Your favorite non-tech tools

Since I seem to be skewing the Why I Write Early Drafts with a Manual Typewriter discussion into a thread on my favorite manual writing tools, I’m curious about other forum members’ favorite tools.

Do you have a specific pen or set of pens? Preferred inks, a favorite journal, or a specific graphite hardness and brand that you rely on?

When the words aren’t flowing or are flowing extremely well, what tools help you hit that groove?

1 Like

When I write a first draft (or a major rewrite) longhand, I systematically use a pen.
If I want to modify something, I scratch it off, use arrows, boxes, etc, etc. Everything I write remains visible/readable until I type it in Scrivener.
I can’t count how many times I didn’t like so much what I had written when came the time to type it, and that the best idea came to me on the spot, out of half-this and half-that one scratched-off sentence’s different formulations.

On the other hand, when editing (or rewriting small bits) off of a printout, I use erasable ink (gel-pens – that’s my most recent wonderful discovery. No more eraser crumbs all over the place. Haha) ; not enough room on the printout to go on a full scratch-off/redo.
(There is usually no need for it anyways.)

That’s usually because I don’t know what to say.
Which in turn means my outline sucks.
And to fix that I have Scrivener. :slight_smile: (I know, I know ; Scrivener ain’t a non-tech tool. But hey, I love it…)

I keep a Bullet Journal (extremely utilitarian; I don’t have hours to spend decorating things!) I put meta-writing-data into the journal, but don’t use it for actual drafting. I use a different colour every day just to change things up—no colour-coding here! I use a Leuchtturm1917 A5 size journal, and Fisher Space Pens (the plastic barrel ones) with various coloured cartridges. I think I’m going to abandon their green ink, though, because eventually it bleeds through even the thickest paper. I use a lot of correction tape and fluid there.

When I use pencil, I use a Pentel side-click mechanical pencil with the twist-eraser feature and H hardness lead. Thus, I almost never have to interrupt what I’m doing to sharpen the pencil or find another eraser. The H lead is dark enough to read, but doesn’t smear nearly as badly as HB or No. 2. If I use a harder lead (2H or above) I press too hard to get the mark darker and therefore break the lead.

I tend to choose tools that are nicer than Dollar Tree stationery, but not so expensive that if I lose them I’m going to have to smash the piggy bank to replace them. That said, I can be mildly OCD about this stuff.

If I’m horribly, terribly, really badly stuck, I’ll grab the nearest blank piece of paper (preferably graph paper, but any will do) and start scribbling, usually with one of those mechanical pencils. (Alternative is drawing on my bathroom door with dry erase marker.) I tend to act like things that are typed are chiseled into stone (despite the fact that it’s only electrons, any more) and I reach for the most easily changed and disposable medium to work out how to go forward.

As someone with fine motor control issues (a component of my dyslexia) I have given up using non-tech writing tools completely. I do everything textual in Scrivener (in various Projects using macOS, iOS and iPadOS) and everything numerical in Apple Numbers. For a few small tasks I use SQLite3, which comes as part of macOS, to build relational databases. But pen and paper never. For some even smaller tasks I use GNU’s ptx or University of Lancaster’s LancsBox programs to produce concordances.

1 Like

I’m cheating (again). Non-non-tech:

For when there is too much distracting noise around you.
This helps to focus x 104.

– If one insists on it being a non-tech thread only:

  1. I apologize
  2. You can generate white noise and get somewhat of the same result by leaving a faucet on. (You’ll just have to work from the bathroom. – As tech-less as it gets.)

There you go. :wink:

(I’m actually serious about the app. It’s an awesome little thing to have at hand.)


My choice is Noizio, MacOS, iOS. Same principle.

2 Likes is awesome. They have various shades of White noise and pretty much any other noise you can imagine wanting to listen to, as well as a few you’d never want to listen to. :exploding_head: Can access via the web and/or via their iOS & Android apps.

Here’s an example. I’ve found that I’m usually very productive writing while flying–something about the background noise of a plane helps me get in the zone. has a few plane noise generators, and I’ve discovered that I really enjoy working with my headphones running a B-17 bomber simulator:



Having tried all the fancy iconic notebooks and many different fountain pens over the years, I have found myself gravitate back to a very dull and run-of-the-mill set of preferred stationery supplies.

I like squared paper, A4, from a loose-leaf pad that has been bound/taped/glued/stapled at the top rather than on the long edge; Rhodia is pretty good. Or, for occasional variation, the Séyès grid paper that you find in notebooks bought at French supermarkets. (The Séyès paper sometimes appeals because it makes me think of being on holiday; sometimes I try doing nice French-style handwriting to fit the grid, rather than my usual scrawl. :grinning:)

With apologies to all haters-of-the-wirebound, I also quite like a narrow-feint Oxford International hardback notebook. And for general scribbling, jottings, casual notes and trying to work out anagrams for a crossword, a Pukka Pad A4 Project Book.

I favour a black fibre-tipped pen, such as the PaperMate Flair, for a strong and determined feel. Or a sharp H or 2H pencil, preferably Staedtler Noris, but – and this is very important! – without an eraser at the end. I hate the sort of eraser they stick on the end of pencils, and I don’t like the look of a pencil with an eraser tip; I prefer a plastic eraser if I’m writing in pencil, or just to scrunch up and discard the paper in disgust if I’m writing in pen.

I don’t need a white noise generator – I have tinnitus and (in extremis) a pair of noise-cancelling AirPods Pro! :grinning:

That said, if I’m writing, I prefer to type on my laptop. Typing is less sore on the arthritic fingers.

1 Like

What writing tasks are you accomplishing with SQLite3? Are you using command line or a GUI?

Used SQLite3 as part of a local political group collating canvassing data for elections and subsequently creating a simulated version of election registers. Spinning that off to support geographical continutity in my writing — I hate then writers/directors make errors of geography around areas I know well; my favourite hates is the car sequence in Notting Hill when they drive around away from the destination (The Savoy Hotel) or down streets that are in areas of London that no one would go through to get from Nottinghill to The Strand and there are similar glitches in the live action 101 Dalmations. I live and work in London so know the georgaphy fairly well.

macOS has a white noise generator built into it. Can be enabled via the accessibility settings, and gives you this:


I’m a fan of background noise apps and appreciate the recommendations on this thread. I’ve used Noizio, but one particular loop I used to like is now glitching and distracts me.

I’ve used the one on the Freedom website a time or two, as well as a trial of the Portal app from the iOS App Store. That one intrigues me quite a bit.

Wait, what is this “outline” to which you refer? It sounds like some rarefied magic I’ve yet to learn.

I tend to skip laughingly (and slog weepingly) through a first draft, defying the Muses and the rules to constrain me.

Only then can I figure out what I’m actually trying to write about and put a plan in place.

Likely you were joking :wink: , but hey, here it is:

I have a general idea of a scene that reflects in my document’s title.

And then (and more than often quite carelessly – I prioritize the content, not the form) inside that document my “outline”, rather than having the look and feel of a paragraph condensing the scene content, looks like :

  • Mary goes to the grocery store. (Paragraph set with a space before/after.)

  • Mary meets Stephen.

  • Stephen tells Mary that his dog has been sick for the last few days.

  • Mary makes the connection with her own dog which also got sick lately and that bit her.

  • Mary tells Stephen about it.

… And so on and so on…
. . . . . . .

Once this is somewhat coherent throughout my story, after branching more and more lines from it, I start rewriting/developing/refining those lines properly. The result of which I call “my first draft”.

So, in a way, I guess one could say that I am a pantser who plans ahead.