There is something to be said about note taking. For many people, note taking is not only an essential part of life, it is a positive emotional experience that helps to reconcile, organize, and safe keep all of the ideas, thoughts, and feelings one has. Although it may sometimes feel painful to have to write or note take, it can help improve organization of thoughts and ideas for future use and serve as a memory aid (It’s estimated that our minds have between 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day – typical human memory cannot keep track of all the important thoughts you may have that pop up each day). For example, one can have a notebook for daily use of tasks and errands, another notebook for free associating as a way to self-care and stress release, and another notebook to keep track of business ideas or future goals that they want to work on. I am sure many of you have had “light bulb” brilliant ideas come up when you are on your way to a place or sitting in a meeting, but when you go back to recalling that idea, it gets lost in the sea of many tasks that have to be completed before having to turn in for the night. That is just a tip of the ice berg of the impact that organizing ideas can have on our daily lives.
We use pens each and every day, how often do you stop and look at how you can improve your writing experience by changing your pen. There is a group of people who are pen addicts and enjoy finding the perfect pen to write with helping them build up more motivation as well as improve their writing experiences for work and pleasure. They even go on to internet forums to discuss and post pictures about the new products they are trialing and even talk about upcoming release of pens. As clinicians, we cannot discount the emotional value of feelings and as such it is something to consider the value of finding the right writing instruments to use when writing notes, signing documents, journaling, and jotting down the next brilliant million dollar business idea.
Although I have a passion and interest in technology, my experience in clinical psychology meeting with clients in therapy has allowed me to appreciate and become more aware of the artistic side of our daily lives (I am not saying I am artistic…just realizing more of my artistic self that I have not paid much attention to). This means that paying attention to details such as what we write with and what we write on can enhance your writing experience as well as increase motivation and attention toward things that are valuable that may be missed due to attending to the highest priorities of each day.
Here are my top five of recommendations on notebooks and pens with a brief commentary of each option.
i. Moleskine (www.moleskine.com)
You have probably heard of these notebooks as they are generally found most easily in many retailers across the US. These were initially heavily marketed when they were introduced and they partnered up with many bookstores to have their own display. These are overpriced and their quality have dropped over the years especially when they started to manufacture most of their notebooks in China instead of Europe. My thought is that move on from these notebooks and check out many other popular notebooks that have become popular among those that carry around daily journals and find pleasure writing.
ii. Leuchtturm 1917 (www.leuchtturm1917.com)
This is my current “go to” notebook at this time. If you have used Moleskine in the past, definitely give these a try. These are made of great materials and come in an assortment of colors and cover types! These notebooks are durable and are designed very thoughtfully with dedicated pre-printed table of contents, numbered pages, labeling stickers for the cover, and pre-printed date lines on each page. The pages are great for most, if not all, pens and the ivory pages they have are visually appealing and easy to write in. They also have multiple options for the type of page you want including graphing paper, no lines, and lined. These are not as easily available as other brands, but you can find them from many sources quite easily (looking at you Amazon).
iii. Shinola (www.shinola.com)
They are a new entrant into the notebook arena, but they have started to produce great notebooks as well as covers. Although Shinola markets themselves as a higher end US brand (they also make watches and other leather goods), their notebooks are worth looking into because they come in an assortment of sizes, and are made of very good quality. Not only are these good notebooks, but the company was founded recently in Detroit to help increase jobs in the metro Detroit area. These are only available from Shinola website or from their own branded stores. The paper has no bleeding problems, and they come with many choices of paper including unlined, lined, planner style. They also have premium (and expensive) leather covers which can last a lifetime if you are willing to invest in it. This is a classy brand with notebooks that are actually in line price-wise with other notebooks (maybe except their leather covers).
iv. Piccadilly (www.piccadillyinc.com)
These are good notebooks that are priced extremely competitive in terms of quality and price. The paper is decent but some bleeding and feathering may occur dependent on what type of pen and ink you are using. These are typically 50% cheaper than moleskine and are close enough in quality, although a bit less in quality. But for the price, you cannot help but give these a try. If you are after value notebook but still of good quality, give these a go. If you want a premium notebook, I say try something else.
