Tools of the trade: analog

There are a lot of steps to the writing process, and I’ve used a lot of tools over the years. (Fun fact: I wrote my first “novel” when I was 15. It ended up being about 25,000 words, all written by hand, using a mechanical pencil and college-ruled notebook paper.) Some tools come, and some go, but I’ve found that a number of hands-on pieces still work really well for me, especially in the planning stage.

Pens and markers and highlighters, oh my: I like thick, bold lines, so I’m apt to reach for Sharpies or markers. My husband writes with the finest pens he can find. On the plus side, we’re not going to steal each other’s writing utensils.

It’s kind of like what they say about kitchen knives: the best one is the one you’re going to use. The one that feels good in your hand. And, in the case of writing, the one that leaves the sort of mark you want it to leave. (Leaving marks with kitchen knives is a different story.)

I’m also all about colors. When I’m reading or taking notes, I’ll have at least two on hand: one for the important things, and one for the stuff I want to stand out as even more important. I know this about myself, so in the Before Times when writing in coffee shops was common, I always made sure I had multiple pens in my bag before going out to one.

I mentioned the Frixion brand in my other post, and they’re not just for Rocketbook – they work on normal paper, too, and erase with the heat from the friction of rubbing at the page with the rubberized “eraser.” I use their pens, markers, and highlighters for basically everything, because then I get my nice bold lines but also the ease of being able to fix any mistakes. (Note that disappearing in heat means don’t leave any important documents in your hot car, and that you shouldn’t sign important documents with them. Every tool has its intended purpose.)

Index cards and sticky notes: I like being able to capture ideas or due dates in bite-sized, discrete chunks. I’ve got a number of reminders posted around my desk on bulletin boards or just stuck there to keep me on top of the various projects I’m working on (because there are always overlapping timelines). These are, of course, color-coded, because I’m me.

It feels easier for me to have not only the condensed space of this smaller sheet, but also the ability to be able to move them around or toss them out if necessary. There’s something about typing an outline or initial ideas on a computer that feels too polished and final. In the initial brainstorming stages, I want to be able to write things down, cross things out, and shift them into new groups to discover better connections. Being able to physically move sticky notes around helps me do that.

I will frequently do sort of a quick study on plain white index cards or just one color of sticky notes and then, once I’m starting to see the shape of the project, group them and write them out again on different colors to trace the themes and ideas. I like the visual aspects of being able to pull back and see an entire project laid out like that, and then being able to focus today’s writing on just one of the points.

The Mover Family: the idea here combines sticky notes and magnets. I backed their first kickstarter campaign to get a number of sticky notes in two different colors and a couple of the magnet boards to place around my workspace. It’s like having eternally restickable sticky notes (and the new version turns each magnet from a finite amount of sticky notes that need to be replaced into mini whiteboards).

I like these because they’re meant to be moved and displayed, and the new whiteboards will cut down on the number of sticky notes I use. (Yeah, I know, there are apps and things that will look like sticky notes and index cards, but sometimes I want the feel of a pen in my hand and something in my own handwriting.)

What analog writing tools do you like to use?

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