“Why don’t you just use a pen?” – Classmate, Spring 2017
English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote “The pen is mightier than the sword” in his 1839 play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy. While I agree with the thought behind this line, that the written word is more powerful than military might, I must add one aside. While the pen may be mightier than the sword, the pencil is mightier than the pen.
Like the great rivalries of history; Hatfields and McCoys, Yankees and Red Sox, Confederacy and Union, Star Wars and Star Trek, there are even rivalries between pencil and pen users.
I have friends who love using fountain pens. There is a store on the campus of the seminary I am at that sells fountain pens. I am sort of the anomaly in the circles I find myself in.
I can honestly say that I have tried fountain pens, and even regular ballpoint or gel pens, and have found them not nearly as satisfying to use as a pencil.
Why I Don’t Prefer Pens
The first reason might seem silly, but you can’t erase pen. I am prone to mistakes when writing, and let’s be honest, erasable pens aren’t very good. Why use a bad erasable pen, when you can use a pencil that will do the job better?
Also, in terms of ballpoint pens, they aren’t fun to write with. As I’ve written previously, part of the reason I enjoy writing with pencil is because of the smoothness of the graphite. I like the feeling of writing with a pencil. I’ve used so many pens that are scratchy, or require too much pressure to get a decent amount of ink out to substantially write.
Fountain pens are another thing though. I own one, and it has its own slot in my pencil roll. The fountain pen I have is not an expensive one, but it still writes very nicely. My one downfall with it, which it may be a by-product of the fountain pen I have, is that the ink doesn’t always come out upon first stroke. I like to be able to put the instrument to the page and write. This same thing is true with a “normal” ballpoint pen. In addition to this, fountain pens can get really expensive! I have seen fountain pens that are $1,400! That makes a $4.50 Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood not sound so bad now, huh?
As there is with pencils, there is a whole world of pens and pen users out there that I have just begun to learn about. I appreciate pens, but I prefer pencils so much more.
Why I Prefer Pencils
I will begin where I ended the pen segment here. I prefer pencils because they are affordable. One of my favorite pencils right now only costs $1, and my other favorite is only 50 cents! You can get a very high quality writing instrument at a very affordable price. While Blackwings and the Swiss Wood are pretty expensive at $2-$4 per pencil, you can still get a great pencil at very good price.
Also, there is the aesthetic appeal of using a pencil (I will admit that this can be said about pen too in some capacity in terms of their look). I love the smell of a pencil when you are sharpening it, the way pencils are finished and painted, the way it feels in your hand depending on its weight and length. There are so many factors that, for me, make writing with a pencil so much more enjoyable.
Finally, I prefer pencil because of the history behind it. Caroline Weaver recently wrote a book about the history of pencils that I can’t wait to read. The development of the pencil over time, and the stories of specific pencils, like the Blackwing, are so intriguing to me. The ability for man to take graphite from the ground, encase it in wood, and use it to write with is so cool to me! It is the most simple technology, but one of the most basic technologies that we use, and often forget about.
In the end…
it is all about what you prefer. If you prefer pen, use a pen. I prefer pencil, and think you should too, but whatever the case is, the preference between pen and pencil is exactly that – a preference, an opinion. Find an analog tool that you like, and use it! I promise you will enjoy it more than looking at a screen all the time.