The Best Writing Utensils: An Ultimate Guide

What are the best writing utensils available today?

Pens. Cups. Software. Desks. Lamps. A computer. Notepads.

It’s hard to know what to pick and what to skip. This is particularly true if you’re a writer on a budget who wants to spend money only on the essentials.

Writing can be demanding and difficult, so why make it any harder?

The right set up and writing utensils should improve your creative process rather than complicate it.

For example, taking notes with a good pen is a pleasure, and the right type of software will enable you to publish an article faster.

On the other hand, a cheap pen will leak or break, and a rickety desk will distract rather than support your hard work.

In this ultimate guide, I cover the best writing utensils you need and the ones that are just nice to have.

Please note, this post contains affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you sign up or purchase. I recommend only the tools and products I’ve used or tested myself.

What Are The Best Writing Utensils For You?

The best writing utensils are more than just pens — they affect our writing experience and inspire the words to flow.

The true magic of great writing utensils is their ability to access your deeper creativity.

A pen that glides effortlessly on paper.

A desk decorated with your personal touches to encourage your productivity.

A desk lamp to help illuminate your work.

Writing courses and editing tools to foster your creativity.

All as you sip on a steaming cup of tea or coffee.

These writing utensils are the dreams of great writers and will help increase your writing success.

How Do You Budget For The Best Writing Utensils?

With so many amazing and inspiring writing utensils available, one of the biggest problems a writer has is working out how to balance a budget with their desires.

It always pays to invest in your writing!

Start by developing a spending plan that includes each of the writing utensils in this article: a pen, paper, a desk, a lamp, personal items, a writing cup, an online course, and an editing tool.

These are the basic writing utensils for anyone serious about their craft.

Once you’re earning more, you can invest in other writing utensils like expensive pens, notebooks or software.

Pens

Many people prefer the simplicity of pens, whether drafting a novel, writing notes for a blog or making a list.

Each pen-type delivers ink in a different way. Depending on how you hold your pen, some encourage the words to pour out onto the page, and others are scratchy and interrupt your flow.

The Best Ballpoint Pen

A ballpoint pen is a reliable purchase. The ink is drawn out of the pen as the point writes on the paper. They tend to use oil-based inks that dry faster and don’t smudge.

Uni-Ball Jetstream Retractable Ball Point Pens,0.7mm, Black Ink, 3-Count

The best ballpoint pen is the Uni-Ball Jetstream Retractable Ball Point Pen. This pen delivers fast clean writing on most types of paper and keeps up with your thoughts. With a range of colours and tip sizes, this pen provides one to suit your style. This ballpoint has a small 0.38mm tip.

This popular retractable pen has a clicking button at the top that you can press down as you ponder what you’re writing.

Unlike many pens, the Uni-Ball Jetstream Retractable Ball Point Pen is manufactured in Japan, whereas most pens are manufactured in China.

Pros

  • Great for left-handed writers
  • Replacement cartridges available

Cons

  • Ink dries quickly, requiring pen to be retracted when not in use
  • Not designed for heavy-handed writers

The Best Gel Pen

Gel pens use pigments rather than dyes, providing a greater variation in colours. The ink is thick and luxurious, perfect if you write slowly in longhand or cursive.

Uni-ball Signo UM-151 Gel Ink Pen, 0.38 mm,19 colors set (Japan Import)

If you want a pen that glides over the paper, then the Uni-Ball Signo UM-151 Gel Ink Pen is a good choice.

One creative option is the vibrant ink colours available. If you fancy something bold, you can select metallic shimmery colours, but if you want a more whimsical feel, try the pastel colours. A variety of nibs from 0.7mm to 0.28mm are available. I prefer heavier nibs.

This is a good pen for any writing task, including your next novel.

Fun fact: Japan was the first to manufacture and sell gel pens, in 1984.

