I don’t know what it is, but something about seeing a pencil with a nicely sharpened point really makes me want to write something. And it has to be sharp. A dull-looking old pencil doesn’t have the same effect on me as a nice sharp one. Not needle sharp necessarily, but recently sharpened and ready for use.
Is it a throwback to grade school, with the pencil sharpeners and the writing and drawing and erasing and all of that? I don’t know. Maybe it evokes a feeling of that first day of school, when the pencils are long, the points are sharp, and anything feels possible. Or maybe seeing a recently sharpened pencil makes me aware of the fact that someone took the time, not long before, to get this pencil ready to go, and wouldn’t it be a shame to let all of that effort go to waste? I don’t know the reason. But I do know that when I see such a writing tool in front of me, I need to create something with it.
I saw one in church last Sunday, sitting there in the tiny cylindrical hole made for just such an object, all pointy and ready to go. It was a small pencil, reaching the end of its useful life, but still having something to offer. I know that I was supposed to be paying attention to what was going on up front, but something about this creative utensil kept calling to me. I picked it up, staring for a few moments at the way it rested between my fingers, and then started scribbling absentmindedly.
I could have written a poem, or a screenplay, or the outline for a new novel, or a list of anagrams for the pastor’s name (Make Mrs. Red?). All that mattered was that I was writing. Song lyrics started to come into my brain, and I wrote them down, still trying to keep most of my focus on the church service. When I felt satisfied with what I had written, I folded up my bulletin, song lyrics included, and put the pencil away, slightly less sharp now, but still ready for the next person to come along and pick it up. The bug was out of my system and I felt content again.
I may be content now, but I know that I will feel that mental restlessness again. My computer keyboard doesn’t call to me in the same way, and pens seem so formal and rigid. Typewriters are loud and confusing, but a pencil… Man. I want to go sharpen one up right now and get started on something else. Doesn’t matter what. It’s the movement of the hands, the smell of the graphite, and the look of the thing that does it to me. And the writing. Always the writing.