Pen, Pencil, Ink and Paper

I spend a great deal of time writing with a keyboard. But I also do a lot of writing by hand. These are some of my favorite analog tools for writing.


SmartMarks Bookmarks.

Smart marks are a bookmark with a small pad of lined paper attached to it; you use the bookmark to mark your place while reading, and take notes on the attached notepad. It’s perfect for students, book reviewers or careful readers who want to engage with and remember what they read. Each pack has three SmartMarks bookmarks with attached notebook.



Book Darts

Book Darts are small metal points (bronze in this case) that you slide onto a page to mark your place. They’re easily removed and re-used but you can also leave them in place to make it easy to find a particular passage if you want to be able to cite it later. The box has 50 Book Darts; there are also larger tins with other metals.

Book Weights

Book weights are leather covered weights that gently hold a book open and flat so you can copy a page for citation purposes or read hands-free. Book weights are particularly useful for large reference books that don’t want to stay open so you can copy a passage and make a citation, or to hold a stack of loose sheets while you’re transcribing them.


Scribbles That Matter Dot-grid Blank Books

Scribbles That Matter are blank books bound in a variety of colors with synthetic leather covers over 201 pages of A5 (c. 5.7 x 8.3 inches) 100gsm ivory dot-grid paper. They include three “index” or table of contents pages in the front, have a built-in pen holder, two ribbon markers, and an expanding pocket tucked into the back cover. There’s an elastic band to keep the pages closed. There are two basic cover styles, the professional or blank style in multiple colors, and the “iconic” style with embossed icons. The paper is kind to fountain pens, and acid free.

You can buy the A5 dotted grid Scribbles that Matter  in multiple colors, but they’ve just released A4 sized (8.5 x 11) square-grid ruled notebooks (graph paper) and in A6 (3.9 x 5.8; pocket sized) with square grid ruled paper in Teal Pro (no icons) covers.

You can also get a Scribbles that Matter dot-grid ruled A4 (8.5 x 11) or in A6 (3.9 x 5.8) in Teal Pro (no icons).

Black ’N Red Business Notebook, Hardcover, Twinwire 8.5 x 11

Hardback glossy-finish cover with twin-wire binding, so you can fold the cover back or have it open and flat, and 70 pages of lined 90gsm Optik Paper; it’s fountain pen friendly for all but the broadest nibs and wettest inks. There are a number of different sizes and binding styles of Black ’N Red notebooks; this is just one of them. These got me through a lot of rough drafts.




There are a lot of people who write with pencils routinely. I’m one of them. I use them for very rough drafts, for editing, for sketching diagrams, and for annotations.

Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil, 0.7mm

I like mechanical pencils, and the Kuru Toga pencil from Uni ball is my favorite. What makes it so very cool is that as you write, the lead is automatically rotated a tiny bit, so that it’s always just the right amount of sharp, and never dull. The mechanism uses three tiny gears so that the lead is rotated via a spring-loaded clutch turning the lead a tiny bit each time you lift the pencil (and stop applying pressure to the point). It also uses a special lead developed to break less often. There’s a small eraser under the cap, and this starter kit includes extra erasers aa well as lead refills, but I prefer using a Tombow Mono Knock eraser.

Tombow Mono Knock Eraser and Refills

This is a cylindrical eraser that fits a pen. The eraser gives you precision control, and the you can refill it. It works really really well for most ordinary pencils, with little mess and no smearing. These are the Tombow Mono Knock Eraser refills.



I tend to favor fountain pens for a lot of my personal writing, as well as for rough drafts and note-taking. Fountain pens are actually easier to use, physically, then ballpoint pens. I also like that I can refill them rather than throw them away, and the fact that I can buy a bottle of ink instead of refills and save money, and that there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of shades and colors and kinds of fountain pen inks.

Fountain pens don’t have to be expensive.

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens 7-Pack Pouch Assorted Colors
These are a great introduction to writing with a fountain pen. This pack features seven colors, but you can also stick to Varsity blue ink fountain pens or black ink Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pens. In Europe the same pen (made by Pilot) is called the V-Pen.