Tag Archives | puzzles

Sharpening Pencils

This morning I was working on my daily 15 minutes devoted to the realization that I have no logic skills whatsoever, otherwise known as solving a Sudoku puzzle, when it occurred to me that my pencils needed sharpening.

Now I'm bad enough at Sudoku without having also to contend with blurry-pointed pencils.  The boxes in which you fill in the numbers are very small, you see, and you need to fit many numbers in each one as you keep track and erase and figure and re-figure.  So you need a very sharp pencil.

I have a container full of pencils conveniently stationed in the kitchen, where the Sudoku madness solving goes on but for some reason the pencils are never sharp.  (Could it be because my son the mathematician uses them to solve math equations?  You tell me.)

So it occurred to me to hie myself down the basement to where we have a good old-fashioned hand-cranked pencil sharpener on the wall, bolted there by previous occupants, many, many years ago.  (The fact that you must walk into the basement, which is dark and scary and full of belongings we don't know what to do with, plus has an open crawl space which you have to pretend to ignore, est the monsters jump out at you if you catch their eye,  might also have something to do with the fact that the pencils are never sharp.)

To get to the pencil sharpener you have to lean way over the washing machine and insert the pencil.  I'd taken a whole handful down with me, hoping to not have to repeat this exercise for quite awhile, not liking monsters real well and having perfecting the art of going a long time without washing clothes, and so I began sharpening the pencils.  And it occurred to me, as I struggled, because it also turns out that sharpening pencils via a hand-cranked pencil sharpener is a bit of a struggle, that sharpening pencils is a bit like writing.

Why?

I shall tell you. 

Firstly, if you force the pencil, it doesn't sharpen as well.  You have to hold it ever so delicately without cramming it into the hole.  If you just allow the pencil to rest lightly in the sharpener and crank like crazy, you get a perfectly sharpened pencil.  So, too, with writing.  If you force the words, they never sound right.  You need to learn to relax when you are holding the pencil in the pencil sharpener and you need to learn to relax when you are holding pen in hand to write.  And then crank out the words like mad.

Second, if the pencil gets sharpened unevenly from the beginning, it is difficult, bordering on the impossible, to ever get the damn thing to be sharpened correctly again.  Have you had this experience with writing?  I have.  Until I get the beginning shaped right, I can't write the rest of it.  Even though I am the biggest advocate of letting the words flow on the planet, I can't help it.  The beginning has to be right before the words can flow.  And so too with pencils.

Thirdly, it is really a pain to sharpen pencils, but the Sudoku solving goes so much better when I do.  Its important to have the right tools in writing, and since we don't need much beyond paper and pencil, choose your metaphoric tools wisely–your words and your technique, your craft and your grammar.

So those are the lessons I learned sharpening pencils this morning.  Oh, and one final one–it is important always to be up on current technology.  I'm buying an electric pencil sharpener. 

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