Friday, February 26, 2010

Tools of the Trade

As a kid, I loved sharpening pencils. I adored the feel of the wood being chipped away by the grinding cogs. I couldn’t get enough of the smell that lifted from the pencil as it shaped to a point. Sometimes, when using a small sharpener, I kept the resulting curl of wood. There was something beautiful about the silhouette, the way it resembled a rosette trimmed in yellow paint.

All through high school, I was required to write in cursive with an ink pen. It was considered proper etiquette. And if I didn’t have horrendous cursive, I would have embraced this notion. But as it was, my writing was jerky and I oftentimes forgot a loop, thereby omitting an N or R. Cursive required way too much thought for this kid.

By the time I got to college, computers were more commonplace. I still took class notes with a pen, all caps scrawled across wide-ruled paper, but essays were written directly on the computer. Gone were the days of handwriting a paper and typing it up as if using a typewriter.

For various reasons, many professionals claim writing by hand is best. Every few years I momentarily accept this theory and I start carrying a journal with me. It’s always a beautifully bound book, often a thoughtful gift from a loving friend. Clipped to the cover is a roller ball pen. If I have to write by hand, it needs to be a pen and it needs to be a roller ball. For the last year, my nib of choice has been the bold point Vision Elite, preferably blue.

At first, I embrace the journal like a new love. I want to have it near me at all times. I want to be able to revisit what I’ve jotted down. A week later, I’m tired of the extra weight in my purse. By the end of the month, I’ve stashed it on the shelf and have returned to my preferred method of writing, a computer. It is at a keyboard where my thoughts and fingers move in tandem.

Curiously, while I write best at a computer, I edit best with paper and pen. Maybe it has to do with holding the product in my hands. Or perhaps I dislike reading things on screens, which would possibly explain why I have yet to bite the Kindle bullet. Anyway, once I have a draft on paper, I grab a pen and start making notes, crossing out useless phrases and circling words I believe can be improved upon. Not until I get to the end do I sit down at my computer and make the desired changes.

The other day I bought some pencils for Anders and Olivia, my niece and nephew. Target had them on sale and I couldn’t resist the metallic paint and pictures of basketballs and ballet slippers. For a second, I thought about buying a set for myself. I could sharpen the nubs just like I did as a kid, a bouquet of rosettes sitting to the side of my computer. Plus, I could revisit the notion that writing by hand triggers unique creativity.

Instead, I tossed the extra package back on the shelf and wandered off in search of laundry detergent. I was certain the romantic return to pencils would likely turn out the same as my collection of journals. Lead tips would break at the worst time and erasers would get hard and tear holes in the paper. A few weeks in I would curse the idea. And anyway, for now I’m happy with the tools I have.

1 comment:

  1. My square, tiny, all-caps, block-letter-print handwriting salutes your un-cursiveness.

    I learned to write in perfect, neatly trimmed, miniscule font in order to fill in run reports in triplicate, when I was a medic.

    It sort of became me. I love a good calligraphy pen, though I currently don't own one.