Remarkably enough, it’s raining today, which I thought was now illegal in California. So, instead of traipsing outside for any Saturday aerobic exercise, what about hunkering down inside with a writing exercise? Writing prompts are a good way to loosen up the creativity muscles, and they’re more fun than a spin class. (Argue with me all you want—the rain is drowning out your protests.)
I think simple is best for a writing prompt: let’s consider describing an everyday object from several angles, whether metaphorical or metaphysical. Enter the pencil.
Pencils in the Real World
It’s notable how plungingly deep you can go when you start to describe an object, particularly one you’d never bothered to focus attention on. With a prompt, you just let your mind and fingers fly, and don’t get out any red pencil to edit.
Thus, a physical pencil is:
- A slender wooden wand capped with a metal ferrule topped with a rubber eraser
- A short cylindrical spear with a soft end and a pointy tip
- A soft, breakable wooden shaft
- A balanced, effective, reliable writing instrument
- A cat toy
- A vehicle for advertising
Pencil as Metaphor
- An insecure pencil won’t write polysyllabic words for fear of misspelling them
- A heroic pencil has broad, defined shoulders just below the eraser
- A husband pencil never takes out the shavings
- The light but friendly heft of a pencil in your hand
- The agreeable noise a pencil makes when scribbling words on paper
- The sweet cedar smells when sharpening a pencil
Pencils in Irregular Use
- Staving off boredom by flinging them up to stick in those soft-tile corporate ceilings when the boss isn’t around
- Pencil as ear cleaner
- Pencil as stand-in for conductor’s baton
Pencil as Pun
That’ll put lead in your pencil (ahh, my adolescence, it will never truly end)
Pencil as Iconic Object
Often seen behind the ears of old-school reporters, circa The Front Page era
Pencil as Ironic Object
Gigantic pencils occasionally seen in sculpture gardens
Pencil as Shakespearean Character
Think of a pencil separated from its twin, cross-dressing (alternating wearing manly tights with bosom-exposing dresses), caught in heart-pounding court intrigue, strumming a lyre whenever possible, and finally getting married amidst much fanfare, resonant huzzahs and beer.
Well, I won’t burden you with leaden prose any longer. But I think writers have an ability to look at the most common of things, and see a story there. So next time you look at your salt shaker, remember that from a different vantage you might think of it as your pet, your boyfriend, your accountant. Even your muse.
Besides, the rain is letting up—I’m going to take my pencil for a walk.