomous control over the intensity of the shade without switching instruments? Not in the same way, no.

Author/podcaster Daniel Pink discussed the virtues of pencil use in his “pinkcast”. It’s worth a listen, but his main points are:

1. No smudged ink!

2. Drawing is easier with a pencil than with a pen — and drawing may be part (or become part) of your notetaking style.

3. Pencil marks are erasable (unlike many mistakes off-paper).

4. The feel of graphite scraping against the paper (this is tantamount to those who refuse to read on digital devices because they “like the feel of book paper”, but in this case, I get it)

5. “Sharpening a pencil forces you to take pauses — and pauses are essential to productivity and creativity”.

When I was an undergrad and taking courses where pencils were required (art electives, theatrical set design, and the dreaded core math class), I sported quite a collection of sizes, densities, and shades. I loved how the texture of the paper responded to the pencil. I appreciated the portability of this leak-proof instrument (although it may occasionally smudge clothing, it’s gone in one washing — unlike pen), and even delighted in the challenge of sharpening it to my liking: first with a sharpener, and later with a blade.

So with my love of pencils rekindled (pun intended), I brought my pencil to work; hoping, at best, to use it, but hoping at least not to have it pilfered. Who would take a pencil theses days? I mean, it wasn’t even a mechanical pencil which apparently are the only acceptable pencils for cool kids.

My job has an astonishing array of office supplies, given the industry we’re in (health & fitness): every imaginable color and size of post-it, a collection of sharpies in every color and nib size, and a giant carousel of paper clips in the colors of the rainbow.

“Do we happen to have a pencil sharpener?” I asked.

“No”, my assistant manager replied, without even looking up. “We don’t use pencils.”

Like a punch in the gut. Well, at least I had no fear of the pencil going missing.

It dawned on me that this may be another attribute of the decaying popularity of our pencil friends: the need for a second, auxiliary tool to keep it sharp and useable (and why mechanical pencils are permitted in penophile circles). Thus, my love for the pencil came with the burden of having to also obtain and carry with me a sharpener.

But friends, this is a small price to pay for the freedom and creativity a pencil will bring.

So, starting today, I am going to make this pencil my “go-to” writing tool. I challenge you all to take just one day in which you opt for a pencil instead of a pen to use for your list making, brainstorming, note-taking and journaling. Grab hold of your favorite notebook (or grab hold of a notebook here) and try it. I’d be interested in hearing how it works for you.

Note: The Scribery Co. is a company dedicated to helping connect people to distraction-free technology in a digitally-obsessed world, and is owned by Laura Rebecca. Please like and follow for more distraction-free tech tips!