Once more with pen

When I was in primary school I insisted on writing in my notebooks in pencil in case I made a mistake. I didn’t want to spoil the pages with crossings out. And these notebooks were by no means exclamation-worthy stationery. This meant that sometimes I had to write out everything twice – the first time in pencil and then the second time, I’d trace over the pencilled words in ink. 

Lead and liberty

When I use pencil now it makes me feel nostalgic. The distinctive whispery scrape of lead on paper is as evocative of my school days as the smell of brand-new rubber plimsolls or the taste of pink custard. And knowing I can erase if I want to gives me the courage to be more creative. There’s a sense of freedom I just don’t get when I write with a pen.

Today I have some notebooks that are so fancy that even using pencil seems dicey. The thought of a misspelled word or an incorrectly placed heading is paralysing and so the pages remain pristine. 

I’ve got tens of notebooks that I haven’t written in yet for precisely this reason. Even a Wreck this Journal, whose sole raison d’etre is to be defiled and defaced with random scribble.


To get my National Stationery Week celebrations off a good start, I decided to christen one of my unused notebooks. And in honour of #PenAndPencilDay, I wrote out one of my favourite poems just as I would have done back in school – in pencil first with pen over the top. It took a lot of the pressure off.

The notebook I chose was a leaving gift from former workmates. It’s A5ish, and a gorgeous rich burgundy colour. The lined pages are gilt-edged. And the smell of the leather cover makes me think of old books. It’s even got a ribbon marker. 


I admit to feeling a pang when I wrote the first lines, but ultimately it’s satisfying to know that this particular notebook has finally begun to fulfil its destiny. Best of all, I feel fully justified in buying a replacement. The role of spare leather-bound notebook in my notebook collection is once again vacant.

Happy #PenAndPencilDay.

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