The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED THIRY NINE: Pencil of Potential
This blog post is not a commercial or a testimonial for the Ticonderoga or the Tri-Conderoga (pictured above) pencils, even though they are, in most humble opinion, the best pencil made. But, of course, if the Dixon Ticonderoga Company wants to throw me some cash or free pencils my way, who am I to say no?
In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.
– Vincent Van Gogh
Here is a moment as a child that we either loved or loathed: school shopping.
Near the end of the summer, you knew that your time of freedom was at hand when your parents (in my case, my mom) would take you to the store and buy things that you would need for the new school year. These things would include new clothes, maybe some new shoes (if your parents could afford them) and, of course, paper, glue, folders, a notebook(s) and a backpack. And the pièce de résistance, pencils.
As scared as I was and how much I hated starting a new year of school, I did love pencils. I loved the shape and the smell. They were so… yellow. And if you could lay your hands on a different color, that much the better. You would have to keep your eyes open and your pencils close because if they were cool, they would be stolen. Next to old books, crayons, freshly cut lumber, the smell of pencils was and is a cherished scent.
I would sit in class, awaiting my fate from some grade on a test I was about to get back, I would open my pencil box (if I didn’t have one in my hand, and get a pencil and hold the side of it to my nose and take in the aroma. In moments of nerves when I knew that the grade was going to be bad, I even took to chewing on the pencil like some anxious beaver.
Honestly, smelling a pencil was the best part about it.
Writing with it, you say? Nope. My handwriting was and is absolutely horrible. Up to the third, I wrote to large. After I was singled out by a teacher on this, I tried to write smaller, as small as I felt. Then I wrote too small for her taste and she gave up on me. As I got older, it came down to my brain begging my hand to write well and I my hand deciding to listen or to daydream and write any old way.
But I did prefer pencils to pens. Pencils had erasers and I would try and correct mistakes and unrecognizable words. I went through a LOT of erasers. Once I rubbed down the built-in erasers, I would pop on the replacements and rub those down until it was just a ring around the metal top. I even carried the larger, portable erasers in my pockets but those were harder for me to use and I would tend to rub a whole right through whatever test or quiz I was taking, making it look worse than the horrible (though corrected) handwriting.
And I prefer wooden pencils to mechanical ones. When I used the mechanical ones, I tended to break the thin lead quicker and the eraser wouldn’t last long (or stay in the top). And most important, they didn’t have the smell. You can take those mechanical ones and… Well, you can take them. Take them away.
As bad as my handwriting was, I still want to be a writer.
Funny, huh? It didn’t discourage me.
When it came to my personal writing, I used my dad’s typewriter and later on, the computer. But I always had a pencil on hand. It’s hard to let go of the simple ways.
And you could probably guess this but my drawings were just as bad as my handwriting. I loved to draw. I had friends that were amazing with what they could come up with on a piece of paper and I envied them. I’m talking about elementary school and middle school, people. Today, I wished I could draw like they did then, NOW. When it came to the communication between my hand and my brain, they weren’t very good friends. The brain wanted the hand to be Rembrandt and my hand would give my brain the middle finger and draw like Picasso, but way crappier.
There were a few times when they would have a truce and get along. I once drew Mickey Mouse’s head by looking at it on someone’s t-shirt and it came out pretty well. I even drew an owl for a contest at elementary school and got fourth place. I was really damn proud of getting fourth place. I still am.
But subtract those few times that my hand and head got along, most of it was rubbish. I didn’t excel until they developed a whole new, loving relationship when it came to the typewriter and computer. Though I have always pecked at the keys, they learned to get along.
Now, back to the pencil.
I’m still a fan. A huge fan.
I see the pencil full of graphite potential. As simple as they are, there are worlds they lie within. You lie them on a table and they look so unassuming.
But the power they yield is earth-shattering and life-changing. I think I knew this somehow when I was younger. I felt like a gunslinger with one wrapped tightly in my fingers.
As silly as this may sound but I’ve been thinking a lot about pencils recently. I wanted to try and reignite my love (like) of drawing. I still think I’m horrible at it, I wanted to open that doorway of creativity again. I wanted to see if maybe time and age would help me draw a bit better.
By the way, it doesn’t. Not one little bit. Like all things, you must practice.
I made a typewriter cabinet to house the machines I had plus a few future ones. Before I started, I made a rough sketch of it with a pencil. But not just any pencil, a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil.
And not just any Dixon Ticonderoga pencil, but a Tri-conderoga pencil. It’s made to grip easier. They are made to look like a triangle and detectable softer. It helps kids grip it easier. So, yeah, it’s perfect for this kid.
And I couldn’t get just any yellow pencil. I got black ones. One: it reminded me of Stephen King’s book, The Dark Half and the pencils mentioned within its pages called Black Beauties. Two: yellows are normal. I’m not normal.
And the black ones are cool. I’m hoping to be cool, too.
Did they help me sketch my cabinet any better than a pen or a yellow pencil?
Holding that pencil made me feel good. I exercised a creative muscle that I hadn’t done in a long while. It got me to thinking, any positive, creative outlet, no matter if you’re good at it or not, is enrichening. It’s lifegiving. It helps strengthen the other creative muscles you have that are more in shape.
I think pencils are magic. It doesn’t matter if it’s brand new, right out of the box and just sharpened or it’s been sitting in your junk drawer since you moved in and it’s just long enough to hold, give or take an eraser,… it holds magic.
It holds potential.
As we all do.
WE are pencils.
One last thing. When I bought those black, Tri-conderoga pencils off of Amazon, I had no idea why at the time. I just wanted them. I had no plans on drawing or sketching or writing with them the moment I hit ADD TO CART. But the more I thought about them being delivered to me, the more I got excited about it. I couldn’t wait to hold them and sharpen them and smell them. When they came, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I wanted to invent things to use them for. I even made a pencil holder for them. I slapped some wood together with wood glue, sanded it down and painted it black (with a little orange accent around the top and bottom). Around it, I glued some Scrabble tiles that say WORDSFORLIFE around the bottom. My own little shire to these black, wooden pencils.
I hope in the future I find more reason s to use them.
But they’re there, ready for when the time comes.
-Loyd Elmore Jr.
February 1st, 2019
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.