There are mechanical pencils and charcoal pencils, expensive and cheap pencils. I love all pencils. They are available and usable. I have a pencil on my nightstand next to some index cards–in case I wake up and need to remember something but don’t want to turn on the light. A pencil always works. In the dark, without looking, the pencil will work. Ballpoints and fountain pens, which I also love, sneakily need to be warmed up and I don’t know when they’ve started working.
The other night, I wanted to jot down a reminder for the next day. The cat had knocked the pencil under the bed (probably to jot down his dreams) so I groped around and found an old ballpoint. The next morning I read “uh tc bca d” because missing halves of letters looked like different letters. I never did figure out what I meant.
Why do I love a pencil when I keep a blog on a computer? Why not keep a journal on your computer? I love my Mac. But I also have a shoebox full of diskettes in various sizes that no one can read. Some are in word-processing programs that pre-date Wordperfect. Anyone remember Multi-Mate? Of course not. Multi-Mate was used on the ark. My ancient disks are in formats for which there are no matching slots in computers. The big 5.5-inch floppies. Punch cards. Those computers are long gone, and I didn’t keep updating as I went along. Once you miss an update, the information vanishes.
It’s true that I lost a pile of journals to a flood in the basement, and another to a fire in the attic. (Ah, the Old-Testament years.) But in each case, the journals I found were still readable. For that matter, so are the drawings in the Caves at Lascaux, which are about 30,000 years old and made with charcoal, an early pencil-substitute.
My son’s first drawings, notes I scribbled, my parents love notes to each other, my father’s sketches from when he was 6 years old–over a hundred years ago–are all still intact because they are in this simple medium. (The drawing on the right was done in his sketchbook when he was an adult.) I have my father’s sketchbooks. In tact. Pencil on paper. Timeless.
—-Quinn McDonald teaches writing by hand. Because it’s effective to have that skill. She also loves her computer, journals, and teaching technical writing in corporations, which she did today.