A Pencil To Think With (ms)

Some wonder about the fact that I favor pencils for my note taking while I find it not something to wonder about at all.

First off you should know that I use computers to do the bulk of my writing, it would be hard to work otherwise for no one in the publishing business wants to or even can deal with something handwritten. So, when I do things like this the output comes from a machine. With the push of a button the thing is posted moments after I finish it, for better or worse. See, the real art in being a writer is not so much in putting the words down but in editing the whole mess. If you had a great editor you could put a chimpanzee into a room full of keyboards and end up with an award winning novel. The editor would make sure of it. The drawback to the way we work today is that there is no time buffer between creation and publication. There could be a self-imposed one of course, some time to improve a piece, change a few things, put better words down but everyone is always in a hurry. Bang this one out and get on with the next. Editing? That’s so last century.

All this makes me wonder what Hemingway might think. One of the greatest writers of the last century wrote a lot of words using a pencil. Editing was something not taken lightly back then and so he likely had a lot of chances to go back over what he wrote, to polish it up. It was a little easier for him too because he was using a pencil. Erasing was quick and painless. So, we get back to the whole point of this little literary effort.

I like the feel of a pencil in my fingers. I like the sound it makes as it moves across the paper leaving a trail of letters and words behind. On the negative side, even the best erasers leave a faint trace of a mistake and that never goes away unless you destroy the paper. They also leave little scraps of residue when you finish. You have to brush that away. But the pencil is important to me for one overriding reason: it is not terribly quick.

It needs sharpening first and if you use a hand-operated device that takes some time but it can be time to think. A pencil does not move as fast as a ballpoint pen, it seems, so the act of writing is more time consuming once again allowing for a bit of thought either about the current word or the next or the sentence after that. Small mistakes are easily corrected with an erasure but that takes more time too. All these factors make me enjoy using a pencil so long as I’m not doing something like this. Pencils are not for bulk writers, you see. No, they are for taking notes or diary entries or jotting down paragraphs for later use.

No, pencils are not for bulk writers at all but I guess no one ever told that to Hemingway.

–Mike Stevens

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~ by admin on February 18, 2011.

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