For back-to-school season, I'm picking a high school classic: 1984. Writing utensils of any kind are few and far between in Airstrip One (formerly known as the United Kingdom), but several pens and pencils appear throughout the book (especially "ink-pencils," known to us as copying pencils). These instruments are not merely office conveniences, forgotten about in the future; they are weapons in a world where history gets revised, truth means nothing, and thoughts are policed.
In the very first scene of the novel, Winston sits down in a little nook, presumably invisible to the telescreen that monitors his home life, with a contraband item: a diary. Individualism, independent thought, and private opinion are all forbidden in Airstrip One, so there is no need for a diary. If Winston were caught with it, he'd certainly be sentenced to death. Which is why, right before he begins to write: "A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act." His hands are shaky; he's not used to writing with his hands. Normally he uses the speak-write.
At last, he writes the date "in small, clumsy letters." Then: nothing.
"For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the paper. The telescreen had changed over to strident military music. It was curious that he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say. For weeks past he had been making ready for this moment, and it had never crossed his mind that anything would be needed except courage. The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up."
Eventually, the monologue comes out. And once it starts, it brings up other memories, and other thoughts. I won't spoil the rest of the book for those of you who haven't read or don't remember it clearly (as I didn't, until I revisited the book recently). But it does make clear the power of the written word. Not the printed word, or the broadcast word, but the word written by one's own hand.