Finding your Zone

I think it’s safe to assume that we all have habits to help us find our focus and get into the “zone”. Not surprisingly, colour once again can play a significant role here.

Don’t you find the mere act of wearing a crisp white shirt can dramatically improve confidence and clarity? Perhaps it’s the lack of distraction, perhaps it’s the precious virginal nature of a clean white shirt, you know its “pristine time” is limited so your time feels almost sacred and special – not to be wasted.

However, I find what tops all these habits is sharpening some pencils. A sharp pencil looks ready for action, poised for whatever direction you may take it in. The pencil is sharpened and so is the mind.

It’s multi sensory. The evocative smell of fresh curls winding out from the sharpener can transport you to many places. The random pattern of fallen shavings are visually satisfying in their own right. And the quick touch of the new point, sharp and ready to go……only to be placed in a jar on my desk while I get on with my work at the keyboard. This doesn’t matter, they have done their job, I am now ready to work.

Actually, before I sign off I must tell you an interesting story about pencils I discovered in Victoria Finlay’s book, “A Natural History of the Palette”.

For a long time pencils made from the high quality graphite deposits in the British Lake district monopolised the European art market. But in 1794, a Frenchman, Nicolas Conte , was commissioned to find an alternative to the English graphite. He did this by mixing low grade graphite (France did not have high quality graphite deposits) with clay and his pencils were quickly favoured by many prominent French artists. Then in 1847, Jean-Pierre Alibert discovered high quality graphite in Botogal Peak, Siberia close to the Chinese border. The graphite was of such high quality that the world clamoured to use pencils with this graphite. Later when pencils were mass produced in America, the manufacturers painted them bright yellow to reflect the colour of the Manchu imperial robes linking the mass produced pencils to the high quality graphite from the Alibert  mine (whether they used the Alibert graphite or not).

Interestingly, yellow is so symbolic that most pencils made in America even today are still painted yellow! The power of colour in marketing is of course enormous and as Mark Woodman of Global Color Research said, “perusing the selection in a sale bin recently, I was reminded how imperative it is to get the right colour on the right product”. It is difficult to over exaggerate the importance of colour selection – get it right and a product can fly, get it wrong and that sale bin beckons.

Back to my original note. Do you have a habit which helps you find your focus? It would be great to hear some of your ideas.

4 thoughts on “Finding your Zone

  1. Yes, I completely agree with you about your idea about getting your mind set in focus. What helps me is when I see a patch of earth infested with weeds, it makes me look forward to getting my hoe out and making the soil look rich and ready to plant things in.


  2. Well I do see that my best pencil – always kept sharp – is yellow and is complete with a rubber on the end. Strangely it doesnt say if it is HB or anything like that – it is more like 2B – but simply has GRAFIX on it. Interesting.


  3. Yes, once you start looking you will see many pencils are painted yellow especially in USA – old habits die hard especially with colour and their associations. Did you know they wanted to repaint red fire trucks yellow as yellow is much easier to see in dusk (which is why school buses and taxis are yellow in USA) but there was an outcry as red is firmly embedded as the colour people associate with fire trucks, even if it is less visible.


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