Pencils and pens outdated? Not a chance!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

Pencils and pens on a steno book

Image by Amaia Li

When was the last time you wrote something substantive — a letter, a story, a journal entry, etc. — by hand? Could you ever imagine returning to a pre-keyboard era?

The other day, I found my old portable cassette player inside a shoebox. It still has its original headphones connected to it but the sponges have turned a brownish color with time. The thing is that to me, it did not feel that it was that long of a time, but come to think about it, cassette players are already extinct. I replaced this cassette player when portable CD players became popular, then an MP3 player took the CD player’s place, and now my tablet is my go device for music. And all that happened before I hit 50!

But holding the cassette player in my hands again took me back to another time. Inside my head I saw myself sitting on a bench, pencil in hand, scribbling on a legal pad my very first short story for my first college English class. I was never able to draft anything with a typewriter, manual or electric. Only when the PC came along, I put my pencil (and legal pads) aside because hitting the Backspace key felt as quick and natural as crossing out an unwanted thought with my pencil.

But unlike portable cassette players, pencils and pens are far from going out of use. I still have a cupful of them on my desk. I reach for them when I’m brainstorming, jotting the ideas for a story down in a steno book. I use them to write quick reminders on loose pieces of scratch paper. I have note taking apps on my tablet. I even have one that allows me to write with my finger, but I don’t seem to be able to stick with any of them as long as I have with my pencil. I always make sure I carry a little, stumpy number 2 with me so that I can scribble my thoughts about the book I’m reading on a sheet of paper. Pencil and paper may not be as practical (no automatic search feature) as using an app, but I can’t see myself being completely keyboard dependent.

Yet, I’m sure I could not go back to the time when I was able to write longhand one draft after another of a story. Somehow, my brain doesn’t function quite right and quite long without having both hands tapping on a full-sized keyboard and seeing the words appear on a screen. And so, pens, pencils and keyboard happily co-exist on my desk. Unlike VCRs, portable cassette players and typewriters, pens and pencils will never be on the endangered list—at least not in this house.

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