your personal palimpsest tool – Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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Why should you write with a pen instead of a pencil

By Grace Lucey, collegiate collaborator

As students we need to select our perfect writing instrument. Some of you may prefer your computer to take notes, I prefer to write them myself – something that I consider a heartwarming art and archaic. I urge you to take the next step by adopting the pen. It’s your right of way, if you will.

Writing in pencil is like writing with stone. Writing with a pen is like writing with clay. Stone is rigid, clay is malleable. You might think that a pencil is not as stiff as I pose. Listen to me carefully: the pencil can be forgiving due to its extra end – the eraser – but this extra accessory makes it too easy for you to forgive yourself. While we all need to practice being gentle with ourselves, part of this includes accepting our mistakes.

During my early years in the education system, pens were banned in class. Students were not allowed to use this instrument, but teachers had the privilege of writing with the smooth, permanent tool. During this period of my life, I envied my teachers. Writing in pen was a sign of maturity and sophistication through my young and inexperienced eyes.

Faced with the use of a pencil, I determined a discipline in my use of pencil. I preferred the classic Ticonderoga # 2 pencil for everyday use. Its graphite was buttery and its eraser was plump, seeming to get rid of everything you wrote, leaving no trace of your writing flaws. It really is a classic pencil.

On the day of the test, I would convert to a mechanical pencil for now. I just couldn’t be bothered when taking a test to get up and sharpen my pencil. The fiery frustration I would feel when the mechanical pencil lead broke almost catastrophically interrupted my train of thought during a test.

It wasn’t until I reached high school that I was allowed to use a pen. My teachers encouraged me to use a pencil, even though entering my last years of high school I felt like an adult. And adults use a pen.

Pens leave a permanent mark on the world. They express your knowledge, your skill, your precision. They express your oversights, your miscalculations, your omissions. While you can always learn from your mistakes when using a pencil, the pen is much more apparent and requires you to draw your eyes in that direction. The pen does not insult your intelligence, but rather commends you for correcting these mistakes. Your pen and paper are physical evidence of your sweat smearing ink on the paper, holding back your tears when you are overwhelmed.

While there is a selection of different types of pencils to choose from, there is also an endless array of pens to choose from. Choosing a pen for yourself is a personal statement. You will develop a science for the type of pen you use. Depending on the thickness of the paper, this determines the type of pen I use. The brittle and brittle pages of my books need a thin, soft pen that won’t bleed or pierce their pages. For heavy card stock, the paper deserves the irreplaceable Pilot G-2 0.7 pen. These pens come in a variety of colors, but I recommend you stick with black. Black pens are classic, chic and sharp.

My sophomore year at the University of Massachusetts, I leaned into the linguistics department and signed up for a course called “Language Through Time”. During my first week in this course, we discovered palimpsests – a document that is reused or modified while still bearing visible traces of its earlier form. Ink and other faint imprints from the earlier text underpin the new written work, preserving the trace of the story. Palimpsests are a story of the written word, holding a cycle of inscription. It acts as a relay for the transmission of information. Palimpsests show that writing takes place in the presence of other writings and demonstrates the evolution of words, grammar, thoughts and ideas. Palimpsests convey the survival of the fittest: which words or phrases will survive and which will die. I encourage my readers to invest in a pen, cheap or expensive, in order to create their own palimpsests.

Grace Lucey can be reached at [email protected].


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