pens and pencils

I haven’t written with a pencil in a while, and I forgot about the way the dulling of the point changes the visual of the handwriting. 

I used pencils until college. In kindergarten, I used the fat, yellow Ticonderoga #2 pencils. Perfect for little hands to learn to grip as I traced dotted letters. When I graduated to thin, hexagonal #2s, I stuck with Ticonderoga for long division and state testing. In middle school, I found a luxurious Paper Mate Clear Point in the hall and wrote short stories with it. The 24-pack of BIC pencils would last me the year as I loaned and lost them from August until May. 

My best friend in senior year swore by pens. She sketched, calculated, and wrote in black and blue ink. I saw the way her notes looked, consistent and bold as opposed to my lines that changed from soft to sharp. Her errors were unashamed and cut through with a single clean line. Mine were smudged, grey blotches covered with uncertain corrections. 

Unless a pencil is required, I’ve used pens ever since. I have strong preferences for weights and ink colors and smoothness. There are hierarchies of styles and prices and I’m fortunate that my level of interest doesn’t cost me a fortune. 

There have been times and places for pencil. Pencil is good for sketching, testing, and marking walls for nails and screws. Pens are for voting, document signing, and outlining. I’ve written almost all of my journaling in pen. There’s a metaphor in pen over pencil — an owning up to your mistakes, no fear of permanence, bold impression choice. Pencil is for practice, a low-commitment tool that isn’t meant to be noticed.

But pencil doesn’t dry out. Pencil isn’t washed away. Pencil has an opaque scale. A pencil won’t ruin your clothes in the wash.

This is no great debate, no “end of story,” no hill to die on. Simply an exercise of preference. It was a test of pros and cons to see if I could make a decision on something trivial, and I failed. So if you ask me what utensil I prefer, I’ll sigh, shake my head, throw my hands up in release and say, “Crayon.”

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