Out of a pencil…

inspiring story… or a personal experience that will inspire… I think when this is the question asked of me, I go the former. Being a bookworm, I’ve read so many books; so many stories that inspire me to live, to survive, to become better and to better what I do.

The first story that comes to mind is a personal favorite. It’s a short story from Paulo Coelho’s collection “Like the Flowing River”. I reproduce it here as such; it’s there on his blog as well. It is “The story of the pencil”.


A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter. At one point he asked:
‘Are you writing a story about what we’ve done? Is it a story about me?’

His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson:
‘I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up.’

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special.
‘But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen!’

‘That depends on how you look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.’

‘First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.’

‘Second quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpner. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, he’s much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.

‘Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the road to justice.’

‘Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.’

‘Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark. in just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your every action’


I’ve interacted with friends who aren’t Coelho’s fans, and there are some who are. But I feel anyone can understand this vignette, irrespective of if they understand what Coelho wishes to convey or not. I like some of his books, and from those that I like, this short story stands out very well. It inspires me to become a better person. I’m a writer too, and I use a pencil every once in a while, and when I do, this story comes to mind. All 5 take-aways from the story stay with me, and I try to leave the right impression on whoever I interact with and leave a mark on!</p

(5th March, 2014)


Poetry & writing are to me, a breath of fresh air in a life that is sometimes covered by the smoke of sorrow or self doubt. They also become the sweets I share to celebrate when life offers me a reason to. But most of all, they are to me, my life. For each word I write is a piece of my heart, a thought that just had to find its way into the world.

8 thoughts on “Out of a pencil…”

  1. Wow! all the five points about pencil are intriguing & inspiring. Never thought this way!
    Am yet to read Paulo Coelho
    Will surly read him 🙂

    Feeling uplifted after reading this 🙂

  2. I’m a Coelho fan (even if I’m confused by him sometimes!). But I’d never come across this story. He certainly has a knack for useful metaphors! Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s part of the collection, Like a Flowing River 🙂 It has some nice stories too, Sharon. Agree with the metaphor part. So true 🙂

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