the power of the pen

Dana - Odenton, Maryland
Entered on April 22, 2008

I believe in the pen because it makes no apologies. It allows us to express, unabashedly, who we are and what we think. Its ink floods an otherwise vacant piece of paper with raw and honest thought. The pen gives us a chance to examine and evaluate our mistakes.

I have spent roughly twelve of my eighteen years as a student. During the course of this educational career, I have enlisted the help of many school supplies.

There were the plastic scissors and non-toxic glue sticks, to keep my work tidy and unthreatening, the ruler and wide ruled paper, to make sure I remained straight and within my bounds and of course the never-ending supply of classic number-two pencils with magical, pink, rubber erasers to conveniently rub out any of my unsightly mistakes.

I spent my elementary and middle school career believing that I was actually improving myself by using this prescribed tool box of supplies. I remained organized, clean, predictable. Then, in high school a newcomer to my supply list challenged my uninspired academic arsenal; the pen.

The pen was never encouraged in my middle school classes. I was taught that the pen was to be used only with the utmost care. For what came out of a pen could never be taken back. It couldn’t be erased like its predecessor the pencil. No, mistakes that came out of a pen were permanent, forever etched into those lines of loose-leaf, an emblazoned symbol of imperfection

I was afraid of this new instrument’s power. While I wasn’t naive enough to think I was perfect, I was deliberate enough to conceal my shortcomings from everyone else. The pen could expose my poor spelling and liberal use of commas. I no longer had the freedom to erase and correct these problems.

Hesitantly, I began employing the pen more and more. High school English teachers especially, seemed to favor this tool above the more comfortable pencil. Unwilling to completely surrender my power of the edit, I weaned myself off the use of a pencil by writing in erasable pen.

The erasable pen wasn’t quite as forgiving, with its taunting smudge marks, as my pencils had been. None the less, I felt that I was making progress that was until one of my teachers went so far as to scold me for erasing a misspelling during a timed- free write. During this free write, I had gone back to my recorded stream of consciousness and freely revised a few words. Upon seeing the incriminating smudges of my erasable pen, the teacher inquired as to why I felt the need to edit my ideas. I replied without second thought by saying, “In case they’re wrong”.

In that moment, the teacher’s patronizing smile furrowed into a confounded scowl. In the moment following, I began to understand the power of the pen.

Now a fervent writer of ink, I have my own theories as to why the pen is placed in the hands of developing writers. For me, it forced my writing out of what was “right” or “wrong” and my thinking out of the confining safety of those early school supplies.

I believe that our mistakes are just as formative to who we will become as our successes and for this reason. I write in pen.