A Useless List of 5 Writing Tools A Writer May or May Not Need

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Writing tools for writers and bloggers
Sounds a bit contradicting, I know. But just because you must have something doesn’t mean that it is useful or that you actually need it! And that’s what this blog post is all about — 5 writing tools I must have, but honestly, it’s not like I need them to write… definitely not all of them.

You see, writing is one job that doesn’t need much. Now, I’m not talking about running a blog. That’s a whole different story. But as far as the act of writing is concerned, the only thing we need these days is a computer. If you like to take notes with your hands, then you may add a notebook to that list — there are plenty available in the market for less than a buck. And a pen… whichever’s your favorite.

And that’s about it.

As an electrical engineer, I have known “tools.” Big tools. Some bigger than me. Others big on the price tag, and the only reason I’ve been able to use them is that someone else paid for them — an employer, a corporation, a university.

As a [hobbyist] photographer, I’ve owned my share of tools. There was a time in my life when I owned three medium format cameras, three 35mm cameras, a DSLR camera, several lenses, and four different Polaroids. (Who needs four Polaroids?!) My refrigerator was always half-filled with 35mm, 120mm, and Polaroid film.

Good old days…

Anyhow, my point is, I love tools and gadgets. But when I started writing, I realized that I didn’t need them anymore. Online tools, sure. A good writing app can make the job of writing more relaxing. A scheduling tool can make the job of running a business simpler. Softwares can manage your business, do things for you that you cannot do yourself — blog hosting platforms, content management systems, plugins…

But just the act of writing itself has no need for tools or gadgets except what I already mentioned — a computer. And maybe a notebook and a pen.

And so, the gadget lover in me had to find out creative ways to incorporate more tools in my writing trade — tools I must have just so I can feel more secure in my gadget-fort, but in all honestly, serves zero real purposes.

It’s all vanity and nothing else.

Regardless, I wanted to share with you my favorite writing tools. Do you need them? Heck no! Do you want them? I bet you do!

Note: I shared a bunch of Amazon links in this post, but if possible, do get whatever you can locally to support small and local businesses. 

An extra laptop

Do people really need an extra laptop just for writing? Nope! But well, I wanted one. So I went and bought a Chromebook from Amazon in the middle of a pandemic.

The good

My main laptop is a powerhouse. It practically carries my entire life in it. Two years ago, after my last laptop was stolen, I got a little skeptical about taking my laptop out. So, those coffee shop writing sessions? They weren’t as much fun anymore where I was constantly worried about my stuff being stolen. But a cheap laptop that I do not use for anything other than writing seemed like the perfect solution. Since I use an app to write most of my articles, I do not need to worry about losing my work if something happened to this secondary laptop.

The bad

Technically speaking, one doesn’t need a laptop for writing alone. Now it’s just another piece of machine in my bedroom. Since I do not even go out all that much these days, this laptop gets little use thanks to the pandemic and cold weather. Right now it feels like a bit of a waste, to be honest.

But! I plan on getting more use out of it once the weather warms up. Then I’ll be able to take it out to the nearby parks and write as much as I want. I’m also hoping that we’ll all be getting vaccinated by Summer, and perhaps indoor coffee shops will be a thing again by Fall.

Wouldn’t that be great?!

My recommendation

I bought a Samsung Chromebook 3 from Amazon for less than 300 bucks. It’s a decent laptop for the price, but I’m not a big fan of the keyboard. Which is a bummer because this laptop is for writing! I’m light on the touch, so I often miss a key when typing. If you tend to press down harder on the keys, then you should be OK.

So yeah, I may upgrade it with a different one. I hear the Google Pixelbook Go has a really nice keyboard. It’s more affordable than a regular Pixelbook but a tad more expensive than other Chromebooks.

But of course, it’s not like you need a Chromebook. You can just as well buy a Windows machine or a Macbook. Personally, I prefer a Chromebook for writing because they’re cheaper, lightweight, and bloat-free.

Journals

Not those 99-cent notebooks, no. I’m talking about expensive journals that are smaller, thicker, and much, much more expensive. Do you need them? Technically, no. But nice journals have a psychological impact on people. It makes us want to write in ’em.

I use them for a variety of reasons. In fact, up until a couple of months ago, I was using three different journals simultaneously — one for planning the day and tracking my tasks (kind of like a planner + bullet journal), one for writing down thoughts and experiences, and the last one for writing down future blog post and article ideas, outlines, etc.

But for real, do we need so many journals? Nope! But about 80% of the things we own are not really needed anyway…

The good

Obviously, nice journals are much handier than 99-cent college-ruled notebooks. They’re also pretty, classy, and generally more appealing. And let’s face it. A writer without a journal is just kinda… I don’t know… weird?

The bad

Journals run out fast, and they’re not exactly cheap. Also, many high-end journals use real leather, which is not cool in my books.

My recommendation

One word — Moleskine. PU [faux] leather cover available in both hard and soft covers. Also comes in various sizes. Personally, I prefer the soft-cover A5 size dotted Moleskine journals. They’re super handy and easy to carry around in my small-ish backpack or messenger bag, whatever I’m in the mood for.

Moleskine is definitely a winner in terms of quality and price (it’s not cheap, but journals hardly are… which is crazy but whatev…), but a couple of months ago, I decided to give something new a try. So I found this Dingbats Wildlife journal. Much more expensive than the Moleskine, so I doubt I’ll be buying them again, but it sure is a nice one. The pages are super awesome and sturdy and thick. These pages are perforated, so if you want to tear them from the journal, you can do so easily. The PU leather upper is gorgeous, and it even comes with an elastic pen-holder. Pretty cool if you ask me, but that price tag though…

Next on the list is one for the travel-journal lovers who like wrap-around notebooks with leather ties… only, this one’s vegan! This is also refillable, which is neat. An acquaintance recommended it, but the whole tie-up thing feels a bit messy to me, so I’ll likely skip this one. But if you’re into that stuff, feel free to check out this beautiful moss-green vegan-leather refillable travel journal.

