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It is now possible to open Pencil Tool Options and untick 'Close paths when ends are within a set tolerance' option completely (or change the value).
This will effectively stop Pencil from auto-joining.
If you want this option to be toggleable on the fly — please vote here: https://illustrator.uservoice.com/forums/333657-illustrator-desktop-feature-requests/suggestions/45913831-hold-cmd-ctrl-key-while-drawing-with-pencil-to-tem
An error occurred while saving the commentJohn Friedlander commented
I’m shocked I can find no way to turn off path-closing when using the pencil tool to write text - or anything else! Sketching is impossible. A brand-new Illustrator version just released late 2021, and this tool is virtually useless. ???