There’s Just Something About a Pencil

I carry a notebook with me everywhere. It’s a habit I adopted long ago that I just can’t seem to break. The things I write in these books often don’t make sense. No matter how hard I try I will never remember when I saw the turkey in the tree. Even more difficult will be trying to remember why I wondered if that turkey liked jazz. Maybe I was listening to jazz and sitting on the patio. Maybe I wasn’t. Maybe there was no turkey at all; maybe it was just a mindless ramble.

Every now and then that happens. I am struck by a thought that seems so counterintuitive, so random that it has to be put down on paper. My favorite books to revisit are the ones that are written in pencil. A pencil is so much more forgiving than an ink pen. With ink, you cross out the mistakes you make, but they are still there. And their powerful glare still reminds me of a failed attempt at something every time I see them. A pencil allows for change. A pencil lets you change your mind when you decide that what you’ve written is not at all what you meant to say. The sharpening of a pencil indicates progress.

In some ways the writing I’ve done with a pencil reminds me more of my actual life than any other writing I’ve ever done. So many changes. So many times I’ve said things only to realize that they only made sense to me. Sometimes I feel like I’m constantly explaining myself only to re-explain myself a few brief moments later. A pencil allows for mistakes. And corrections.

After looking at old notebooks, I can’t help being struck by how many things have changed since they were written, and the thought occurs to me: maybe there is nothing in life permanent enough to be written in ink.

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