Pros

  • The pigment-based formula is waterproof and unaffected by too much exposure to light
  • Great for those with light-handed writing

Cons

  • Too much pressure leaves sticky, heavy ink on the page
  • Takes longer to dry than a ballpoint pen, so might smear if touched soon after

Both the Uni-Ball Jetstream Retractable Ball Point Pen and the Uni-Ball Signo UM-151 Gel Ink Pen are perfect writing utensils for notebooks and journals.

Notebooks and Journals

A writing notebook is a trusted companion for many writers to draft their best-selling novels or keep track of thoughts.

No matter why you use the notebook, putting pen to paper is inspiring.

You could look endlessly at journals and pour through the different reviews to compare quality and price and try to find the best one. To save you time, I believe the following two are great options.  

Moleskine Classic Notebook 

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover, Large (5" x 8.25") Ruled/Lined, Black

Many writers, travelers, and journalists speak of the Moleskine Classic Notebook in terms of love poetry.

They are large-lined notebooks, perfect for writing your memoirs, note-taking or journaling.

Colours inspire people differently, so this notebook comes with a wide range of covers from classic black to vibrant purple and other colours of the rainbow just waiting to be filled with your ideas.

The paper feels smooth and is perfectly textured for writing with a ballpoint pen. It’s also heavy enough to handle gel pens. The hardcover is firm enough to write on while braced on your arm or lap, but it will flex as you fill it with writing.

Pros

  • Excellent quality for a good price
  • Lays flat when open

Cons

  • Attached ribbon bookmark frays
  • No place to keep a pen or pencil

Leather Journal Writing Notebook

Leather Journal Writing Notebook - Antique Handmade Leather Bound Daily Notepad for Men + Women Unlined Paper 7 x 5 Inches, Perfect Gift for Art Sketchbook, Travel Diary and Notebooks to Write in

Designed for pen-and-paper enthusiasts, this handmade Leather Journal Writing Notebook with unlined pages is a special keepsake for your thoughts, plans, and ideas. It’s a good size for your travels too.

A percentage of the profits go to Tehila, a charity in Zambia that promotes the prevention of child cruelty. It’s gratifying to find an ethically sourced notebook. This journal uses recycled premium cotton leftover from the garment industry cloth in India.

Pros

  • Ideal for left-handers, with earth-friendly pages and no bleed-through
  • 5-star rating with over 300 reviews

Cons

  • Blank pages can make writing in a straight line difficult
  • The leather can stain the pages

Whilst these notebooks will not magically turn you into Hemmingway or Austen, having a notebook that inspires you makes you want to write! Now to find the ultimate writing setup.

A Writing Desk

Inspired by your choice of writing utensil and notebook, you’ll want to devote a lot of time writing, so why not opt for a good writing desk?

Which Writing Desk is Best for You?

All writers need a desk to ponder and draft their masterpiece.

The traditional writing desk had a small desktop with drawers to store paper and pens. But as we moved through the ages, we developed computer desks that needed a larger, roomier desktop to house computers and cables.

A writing desk offers you a space to put pen to paper without the distraction of modern-day stresses. For a writer who needs inspiration, the following desks are affordable and practical.

Ameriwood’s Home Haven Retro Desk

Ameriwood Home Haven Retro Desk with Riser, Weathered Oak

Whilst a small writing desk, the Ameriwood Home Haven Retro Desk is a really nice sized desk for a writer or those who have a small space. One great addition is the riser so that items don’t clutter your writing space. The modern look and colour mean this desk would look good in your apartment or home office.

The metal hairpin legs are a fun throwback to popular mid-century design.

Pros

  • Riser provides extra space for office supplies and décor
  • Light enough to move easily if you rearrange your setup

Cons

  • Some find assembly complicated (Other reviews say it was simple)
  • Design offers no drawers for storage

Sauder Carson Forge Writing Desk

Sauder Carson Forge Writing Desk, Washington Cherry finish

The Sauder Carson Forge Writing Desk is a small writing desk that features a large workspace along with a small drawer and a flip-down molding that reveals a slide-out shelf for your keyboard, mouse or laptop.

It’s American-made, using engineered wood, and finished in a rustic Washington Cherry finish accented with wrought iron style hardware.

