Graphite delight—the return of pencil

After a decade-long love affair with fountain pens I’m returning to the unassuming simplicity of pencil. I used to only keep a Pilot Vanishing Point in the pen loop of my binder. Prompted by the need to change future appointments in my diary, without loitering the paper with ungainly strike-outs, I added a mechanical pencil, a Rotring 600 kept in a second pen loop on the rings themselves. The future would be written in pencil and the past in many-colored ink. Then I switched to a day-a-page diary format, and suddenly I needed every last millimetre of ring space I could find and that second pen loop became a problem. The only sensible thing was to put my mechanical pencil in the pen loop and let the Vanishing Point stay on my desk. While I do prefer the traditional wood encased pencil that becomes duller with use and that periodically makes you take a break to sharpen it, they are a bit unpractical to put in a binder or in a bag.

Pencil does look lifeless and dull, but it solves the problem of erasability like no other. I briefly toyed with the idea of using FriXion pens, but a brief experiment where I blew hot air on a sheet of writing and watched it disappear before my eyes made be scoff and donate them to my daughter. I also tried using colored pencil, but they were waxier than graphite and didn’t come of the page as easily. The invention of the wood encased graphite pencil is at least 500 years old and it has survived for a reason. It’s cheap, it’s resistant to heat, damp and time and it can vanish without a trace when you want it to.

I wonder if there’s a psychological component to using pencil that slightly changes how you write too. The optional impermanence lets your thoughts flow freely and uncensored, tricking your mind into not taking itself too seriously. Pencil is for the quiet thoughts, the shy thoughts, the soft whispers that drowns in the chatter of the colorful. Pencil is for the things that matter.

18 May 2020

#paper #pencil #writing