Sunday, July 27, 2014

Favourite Supplies for Writing

I write every week, and usually every day.  I also own a lot of different pens, pencils, and notebooks.  But when it comes to composing a blog post, short story, novel chapter, or anything else, there are a few supplies that I always return to.  They may not be glamorous, but they work, and that's the most important thing.

Left to right: Bic Round Stic ballpoint, PaperMate Write Bros. ballpoint, Pentel Fluorescent Marker, Staedtler Textsurfer Classic highlighter, Sharpie Gel highlighter, Monami Handy highlighter, green sticky notes.  Back: scrap paper bound together with loose-leaf rings.

  • Scrap paper and a cheap ballpoint pen - I've found that my words flow most easily when I write by hand in cursive, with a cheap ballpoint pen (probably one I found and therefore not just cheap, but free) on a sheet of scrap paper (letter-size paper that has been used on only one side is ideal).  If I was writing in a nice notebook or with a nice pen then I'd probably feel some pressure to have my writing be of relatively high quality, so that I wouldn't "waste" my good supplies.  With a cheap pen and scrap paper, this pressure vanishes and I can write my first draft more freely.  And using a pen encourages me to keep writing, without stopping to change every other word (as I might do with a pencil, which can be erased, or while typing on my computer - that backspace button is way too handy!).  As for writing in cursive, I guess that simply triggers something in my brain that typing (or even printing) does not.
  • Highlighters - I rarely used highlighters in school, but now I'm starting to find them essential for organizing information.  If I'm taking notes on a topic for a blog post then I use several different coloured highlighters to break all of this information down into subtopics.  I've also written before about how I used highlighters (and coloured pens) to identify and organize different sections within the outline of my novel.  I could probably do much of this digitally, but doing it by hand on paper encourages me to focus on truly understanding the material, not just on cutting and pasting from one section to another.  Also, it's more fun.  Highlighters are just markers for adults, aren't they?
  • Sticky notes - I don't use these a lot, but when I was working on my novel outline, sometimes I would think of an idea for a certain section, but I didn't have enough space to write it in.  So I wrote it on a sticky note and added it in that way.
  • My computer - As much as I love pen and paper, ultimately most of my writing needs to be typed up on the computer.  I also do most of my editing on the computer, rather than by hand.  But I'm not interested in trying out different kinds of software, or using fancy equipment.  On my laptop, I stick with Microsoft Word, which I've used for ages and am very comfortable with.  And in Blogger and Wordpress, I use the default post editors to write my blog posts.

And that's all!  In the end, it doesn't matter how impressive your supplies are, the basic process of writing is still the same.  It's about putting words down on the paper (or the screen), and sticking with them until they turn into something.

If you're a writer or blogger, what are your favourite supplies?


  1. Heather that Bic disposable is painful. :) Kidding aside yes I do have that list of supplies. I have to be at my full size desktop computer. The laptop doesn't do it for me. A couple of large screens, the sticky notes for sure, a favorite fountain pen in my rotation and a blackwing pencil to doodle and erase. Granted my writing sessions are not multiple hours at a time.

  2. Scrap paper, either kept at letter size or quartered, I seem to always have. Hastily scrawled notes, grocery lists, etc. I usually like better memo pads for carry, but I'm economy-minded, too, at home. Malcolm Gladwell's article, "The Social Life of Paper", (The New Yorker, Mar. 25, 2002), takes a shot at explaining why he and others believe paper will be around for a while. Jack/Ohio

  3. I'm impressed that you do so much writing in longhand! I always write in my journal and personal cards and letters with a fountain pen, but anything that will be published online (blog) gets composed and edited on the PC (drafted with Word, then copy/pasted into Blogger).

    - Tina

  4. I handwrite all of my first drafts in different notebooks, each with a specific purpose. I have a lot of pens, gel and fountain alike, so I switch between them constantly. When I'm done I leave the draft for a few days and then edit with a different pen. I doubt that I can name all of my supplies as I have so many of them.

  5. Great article! I couldn't agree more about having fancy supplies. It's all about the end product - the actual writing! Although I do still enjoy amassing some nice stationery, journals and pens, but like you, they can sometimes feel intimidating if I know I'm just doodling or drafting something. My old favorite for projects or creative writing is the 0.7 PhD mechanical pencil because it's always sharp and the eraser capacity is good. It's perfect for when the words are flowing. Most of the time I use pens but when I'm writing something I really care about, somehow a draft with pencil looks better to me than a draft written in pen. I also use a Mead Cambridge business notebook - it has heavy, college-ruled ivory paper that I love.

  6. Besides using my trusty Filofax, I rely more and more, for many years, on a small Moleskine notebook. I has to be their smallest offering and it works just fine for to-do lists, shopping lists, and recording fleeting ideas. Fits anywhere too.

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  8. I never thought to carry a highlighter with me! That's so smart. I usually end up circling thing and using lots of arrows. My default is always sticky notes, lots and lots of sticky notes. :)

  9. Thanks for the post Heather!

    I am still trying to carry a fountain pen every day. I know is risky but is funny when you find, at the end of the day, lots of comments and doodles in my journal.


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