Pros

  • Finished on all sides, versatile fit for anywhere in any room
  • Provides storage options for notebooks

Cons

  • SUPER heavy. Don’t expect to move it on your own
  • Takes time to assemble

Both these writing desks are practical and elegant. Not only will they blend in with the perfect writing environment, but they can also help you smash through your writer’s block.

A Desk Lamp

As a writer, you know good lighting is essential. Desk lamps are an important accessory, even if the lighting in your writing space is good. The best desk lamp will help prevent eye strain and bring inspiration to your writing space.

There are many inexpensive and well-designed options, but I recommend the following lamps as the best options for writers.

Traditional Bankers Lamp

Traditional Bankers Lamp, Brass Base, Handmade Emerald Green Glass Shade,Vintage Office Table Light, Antique Style Desk Lamps for Office, Library, Study Room (Brass)(No Bulbs Included)

The Traditional Bankers Lamp has a handmade green lampshade that offers a calming radiance to your room. The base is made from heavy brass and keeps the lamp stable. No need to worry whether it will tilt.

This iconic lamp has been used by bankers, copywriters, and journalists for over 100 years and is a favourite prop in movies. I have one of these on my writing desk. I like them, as I can move the shade backward and forwards and adjust the lighting in my room.

Pros

  • Supports LED bulbs, incandescent bulbs, and halogen bulbs
  • Adjustable shade gives a choice of light intensity

Cons

  • Not dimmable
  • Bulbs not included

TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp

TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp, Eye-caring Table Lamps, Dimmable Office Lamp with USB Charging Port, Touch Control, 5 Color Modes, White, 12W (Renewed)

If you want flexibility, the TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp is perfect for you, with a bendable neck and a moveable arm. With a minimalist design, this modern lamp shines a flicker-free light that brightens your writing space without harming your eyes — ideal for writing.

Be aware the light head is short; the light bar is the same height as a computer monitor, but the base takes up some space. Another great feature is it folds down when not in use, leaving just the vertical piece.

I use this lamp for reading.

Pros

  • Dimmable office lamp with USB charging
  • 5 colour modes and 7 brightness levels for reading and writing

Cons

  • Made from plastic         
  • Bulbs not replaceable

Both options above will help light up your life and create the ultimate writer’s setup. So now you have the basic equipment, but what about some small touches to make the space yours?

Personal Touches For Your Ultimate Setup

Now that you have a functional writing setup, you’ll also want inspiration and stress relief when you’re writing.

Personal touches can make your writing setup feel more comfortable and unique, providing the perfect environment to be more creative and successful.

Solutions are as simple as pencil cups or trays to keep all writing instruments in one place and stress balls to help calm and refocus a busy mind.

Hemingway Pencil Cup

Hemingway Pencil Cup

The key to productivity is to keep a clutter-free work desk, which can be a challenge if you have many writing utensils. As a writer who adores antique typewriters, you will smile at this desktop catchall.

The Hemingway Pencil Cup is named after Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway, who is one of the great American twentieth-century novelists known for works like The Old Man and the Sea.

Pros

Cons

  • No separate sections for other items
  • Could be deeper

Funny Motivational Stress Balls

Pure Origins® |"Keep Calm" Funny Motivational Stress Balls | Squeeze Ball Gift 4 Pack | Fidget Accessory for Stress Relief, Concentration, Anxiety, Motivation, ADHD, Autism and Team Building

When your sensory channels are overloaded, you can find your ability to write becomes blocked. These Funny Motivational Stress Balls can help. They include funny handpicked quotes like “Keep Calm and Be Awesome.”

Fun fact: The first commercial stress balls appeared in the 1980s, but you can trace them back to China as early as 206 B.C.

Pros

  • Balls come in a small bag, helpful in keeping them organised
  • Perfect for hand exercises and to relieve writer’s finger fatigue

Cons

  • Some Amazon reviewers say they are too soft.
  • If your hands are big, you might find these too small

Creating a writing setup that is inspiring and functional will help you have even more fun with your writing.

