Many folks have made a substantial investment in pens and ink to ensure that their journal last through the ages. I certainly have, but there aren’t many fountain pen inks that really last, behave well, and are commonly available. There aren’t many disposable pen choices either – even fewer if you hate felt tip pens as I do. Is there another choice that makes more sense for posterity?
What if there was as ink that worked well with all papers, didn’t bleed, didn’t spill, and could be removed to fix mistakes?
Enter the pencil.
Yep, the lowly pencil. It resists solvents, water, and the sun. It’s easy to carry, attracts little attention, and even the most expensive brand is cheap. It can be erased when needed, and even comes in different colors, albeit with different properties.
Pencil would seem to be an ideal journaling medium, and I suspect that many of the most famous journals have been kept in pencil.
Imagine yourself tossing in an open boat sailing from Elephant Island to South Georgia – are you going to be able to refill your pen with ink? Are you even going to be able to write very many words without crossing them out and rewriting? That Shackleton got anything down at all is amazing.
I originally drafted this post in my journal using Noodler’s bulletproof black ink, as good a choice as any for permanence and longevity. I’m not sure I need to protect my work from forgers. Checks? Sure. The signatures on a really important document? Often. Scientific measurements used to support patent filings? Protocol suggests it’s foolish to use anything else, but I don’t know that one’s actually required to use ink.
But my journal? Pencil is vulnerable to erasure, but is anyone going to devote the time and effort needed to erase my journal? I think it’s pretty unlikely. Perhaps I might, to get rid of an offending reference written in haste, but there aren’t many secret plans in there, and even if there were, an eraser weilding perpetrator has many hours of boring reading before they’re going to find them.
What is likely (and indeed has happened) is spilled coffee or other drinks (including booze, which will dissolve ballpoint ink). Sure, if I spill coffee on a page I can rinse it with water, and probably be left with a readable image with many inks. Rinse again with alcohol and the list of inks shrinks. With pencil there’s no problem.
In the same way that fountain pens have shading, and other dynamics of line width, pencil has it’s own character. The line width varies and when using a sharp part of the point it can be dark and dense, but as the point dulls it grows wide and wispy.
There are lots of other considerations, like sharpening, smudging, ghosting, etc. but I often ask myself when using a rollerball or the like if I wouldn’t be better off with a pencil.