Tools of the Trade: Pencils & Pens

One of the joys of being a stationery nerd and a writer is blending the two passions together. I’ve settled in a routine of using specific pencils & pens for certain writing tasks. It may see nerdy to go to such lengths, but there’s comfort in using familiar tools.

Fountain pens, L-R: Franklin Christoph P66 Antique Glass (MCI nib), Edison Baltimore Limited (FCI nib), Diplomat Aero (MCI nib), and a Nakaya Neo (MCI nib) – all in a Rickshaw Bags plus pen roll coiled in a fav mug. To the right: yellow/orange highlighter Slendy+ eraser stick, red pencil for occasional use.

As a long-time lover of fountain pens, for years I would keep too many inked up resulting in extra work to clean those not used enough. After reducing my collection down to my favorites, I’ve settled on four fountain pens to keep in rotation, each inked with a different color. Fountain pen is my tool of choice for journaling, notetaking, or writing letters, and using different color inks adds to the enjoyment.

When it comes to pencils I also have specific ones I use for first- and second-draft work (for everything from blog posts to articles to essays to poetry). I stick with Blackwing pencils (extra-firm cores for everything except poetry where I use soft cores), and there’s a nice variety available between their production pencils and the Volumes limited editions. I love going analog and using pencils longhand for these drafts, since it slows down my thinking and there’s something more authentic about the tactile feel of pencil on paper than finger tips on a keyboard. And if you’re wondering

why soft cores in poetry, the lighter feedback when using helps me focus a bit more on the harder work of optimum word choice. After second drafts, I continue the work digitally, either on my iMac or Macbook.

These two groups of tools have been my go-to instruments for some time now. I enjoy the variety in the pen rotations and inks, and although I use only Blackwing pencils with those two cores, there’s plenty of variety in the finishes. For me, settling on this set of tools eliminates delays and avoids another distraction from sitting down and writing.


  1. Hey, Gary, been following you for a while now, but are you ever going to publish any of your work or excerpts ?

    • Nothing out there yet, but lots in progress. Hope to have something or two published by the summer. Finally arranged life to have most of my time free from other pursuits so diving into the writing work full-time.

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