But what else do you need?

The Best Online Writing Courses

Do you have a great idea for a best-selling masterpiece or want to pen your memoirs? But you’re not confident in your writing skills?

If you are serious about the craft of writing, it’s important to invest in your writing skills for the best chance of success.

Online writing courses are available for all styles and genres of writing.

What Should You Do Before Choosing a Course?

Before picking a class, decide what part of the writing process you want to learn more about and establish your goals.

When I discovered online learning, I found a wealth of writing classes online that have shaped the way I write today. It’s particularly encouraging to get feedback and support from other writers who have more experience.

Below are my top three picks for the best online writing courses.

If you want more information, read my guide to the best online writing courses.

CreativeLive

CreativeLive offers classes for bloggers, fiction- and nonfiction writers. I have taken several of these classes and found them practical, providing the steps necessary to succeed at blogging or book writing.

The cost varies depending on the class and starts at $20. Instructors are entrepreneurs, bloggers and online personalities.

Overwhelmed by the options?

If you feel like you have a great book idea but are struggling to start, consider “Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius with Lisa Crons.” If you want to write your life story, then consider “How to Write a Full-Length Memoir with Joyce Maynard.”

Some big-name instructors participate, including Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, and New York Times best-selling author, Tim Ferriss, who has written 15 books.

Pros

  • Wide selection of offerings included and affordable classes
  • Materials are readily digestible

Cons

  • No all-access passes
  • Prices vary greatly from class to class (Free classes tend to focus only on photography)

Freedom Machine

Freedom Machine will help you write engaging posts that capture the hearts and minds of your readers.

This course is run by Jon Morrow, who is generally considered the most successful blogger in the world, and speaking from personal experience, I know he is an amazing instructor. Jon Morrow and his team offer new bloggers a roadmap to profits.

Pros

  • This course is suitable for bloggers, freelance writers, and creative entrepreneurs
  • Participants get to interact and learn with other writers via the online community

Cons

  • Expensive, but you can try the first part before committing
  • Not for fiction writers

Write Your Book

I developed the ‘Write Your Book’ course to encourage new writers and aspiring authors on how to write their first nonfiction book. In this course, I cover topics like:

  • What it takes to go from the blank page to a finished book
  • Conquering writer’s block once and for all
  • Editing that messy first draft like a pro!

Each lesson is available as an audio and video download, and you’ll also get supporting materials and resources.

This course is suitable for bloggers, aspiring nonfiction authors, and freelance writers.

Pros

  • Self-paced with lifetime access
  • A lot of great tips and encouragement

Cons

  • Not suitable if you’ve already published a book or two
  • Not aimed at fiction writers

As a writer, you won’t regret any investment you make on developing your skills with these courses.

Now that you’ve mastered your writing and learned some new skills on the way, it is time to get it ready to publish!

Writing and Editing Software

It’s difficult to spend hours working on a draft and then find and catch errors by yourself. Much like the hiker who spends hours inside the woods, you won’t be able to see the forest for the trees.

Any writer who takes their craft seriously should use an editing tool and premium grammar checker as another line of defense to help find and fix errors faster.

The following tools will help you get the job done and edit your writing successfully.

Google Docs

Google Docs is perfect for writing at home and on the go. It offers everything Word does and ensures your writing is always backed up.

Google now offers an offline version so you can write while disconnected from the grid.

Pros

  • Free
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Browser-based
  • Not ideal for writing books

Scrivener

Scriver is useful for long-form writing projects like a book or series of articles. It will help you plan complicated projects and edit and arrange your writing faster. It’s also very affordable.

Pros

  • Powerful
  • Ideal for writing and editing fiction and nonfiction

Cons

  • Steep learning curve
  • A little clunky

Grammarly

One of my favourite writing tools is Grammarly. I use it for social media, emails, blogs and even early drafts of my book chapters. Grammarly offers writing enhancement, specialising in proofreading. Premium users can also use it to check writing plagiarism.

