When you think of Ernest Hemingway at work, you might remember that photo of a white-haired Papa standing at a bookshelf, pecking at a typewriter balanced carefully on top of a stack of books. But though he famously loved his typewriter, Hemingway was also a big proponent of the pencil:
“When you start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none. So you might as well use a typewriter because it is that much easier and you enjoy it that much more. After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333 which is a damned good average for a hitter. It also keeps it fluid longer so you can better it easier.” (via openculture.com)
Evidence of his love of pencils pops up in his fiction as well. His famous novel/memoir, A Moveable Feast, is not only required reading for young, expatriate writers living in Paris, but also a juicy peek into his time there in the 1920s. It's full of characters you might recognize, like Sylvia Beach, John dos Passos, Zelda Fitzgerald, Ford Maddox Ford, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and of course Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Here's Hemingway setting in to write:
"It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old waterproof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write. I was writing about up in Michigan and since it was a wild, cold, blowing day it was that sort of day in the story."
And here he is sharpening his pencil so he can admire a woman so he can take a break from writing:
"The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpener with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink."
And here he's explaining the things you need for luck:
"The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were all you needed."
And even Hemingway has the same sharpener problems we do:
"A pencil-lead might break off in the conical nose of the pencil sharpener and you would use the small blade of the penknife to clear it or else sharpen the pencil carefully with the sharp blade and then slip your arm through the sweat-salted leather of your pack strap to lift the pack again, get the other arm through and feel the weight settle on your back and feel the pine needles under your moccasins as you started down for the lake."
Unfortunately no one knows what pencil Papa preferred. I think that he'd like a General's Cedar Pointe: it's made in America, and it's completely naked so you can feel the wood grain. I'm sure he'd like the point retention too, unless he, like many of us, liked sharpening as a distraction.
What's your favorite Hemingway? And what kind of pencil do you think he'd use?