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One Writer Celebrates National Pencil Day With Gratitude and Joy

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Simple pleasures count

hand with red pencil over a filled page

March 30th is National Pencil Day!

Laugh all you want, but simple things make me pencils.

My joy in pencils started late in my life. I had always been an acolyte of blue ink pens (Tül gel, Medium point, please,) and never even considered a dalliance with pencils before the age of sixty. But then a year or two ago, research led me to unexpected points (pun intended) of interest about the simple writing implement that I had overlooked.

While I won't claim an obsession with pencils, I will admit to being preoccupied with them of late.

In honor of National Pencil Day, I want to share with you a special appreciation for the humble pencil and celebrate it with joy and gratitude.

My attraction to pencils started with Henry David Thoreau

It all started a year or two ago when I did research on Henry David Thoreau and found out that the life of the now-famous American author was inextricably linked to PENCILS. (No kidding!) Thoreau's family ran a pencil factory. It was Thoreau who figured out that by adding clay to plumbago (what we now refer to as lead), the pencils manufactured by his family would write darker and break less often. His discovery helped the "Thoreau pencil" win awards and increased sales of the family's product. "Thoreau Pencils" paid for Henry David's tuition at Harvard.

Fascinating pencil facts

For years, I had ignored pencils as grade-school trinkets, believing that they were inferior writing implements, when all the while they were waiting for me to discover them.

The more I learned about pencils, the more I fell in love with them, fascinated by the facts of their existence.

Like the fact that ...

one pencil writes 45,000 words.

Or that...

one pencil can draw a line 35 miles long

Or that...

the pencil brought writing to the common people.

Or that...

the plumbago used in pencils was so valuable, it inspired a whole new smuggling trade.

(Before pencils, only the rich people had ink, and ink was not easily transported.)

Oh, the simple little pleasures we take for granted!

But there is so much more to know about pencils:

Like the reason why pencils are painted yellow.


The allure of greatness

I am a writer. I am NOT famous, wealthy, or credited with a bestseller....(yet), but I'm still a writer yearning to make my mark on the literary world.

Learning from the masters is a time-honored tactic for success.

  • Steinbeck used 300 pencils writing his novel East of Eden.

  • Hemingway thought a good day of writing meant wearing down seven Number Two pencils.

  • Nabokov outlined all his novels on index cards with Blackwing 602 pencils.

Greatness is there, teasing me. Taunting me. Tempting me with the idea that if I only used pencils, Blackwings to be specific, my work would be great and glorious like so many renowned authors before me.

Britt-Marie may be right

I'm reading Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman right now, and I have to laugh. The main character, Britt-Marie, is an obsessive-compulsive woman who believes that certain things must be done in an exact manner.

I had to laugh.

Britt-Marie is incredulous when she's handed an ink pen to use in writing a list.

"Sure we can't write lists in ink?"

Later, she bemoans the fact that some people are

"...simply not aware of the profound implications of writing your lists in ink."

Amen, Britt-Marie!

There's something promising about the ability to erase, start over, keep going, and still have a neat-looking page!

Pencils may be my promise that better days are ahead.

I've used almost a whole box of Blackwings, and I'm working for the graphite grandeur to come my way!



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