Grammarly offers a browser extension, a Microsoft Word and Outlook plugin, and a website devoted to cleaning up your documents and content.

If you’re interested, read my full Grammarly review.

Pros

  • Easy to use thanks to a great user interface
  • Features a powerful online grammar checker

Cons

ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid represents a good, reasonably priced choice. It’s also useful for fiction writers and those who use Scrivener a lot.

The good news is, apart from specifying grammar rules, ProWritingAid will also help you figure out the readability of your articles based on the Flesch Reading Score. This is helpful for improving your web writing skills.

You can download a desktop app for Mac or Windows, or install a plugin for your browser. ProWritingAid also offers Microsoft Word and Google Docs plugins and even a Scrivener integration!

Read my ProWritingAid review.

Pros

  • The most affordable grammar and spelling checker I have reviewed
  • Suitable for fiction writers and Scrivener fans

Cons

  • Less useful for those who write in English as a second language
  • No mobile version

Grammarly and ProWritingAid both have free and premium versions; however, I recommend you opt for a premium tool to guarantee you detect advanced editing errors that a free version might miss.

In short, test the free versions of these tools, and then decide which fits best with the way you work—or write.

Now it’s time for a break…

Writing Cups

As a writer, you can’t deny how important a writing cup for your coffee or tea is when enjoying a well-earned break or even to get you started.

You can choose from hundreds, if not thousands, of different makes and models. Try to choose a writing cup that is durable, spill-proof and keeps the heat in.

The following writing cups keep drinks hot for hours if you keep the lid on.

Eco-friendly Reusable Coffee Cup

Reusable Coffee Cup | 12oz/340ml | Double Walled | Vacuum Insulated | Stainless Steel | Eco-Friendly Thermal Cup | bru (Rose Gold Intense)

Made by Bru, this Reusable Eco-Friendly Thermal Cup is double insulated. Bru constructs the cup with high-grade stainless steel that is 100% recyclable. It comes in a range of colours. I usually fill one of these with hot tea before a writing session.

Pros

  • Also keeps cold drinks super cold
  • Amazon’s Choice for “small coffee cup”

Cons

  • The lid can be difficult to clean
  • The base is slightly too large for some cup holders (Just make sure you check this!)

Leidfor Insulated Tumbler Coffee Travel Mug

Leidfor Insulated Tumbler Coffee Travel Mug Vacuum Insulation Coffee Thermos Cup Stainless Steel with Screw On Lid Leak proof Keep Hot Cold BPA-Free 12 oz BLACK

The Leidfor Insulated Tumbler Coffee Travel Mug is double-walled and vacuum insulated to keep your drink the exact temperature you want. It has a spill-proof lid made of food-quality silicone rubber to ensure no leaks on your writing.

Leidfor includes a desiccant bag inside made from natural tea leaves to keep the mug dry. It is natural with no chemical additions. Leidfor offers both the 12 oz. and a larger 17 oz. cup, which holds more liquid than the Bru cup.

Pros

  • The stylish matte finish won’t show fingerprints
  • Cools to the touch with hot beverages, sweat-proof with cold

Cons

  • The screw-on cover is nominally less convenient than a press-fit one
  • Top-rack dishwasher safe; however, hand washing is recommended.

Like great famous writers, you can now sip on your tea or coffee when you write your best masterpiece with these convenient writing cups.

Get Motivated And Inspired To Write

With this advice, you can now get yourself the best writing utensils! You have everything you need to increase your inspiration and productivity.

No longer will you struggle with what to write. Instead, you’ll be inspired to create the masterpieces hiding inside you. 

Having the best and most inspiring writing utensils that reflect your personality will help you focus.

What are your top writing utensils?

Let me know in the comments section below.

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2 thoughts on “The Best Writing Utensils: An Ultimate Guide”

  1. It depends on what you want to do. They all have something they are good at, otherwise nobody would use them. Pencils are erasable, so if you make a lot of mistakes that would be good. Also shading is easier to do with pencils.

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