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  • Erin Searle

Seasons of Writing Instruments

About the middle of my first semester at Utah State University, as the seasons were changing, I began to think about my preferences of writing instruments. Why do people like certain ones and why did I seem to go through seasons of preferences?

Here’s my take on it.

Pencils are safe: the ideas are only as solid as I want them to be. Light scratchings are whispers of thoughts. Dark slashes are the marks of an idea I am afraid of losing. Loose cursive signifies complacency and day-dreaming, while erasers give me a safety net and let me hide my mistakes and errors. It is no surprise that this was the tool of my childhood. I fondly remember loving the excuse to get up and sharpen my pencil in the wall sharpener. Then there was always that one kid who took five minutes because it wasn’t sharp enough and my poor teacher would have to tell them, that is sharp enough, just please sit down!

Essentially pencils are nostalgic. Six-sided, circular, colored, yellow, short and nubby, long and oversized for small fingers, we all have memories of pencils. My favorite was always the yellow #2 three-sided Ticonderoga. I still have a few and they have their place but they remain unsharpened. I think I have moved on.

Pens are a thing of beauty to me. Especially Pilot G-7’s – the pen of choice for some of my favorite teachers. What a beautiful device of judgment. Now I certainly didn’t fall in love with that pen because of the grades it used to give me, rather I fell in love with the minds connected to the pens. Remember when you thought your teachers knew everything? Ideas, succinct and mind-blowing seemed to flow from their brain to the paper; I was sure that if I used that pen for assignments, the same would be sure to happen. Rather I find that pens are generally messy. Fingers can get bloody with ink while hands can smudge the perfect loop of a capital L. Mistakes with pen are semi-permanent but there is always scribbling out a misspelled word. Even better is during a timed essay, when your thesis has completely changed and in an attempt to make sense of your new topic, you have scratched out 3 lines and tried to fit your new thesis in the cramped space above your now misguided thesis. Oh, the panic.

I think I love that the most about pens. They are the instrument that reminds us that mistakes are a necessary part of writing. We can’t get to the developed thesis without writing the wrong words first. These days I don’t really even like crossing words out. It seems like I’m snubbing out their contribution. But this makes me sound crazy and like my only real friends are words…

I have some human ones too, don’t worry.

Now since we live in 2018, I must address computers and typing. I waited to address it because typing papers consistently didn’t happen until high school and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I still don’t love it, but what I do love is the ease of it. I don’t have to carry pens and paper wherever I go, on the off chance that there is something I want to jot down. Instead typing is something we do day in and day out, on phones, laptops, and even watches.

Typing is accessible as almost everything is connected. Just yesterday I was describing what Microsoft OneDrive is to my mother. She was blown away that I could work on a document on my phone, save it to my OneDrive and then access it through any computer that has Microsoft. Fact in point, this post was written through three different pieces of technologies!

Sadly typing is uniform. Now I have heard horror stories of teachers grading papers written in chicken scratch and spending more time focusing on simple comprehension rather than what may truly matter in a grading situation. But I miss a teacher knowing me by my handwriting. There is something so personal about it. No one in the world writes like me and no one in the world writes like you and that’s an art that we are losing. At this point, I must clarify that I am grateful for this technology but I still appreciate the classes that don’t let me bring my laptop. For me, filling up a OneNote page is not comparable to filling a notebook with my own handwriting.

All this being said, I still do fluctuate between instruments. Often it depends on my setting, my mood and my deadline. Currently, my season is dominated by the Signo Uni-ball Micro 207 (found in Wal-Marts and Costco’s) and while in my poetic moods I pull out my feather quill with blue ink. Yes, it’s old-fashioned and weird, but it helps me facilitate the true purpose of writing: to express oneself. As long as your instrument of choice helps you accomplish this purpose, that’s all that matters.

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