Often used and under-appreciated, the eraser is a wonderful concept. If it had a gender, I wonder what it would be? Simple in fit and simple in form, yet in regard to the eraser’s function, its role in the creative process cannot be under-emphasized. Actually, if not for the eraser and its given ability to modify one’s intent, how many artful expressions would have been compromised or regulated to lesser achievements? In this regard, the eraser can be considered fundamental to the process of creativity. As often experienced, rarely is there a time in the creative process (whether designing or writing something) that some changes aren’t desired or even necessary. Thus the ability to vacillate between ideas, to make changes, is where the eraser excels – it allows the user / creator the ability to change, to modify…to make it better or simply different as one wishes.
The eraser was originally patented in 1858 by a guy named H.L. Lipman. It is said that the concept took some 60 years to become embraced, and in regard to Europe even longer. I guess people of that time were used to getting it right the first time, acquiescing to first efforts or perhaps just feeling it was extraneous to place the eraser on the opposite end of a pencil. Now the eraser has become inseparable from the lead. And as far as that goes, the creative process whether painting, writing, throwing pots, crocheting, etc., employs some form of undoing and starting over. In many ways, that process of iteration seems fundamental to the creative process in whatever form or technique where it can be utilized. So having the ability to go back, in a sense to retreat, can be a positive thing. In fact, perhaps it is critical to achieving the desired outcome.
Sometimes to see things from another perspective, one only has to see what it would be like not to have it. In this case, the inability to correct, tune, modify, etc. is a concept hard to conceive. Thankfully, we often have erasers in one form or another in regard to the creative process. The eraser, as exemplified therein, is only one tool or technique that it is utilized in such a manner; however, the concept can be and is broadly employed. Perhaps it is unfortunate that all things in life don’t come with an eraser. In 1915 Reverend Silas Conger said during a sermon, “To keep our past failures ever before us would cause us to continue to fail. So take out your pencil, rub out the mark and start over again.”
In many ways, the eraser or alike allows us greater freedom to explore, to take chances, perhaps even fail when engaged in the creative process. Just knowing that we can retreat and go forth again is a good thing.