v. Field Notes (www.fieldnotesbrand.com)
These are softcover notebooks that are known for having various neat color schemes. They are simple and useable notebooks, with an emphasis on simple. They come in many types of paper (graph, ruled, unlined, mixed, and lined) and multiple sizes. They are also printed in the US. One of the main draws of the most popular Field Notes is that they are sized so that they can live in your pocket and they can go with you where you go and get dirty because that’s what they are meant to be used for! If you are looking for something that works and is relatively cheap and easy to carry, give these a try!
i. Pilot G-2 (www.pilotpen.us) – $1.00 per pen
These are my “go to” pens because of their lightweight, super smooth feel, come in many colors, and wide availability in most stores that sell pens. These are gel ink pens and are one of the most popular in the world. They come in many point sizes (0.38mm/Ultra Fine, 0.5mm/Extra Fine, 0.7mm/Fine, and 1.0mm/Bold). These are balanced and write well and are easy to get refills and well priced (<$1.00 per pen). Just some caution for left handed writers as they take slightly longer than other gel pens (9 seconds) to dry. As a bonus, these ink cartridges fit into many fancier roller pens such as Rotring and Waterman, so you can have the feel with something that is more visually appealing and fancy.
ii. Uni-ball 207 Series (www.uniball-na.com) – $1.00-$2.00 per pen
These pens are notable for their smoothness as they feel like your skating on paper. The tips on these are really thin such that you can easily see what you are writing, which may not be true of other pens. These are known for their ability to be smear-free relative to other pens (i’m looking at you Pilot G-2). These come in four point sizes of 0.38mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, and 1.0mm. These are considered pretty popular due to their ink being certified as archival quality ink. Similar to G2, the bonus to these pens is that their ink cartridges fit into many fancier roller pens such as Rotring and Waterman, so you can have the feel with something that is more visually appealing and fancy.
iii. Uni-ball Jetstream (www.uniball-na.com) – $1.00-$3.00 per pen
This is another pen produced by Uniball as many find these are very easy to write with, have a consistent flow not to interrupt your writing, and smearing/smudging is a non-issue. I think the main feature of these is their security feature. These pens are also designed with a security ink as a way to thwart any fraudulent individuals who try to commit check fraud. You can rest assure that what you write will never be erased or modified. These come in only two point sizes of 0.7mm, and 1.0mm. They come in the three typical colors only: Red, Blue, and Black. Give these a try or use these just for signing documents!
iv. Pentel EnerGel (www.pentel.com) – $1.50-$2.50 per pen
These are also popular pens, just not as popular as the Uniball 207 or Pilot G-2 pens. These are very smooth in writing, one of the fastest to dry (especially important to the left handers or hand draggers, like myself) and are very reliable in ink smoothness. They come in many color inks and They come in the 4 popular point sizes of 0.35mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, and 1.0mm (The 0.35mm and 1.0mm are harder to find as they are not typically stocked at local office supply stores). If you have never tried these pens, go pick up some and give it a try and you’ll most likely be surprised that this keeps up with the other popular pens.
v. Pilot HI-Tec-C (www.pilotpen.us) – $1.50-$3.50 per pen
These are well known in people that need the extreme fine tipped pens. They are great for precision and fine details or for those who enjoy writing in small font. It was demonstrated that the 0.25mm can even write on a grain of rice (if that’s important to you!). They are great for detailed work, but the ink can run out quickly and can be scratchy when writing compared to other pens mentioned in this post. They come in many color inks and They come in the 4 point sizes of 0.25mm, 0.3mm, 0.4mm, and 0.5mm. If you want to write small or need to write or chart in detail, these are one of the pens you may want to have in your arsenal of writing tools.
If you have any questions on any of the products discussed or even want to plug something that has not been mentioned or want to chime in on your experience of notebooks and pens, please comment!