My Analog Writing Tools

As much as I love computers and technology, I use paper a lot. I’ve used it for writing song lyrics most days since I was fifteen, blog ideas, sketching and a lot of other things. Systems and special ways to get things done are great, but not sustainable. The tools I’ve stuck with a long time are simple, and some haven’t changed since I was a freshmen in high school (I hope what I make with them has improved).

When I was a kid, I carried around a notebook from the drugstore I’d write lyrics for my band in. When I filled it up, I moved onto another one. When I felt I had reason to (sharing with others), I’d type them into the computer as a text file. It stayed that way for the next several years. Today is the same, except I might replace a text file with Evernote for some things, and I’m consistent about getting things into my Mac where they’re backed up.


What notebook or pen you use isn’t important if you like using them. I like a notebook with thick paper so that ink won’t bleed through, and impressions won’t show on the next page. Moleskine notebooks have thin paper, and they’re expensive, so I don’t use them.

There’s two notebooks that I use for capturing whatever I need to. A big one for when I’m sitting some place like my desk or a table at a coffee shop, and a small one that I carry in my back pocket.

Since I don’t have it with me all the time, the big one gets less use. What goes in it ends up being stuff like lyrics or sketches where the extra space is helpful. I carry a bright orange Rhodia notebook that I like a lot because it was affordable, the paper is nice, and it looks kind of cool. Expensive notebooks made me anxious to write in them, so I don’t buy them.

My small notebook gets all kinds of stuff put into it. Ideas for blog posts, grocery lists, sketches of app ideas. Most of it’s temporary, but some things like app sketches I might take a picture of and add to Evernote. When I fill one of these, I throw it into a drawer and start a new one. I’ve carried Field Notes for years. They’re kind of expensive, but not crazy, and they’re the perfect size to fit in my back pocket.


I carry a Fisher Space Pen clipped inside my front pocket when I’m out doing things. It’s wet where I live a lot of the year, I end up writing into my small notebook outside a lot, and the ink doesn’t bleed when wet. It goes great with the cool waterproof Field Notes I got last year. When I run out of those books I may need to find a replacement brand with the same paper I can use.

The space pen is good because it’s durable and portable, but I like something smoother when sitting at a desk. I started using the Uni-ball Jetstream in November, and I like them. You can get a three pack for $13 on Amazon. I used to use Pilot G2 pens, but these are better.

Collin Donnell @collin