The Legacy of the Pen by James R. Coggins

My seven-year-old grandson was given a pen as a reward for some achievement at school. He put it into his shirt pocket because he thought it made him “look like Grandpa.”

I was flattered.

But it brought back memories. Many years ago, I was elected to the high school student council, and a picture of the council was published in the local newspaper. One of my aunts saw it and said, “That’s typical Jimmy. He has a pen in his pocket.” I hated being called Jimmy. But the pen was important. I still carry a pen in my pocket. In fact, I refuse to buy shirts that don’t have a pocket. Because I can never tell when an idea will pop into my mind and I will need to write it down before it floats away. If I don’t write it down immediately and try to recreate it later, the words don’t flow properly. A nugget of truth becomes a lump of coal.

Singer Paul Simon, who often called himself a poet, once wrote about this danger: “She faded in the night like a poem I meant to write.” Of course, if Paul Simon had waited to write down that line, it might have come out as “I lost a girlfriend once, which reminded me of the time I lost the thread of a poem I never finished writing.” It’s not the same.

And carrying a pen is easier than carrying a laptop computer (and charging cord) in my shirt pocket.

The great Canadian writer Stephen Leacock wrote, “There’s nothing to being a writer. You just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is easy. It’s the occurring that’s difficult.” Occurring is as rare and valuable as a precious stone and therefore worth seizing whenever it appears. And so I carry a pen. I am a writer.

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is
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