I love pencils. Cheap, available, 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 remind myself to take the white board to a workshop. I used a ballpoint pen (the cat had absconded with the pencil to blissfully chew the eraser to bits) and the next morning I read “uh tc bca d”because missing halves of letters looked like different letters–half of a W turned into a U, the O into a C.
When I got to the journaling workshop, I was asked the most popular question I get–why not just blog? Why not keep a journal on your computer? I love tech toys.
But I also have a shoebox full of diskettes in various sizes that no one can open and read. Some are in word-processing programs that pre-date MS Word or Wordperfect. Anyone remember Multi-Mate? Of course not. Some are on formats for which there are no matching slots in computers. The big 5.5-inch floppies. Punch cards. Those computers are long gone.
It’s true that I lost a pile of journals to a flood in the basement, and to 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, love notes I scribbled, my parents notes to each other (my father favored light poetry directions and directives to my mother), in fact, 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. Pencil on paper. Timeless.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer who uses pencils, pens, computers, and inks to make meaning. Anyway she can. She’s also a creativity coach.