On Negative Associations.


Matthias sent some current stock Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100s to Pencil Revolution HQ recently (and several very fine pencils unavailable in the USA!). I realized that we’d never published a review of this iconic pencil. I wondered to myself if it’s because it’s daunting — there are excellent reviews out there that are, frankly, a lot to live/write up to. Or perhaps the lack of a review of this Mighty Pencil on this blog has to do with a negative association I’ve harbored for a two and half decades.

In the late 1980s, in Cub Scouts, there was a huge cache of a Staedtler film pencil in our supply closet. They came in plastic boxes and were different from the pencils we used in school. We used them in Pencil Fights and for arts and crafts projects. But when it came to trying to write on paper with them, my young mind became overly frustrated with the faint line that even a large amount of pressure would produce. They were labeled as being intended for another use. But they wrote just enough to give one hope that they could also function as a writing pencil.

I attempted to use HB Mars 100s in graduate school and enjoyed them. At a conference, however, I experienced one of the most ridiculous and boring* papers through which I’ve ever suffered, holding one of these pencils. And I don’t recall buying more since then, though there are several of them around my house.

I don’t think I ever in my life purchased yellow Dixon Ticonderoga pencils until quite a bit after I started this website. I had the Black and the Woodgrain, even the yellow Tri-Write. But the regular yellow ones reminded me of kids in elementary school that made me think of trouble-makers and bad students (how Elitist of me, I know!). For some reason, I hated those pencils.

I’ve since gotten over this aversion to yellow and green Dixons, and I have made a commitment to give the Mars 100 the review it deserves.

But I find myself wondering what, if any, negative associations folks might have with Pencils In General that might keep them from using wood and graphite, not to mention other such associations Comrades might have with certain pencils or brands or types. Whether it’s a mark of childhood or sloppiness or a reminder of getting wacked in Catholic school (been there), the way that some people avoid pencils seems, at times, like something greater or more powerful than mere preference.

Often, adults I know seem to enjoy using a quality pencil to write or draw (doubly so if they get to sharpen it), reacting strongly to the tactile and aromatic experience of using a pencil. Or perhaps they are reminded of a positive association for pencils in general or a particular pencil — this could be a whole other post.

*(Being thoroughly ridiculous and completely boring at the same time is difficult to achieve. I know. It’s been suggested since 2005 about this blog.)

2 Responses to “On Negative Associations.”

  1. group29 says:

    That is easy. Only older kids got to use pens, because they were messy in the wrong hands. Moving from pencils was a sign of maturity. Pencils were forced upon us for grueling standardized tests. It had to be a number two, or the mysterious grading machine would not work. (As kids, we did not know that #2 pencils had differing clay to graphite formulas. ) I did not really appreciate pencils again until recently.

  2. [...] This pencil was no exception, and it is certainly one of the smoothest pencils from Dixon I have ever used. It’s just fantastic. With Dixons like this, I might have been able to avoid my previous Dixon prejudice. [...]

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