Friday, September 10, 2010

The Ball Point

The pen is a faithful friend. Solid... Steady... Smooth...

Be it's blood true blue, black as night or rose red, the pen gives it all away for your sake. Tip his head to the task and drain himself of every last drop at you command.

Be it an essay, a poem, a paper, a page of scribbles, a letter, a shopping list, a drawing, a graph, a math problem or a journal entry, your pen will see you through.

In truth, the pen used to intimidate me. He was more permanent than my buddy the pencil. He did not have a convenient eraser attached to his back. He didn't easily take things back the way the pencil did. No, if you wanted to erase words you let him inscribe, you needed that nasty white-out stuff. He could be concealed, but he could not be taken away.

He was serious. Instead of the often times gentle gray shade of the pencil, he was a severe black, looking standard and politically correct; a deep blue, like the handwritten recipe your Grandma copied in her precise cursive; or even a cutting red, the kind that littered my math papers past. While a pen can be several colors and still be called just a 'pen', a pencil of any other color is called a 'colored' pencil. I wonder why... is gray not a color anymore? And why did the pen get away with being shades the pencil could not afford?

The pen seemed adult, in a way. A pencil was for a child, someone being formed, someone unsure, someone ignorant. A pen, however was for the brave, confidant and mature. Presidents and geniuses used pens, to be sure. They had no need to erase anything. In setting pen to paper, they knew what to say and how to say it. So they did. And the pen obeyed. A pencil, on the other hand, was for a dreamer. The doodler. The one who had no particular intent in mind. Expecting, allowing and even inviting mistakes.

Back than, nothing thrilled me more than a crisp, sharp pencil point. Ah, how perfect and smooth it was on the paper! And the sound... a pen could not make that sound. To unite a paper and pencil... how right it seemed. Both having the same Mother, both being formed out of wood. Natural. Unified. Right. I drove everyone crazy having to sharpen my pencil twenty times a math lesson. I could easily whittle though a pencil a day... just to have that perfectly sharp point for every word, though every stroke.

The pen, on the other hand was completely foreign to paper. Instead of the sweet unity of elements, it seemed as though the pen was imposed upon the sheet. The pen claimed to have a 'ball' point. Only what a worthless 'ball' it was. The pen couldn't bounce on it's nose. No, it bounced as badly as a pencil, only the tip of it didn't break. That pathetically dull 'ball' point was always the same. Indestructible. Perpetually the same. Loathsome.

Since those days, I have become a more confidant pen user. It was slow going, but now, I too use a pen with relative ease. Make no mistake, I make plenty of mistakes and often have to use that nasty white out stuff.  (I still use a pencil to, of course. I discovered, several years to late, that mechanical pencils are always pointy and sharp! While they lack the natural feel of a wooden pencil, it lasts a lot longer when I don't sharpen it every other word.) But I have discovered that even presidents and geniuses make mistakes and erase things, no matter what writing utensil they happen to wield. Because we are all human. Those kinds of things happen... in fact they are supposed to happen. It's all a part of the process.

I looked too much at the finished product and I saw that as the goal. I missed the means to the end, the process, the road that led to it. No one sits down and writes a literary masterpeice with a black pen and hands it in to be published a few hours later. This is a labor...the labor of life and done right, it is a labor of love. It is a project. A work. There is struggle, but that is alright. That is right. You can't get from point A to point B without the space inbetween... not even with a ball point.

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