You’re looking at this headline and thinking, “why two pens?” right? Well I’ll get to that, but to start, let me talk about my work area. As a freelance writer, my work area is in my home. I have two desks. One is so full of clutter, all having nothing to do with work, that I never even swivel my chair over to it.

The other desk is my working desk. It has its fair share of piles as well, but it also contains the items I need, to get my work done every day. Not counting my computer, these tools are, two pens, one pencil, and a very specific notepad. They’re pivotal elements to my overall process, and here’s why.

The pens

I honestly need two pens, of two different colors mostly so I can make lists with one and cross those lists off with the other. I prefer one black pen and one red. There’s plenty of contrast that way.

Since I’m not hand-writing everything anymore, neither pen gets much of a workout, but I like black ink for taking notes and making lists.

The red pen is leftover from the days when I still did write everything out by hand. It was my editing pen. It was my most used tool. It’s not as busy these days, but still vital for me. It’s my favorite color to mark something as done on my many lists.

There’s nothing more rewarding for me than crossing things off my to do list. I don’t have colleagues to notice my work, or tell me I’m doing a good job. Affirmations are nice, and I get the same sense of accomplishment out of a completed to do item as I used to in getting a complement from a person.

The pencil

My pencil has a very special story. It’s not a regular #2 or a mechanical pencil. Its proper name is an Eagle Turquoise 10 Mechanical Pencil. I went to look up what it’s usually used for and apparently it’s a vintage pencil that’s all over eBay.

Thankfully, you can still find the lead that goes into the pencil, because I’d be happy using it forever.

The pencil was my dad’s. It came to me in a collection of art supplies I inherited when we cleaned out his apartment after he passed away. He was a doodler, sketcher, and very creative person. Using his art supplies helps me feel more creative.

The lead in this pencil is very thick, which I really like. Since it’s metal, it also feels different to hold. Changing up my writing implement from time-to-time, when I’m having a hard time getting through my work, but need to keep writing things down, makes a huge difference for me. Sometimes making one thing different is enough to help me refresh my brain and my mood.

I also like writing out my schedule each day in pencil so it’s easy to erase and make changes.

The notepad

Although I was never actually a journalist, my essential tools are rounded out by a reporter’s notepad. This is the type of pad that flips up, rather than opening like a book. Honestly, it’s easier to use than a traditional notebook and is the perfect size to sit right next to my computer.

I use this notepad as a catchall when I’m working and I need to write anything down. It tracks time, does simple math, holds questions I need to remember, and so much more. I cram as much as I can onto each page before flipping the thing over. Not only that but I can look back on anything at any time, and never have a million loose pieces of paper floating around.

The other items I rely on

So those four items are my essential companions to my computer. They’re really the tools of my trade since I don’t think I’d be as successful at my job without them. I still need to write things down, and that’s probably never going to change.

I love using them, but they’re not all that goes into my daily writer’s toolbox. I also rely heavily on:

  • An organizer. Yes, it’s somewhat of a relic to write everything down into an organizer, but writing things down helps me remember them. My organizer helps me parse out my day and lets me look at the week all at once. I still use my digital calendar since it’s connected to all my devices, and I use digital reminders to keep track of a lot of things that happen regularly.
  • A note-taking notepad. This is not a flip pad, but rather a pocket-sized notebook. All my meeting notes go here, no matter the client, so I always know where to find them when I need to look back. This sized notebook is also extremely portable and easy to carry around in my purse.
  • Post-it notes. I use three different sizes to help stay organized and focused throughout the day.
  1. The rectangular, lined ones help me break down busy days into more manageable steps. Instead of having a checklist that’s write blog 1, write blog 2, write blog 3; the list becomes outline blog 1, outline blog 2, write blog 1, outline blog 3, finalize blog 1, write blog 2, etc.
  2. The square post-its are perfect for reminders that I stick to just about anything. Mostly, they go on my laptop when I get up so I know where to pick up when I return to my desk.
  3. The tiny, tab-sized ones help me keep track of little bits of information I need to refer to at a specific time later on.

Like I said, my desk is a bit cluttered.

My tools of the trade

See? Being a writer is about so much more than an idea and your trusty laptop. There are plenty of other tools that keep you on task. I know I wouldn’t be as organized and on top of things as I am without these specific tools on my desk. I know this because, when I take my computer to work somewhere else in my house, I miss them.

Having the right tools makes all the difference no matter your profession, and it’s fun to think about the little things that really make your job possible.

Photo by Marcus Urbenz on Unsplash