What good is a dull pencil anyway? It’s like a dull mind. Half there, and half not. But I really must have a sharp point. And I can’t do the sharpening the old fashioned way, whittling away at it with a pocketknife. I’d probably cut my thumb open. Then what? No writing at all? Those $1.99 plastic grammar school mini-sharpeners from Walgreen’s that can’t even hone a broken crayon won’t work either. No, I need a precision point, one crafted by the fancy electric pencil sharpener at the office. I even like the aroma of wood being chewed away as the lead point is perfectly polished down to a pin prick. Sometimes I just admire it for a moment, my freshly sharpened pencil, now ready for action on the page. Ironically, the point usually breaks off with its first impression onto paper.

It doesn’t bother me at all to underline phrases and sentences in a book, even in my Bible. Some witty or creative expression that may need my attention quickly at a later date. Recently, I have identified poems I especially favor in a collection of Good Poems, American Places, selected by A Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor, with a crude “x” next to the title. I must confess, however, that most of the marks have been rendered with –– yes, a rather dull pencil. It was the only one I could find, hiding all alone there among the rubber bands and paper clips and ballpoint pens that must multiply over time in the darkness of that kitchen junk drawer. Lesson learned. Apparently sometimes it’s okay to work with a dull pencil, or even a dull mind. Just get the job done.

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