I’m not sure whether I miss pencils. I was a big fan of sketching (ideas, words, pictures) but found it so easy to lose bits of paper that I went all-digital as soon as the Palm Pilot came out.
But I keep reading and finding that there is something special about getting something down on paper. Ideas can flow in a way that computers and phones don’t allow, even with touch screens.
So it turns out that the pencil business isn’t just surviving, it’s booming, and if you want one web site that can tell you EVERYTHING about it, you’d be hard pushed to beat www.penciltalk.org. It triggers memories of the smell of wood shavings and the strange thrill of supply hunting. For me, stationery shops feel full of potential, as if the right pen contains all the best words it could ever write – it’s just a case of finding that pen and shaking the words out.
However, I doubt there are many back-to-schoolers packing a new Porsche P3120, machined from a single block of aluminium (like a Macbook Pro, in pencil form) with a street price of around £90.
At the (slightly) more affordable end of the market, debate is raging on Boing Boing about the merits of a new line of “Blackwing” pencils. Apparently the discontinued Blackwing 602 has a cult following, with the original 50 cent cedar and soft waxy lead pencils now selling for up to $39 each. Music writer Stephen Sondheim, animator Chuck Jones and novelist Joseph Finder are among this pencil’s fans of legend.
I think many creative people crave breakthroughs so much, they would love to believe that the right tool makes the difference. I’d love to find some research to see if it does. Marketing hype aside, if you write with Blackwing pencil into a Moleskine journal, and it makes you feel like a better writer, are you any closer to unlocking your inner genius? Or if you invest in a Porsche, can it bring out the Jeremy Clarkson in you?
“I have just paid £90 for a pencil which is much like other pencils, and now I am angry, bitter and in need of a rant.”
Yes, I believe it can.