Lastly, I found this one not long ago, and as soon as I’m done with my current Dingbats, I’ll be ordering these. It’s a set of four journals for the price of one. Not sure about the quality as I’ve never used them, but the price is hard to beat. I mean, how bad can they be anyway?! It has mostly great reviews. One user did say the pages bleed and ghost if you use a fountain pen. But I use a super-fine ball-point pen, so I figured I should be fine. I mean, just look at that price…

Journals - Moleskine and Dingbats
Two of my journals. Top: Moleskine. Bottom: Dingbats

Index cards

Uh, so, yes. I’m in love with index cards.

So, here’s the deal. I told you I had been looking for more tools to add, right? So yes, I have no need for index cards, but when I read another writer raving about index cards, I knew I had to add them to my writing toolbox.

And now I’m more or less smitten with them.

You see, I’ve always used a journal to outline my articles. And I never thought there was any other way to do it. But index cards have changed the game entirely. Now, I probably wouldn’t have felt that way if I didn’t start writing a somewhat complicated piece a few weeks ago.

As far as these blog posts are concerned, I mostly need to create an outline, and the rest comes naturally to me. But this article I’m working on right now is a different story. It’s a piece I’m writing intending to hopefully publish in Bitch Magazine or Splice Today. If I get rejected from both, I will self-publish on Medium, but anyway, that’s not the point.

The thing is, the article I’m writing is the hardest I’ve ever attempted. It focuses on the current US political climate and attempts to make sense of it by drawing inspiration and examples from the past. This means I have to do a lot of research, and taking notes on a journal isn’t all that efficient anymore.

Enter: index cards.

Now, some people like to do this part with an app like Trello. But I’m more of an analog person. Also, I love to write… like, on paper with a pen. So, index card it is.

The good

Index cards are cheap.

The bad

Index cards are messy.

My roommate came to my room the other day, but instead of saying whatever she came to say, she took a look at my desk that had some 15 index cards spread around my laptop, rolled her eyes, mumbled something under her breath (pretty sure I heard her say “crazy bitch”) and walked right out.

But no matter. Nobody around me understands blogging or writing for a living anyway, and I had stopped caring a long time ago.

And also, my roomie’s pretty cool and we call each other bitches with all the affection in the world… just so you know…

But yes, they sure are messy. Keeping them organized is a bit of a headache, but I’ve found a solution! (Refer to the next section.)

Where to get them

Wherever you get your office supplies. Staples, Target, Amazon… I bought some from the grocery store’s office supply aisle. But if you want to get fancy, here’s one.

Index card holder

Like I said, index cards are messy. So I had to find something to keep ’em organized.

My recommendation

Amazon has plenty of options to choose from. Starting from big wooden boxes to flimsy plastic ones.

But I’ve found two that I love.

This one sits on your desk, and it is easy to just pull out new index cards as you’re doing your research.

As for storing the ones that you’ve already scribbled on, I found some cute clear plastic box-shaped ones on Yoobi.

Yoobi index card holder and my tiny scribbles on index cards after I took notes on one of the books I had been reading.
Yoobi index card holder and my tiny scribbles on index cards after I took notes on one of the books I had been reading.

Pens

I mean… I suppose this isn’t so useless after all. Everybody needs a good pen.

I have had my pen-phases. There was a time when I liked sporting a fancy fountain pen. But fountain pens are hazards waiting to unleash, so I ditched them. Then I had a Micron phase. These are not meant for writing, but I liked having them handy during that phase when I tried my hands at hand-lettering.

I’m glad that was a short-lived phase.

I’ve more or less settled on Pilot pens these days, and they’re great!

My recommendation

I had been using the Pilot G-2 for the last couple of years and I was happy. Then I found Pilot Precise V5, and now I’m more or less a convert. These pens are super precise, which means you can write in tiny letters and still be legible. Also, they don’t bleed.


There you go — 5 writing tools that I cannot be without. Do you have a writing tool that you must have at all times? Let me know in the comments because my toolbox isn’t full enough. I need new toys!

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Writing tools for writers and bloggers

6 thoughts on “A Useless List of 5 Writing Tools A Writer May or May Not Need”
  1. As someone who just started their blog, I really appreciate this. And the part about journals shocked me! But I loved hearing everything you had to say, it was all very useful information!

  2. See, this is why I love your blog. Where else am I going to get this type of honesty? Most others would probably tell you these are tools you CANNOT live without. And I appreciate you putting Amazon links and still encouraging supporting small businesses.
    I’ve been wanting to get a refillable planner binder cover (It’s this notebook cover with 5-6 binder rings). So it’s a refillable notebook- you just have to buy pages next time it gets over. Can’t wait until I save up enough for it (woes of a broke college student). Who knows, you might add it to your tool collection.
    Again, awesome post as always.

  3. I really love your handwriting, Maliha! I’m one of those writers with terrible handwriting that looks like an eight-year-old scrawl. I’ve never kept a journal for long, although I have a Moleskine one somewhere in my cabinet. I always end up reverting to Goodnotes on my iPad or just a good old note-taking app (e.g. Notion). Most of the time, it’s because a notebook is too heavy to bring around with me.

    As for a second writing device, I think even an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard would work too! Okay, but an iPad is still relatively expensive if it ever gets stolen. Hmm…

    1. Haha yeah, I’m just super sensitive to this now after having my laptop stolen. I mean, it’s good to practice caution, but I’m on the verge of paranoia here, lol.

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