Hardworking pictures: Keep a pencil in your pocket


In his childhood memoirs, Why Write?, author Paul Auster hails the pencil as an invaluable tool for documenting the world around us.

Auster recalls the time, when he was 8 years old and baseball obsessed, that he met his favourite player, Willie Mays, at a game. Desperate for an autograph, frantically he searched in vain for a pencil or pen. Auster left without an autograph, and cried the whole way home.

He learnt a life-changing lesson that day; never underestimate the power of the pencil as a stamp of history and the world around us. Always carry a pencil, just in case. Learning this lesson, he tells us, is how he became a writer.

Living in a world where the selfie is the new autograph, and the desire to put pen to paper is often eclipsed by an even stronger desire to whip out a mobile and post something on Twitter or Instagram. Look in most people's pockets, and you're more likely to find the latest iPhone than an 'obsolete' pencil.

But despite our tectonic shift towards tech, the power of the pencil remains strong. Visual storytelling prevails as a compelling way for us to engage with the world around us. Quick doodle or a lengthier sketchnote, picking up a pen conjures new and inspiring ways for us to perceive our surroundings. And no need for Instagram - this can all be done through your very own filter.

As with many of life's most important lessons, Auster learnt the power of the pencil the hard way. Don't make the same mistake - take a pencil wherever you go. You never know when the inspiration or opportunity to use it may strike.

If you want to learn more about the power of hardworking pictures, visit our Academy page. It's full of visual thinking tips and the latest from our workshops team. Or experience the extraordinary problem-solving power of pictures by checking your team into a bespoke Inktank workshop.