The small pleasures of office supplies: pen edition


I think a big part of my conviction that “I am a writer” came early in my childhood from my love for office supplies. Aren’t all big decisions based on important feelings like that? I see it in my daughter too these days, when she cannot be convinced to leave Staples unless yelled at, even after spending there no less than one hour every single time we visit.

The laptop (why do they insist on calling them “notebooks” these days? Notebooks are the paper thingies, people!) is still my best friend, but a little paper and pen by its side seem to make even more sense. Just like the e-reader keeps good company to the traditionally printed books, right? Exactly.

I remember, as a very young child, before I knew how to write, filling notebook after notebook with squiggles that in my mind looked a lot like real writing. I followed the ink lines left behind by the tip of my pen and it felt like a thing a beauty. And it still does. That’s the weirdest thing. It doesn’t wear off, this childish wonder.

I have never been too fancy about my pens. Anything works. I buy them from the pharmacy, grocery store or Staples, on a whim, and I go for pens that look good and have black ink. I don’t care about the difference between liquid ink and gel, or ball-point and needle point. I am afraid that there are very few pens that I don’t like. But because I don’t like change much, I have settled for now on two favorites: the Pilot Precise V5 and the Uni-Ball Signo Gelstick 0.7. My pen love goes to these two. I’m sure you were dying to know.


  1. You mix your own ink? Wow. That is brilliant! I never thought of that. Why did I never think of that?
    I used to have a sepia colored ink for my fountain pen long time ago and I really liked that color. And a very dark teal I also enjoyed writing with. But nowadays I stick with ballpens and black ink. I like it when the ink is actually more of a dark gray than really black black. And I like the idea of colored pens too, but never actually been able to switch much from black. I think I like my notebooks to look serious and sober, for some reason. Maybe to make me feel like I am doing serious work there. I don’t know. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing with us your genius process!

  2. Pilot pens: I loved the blue of the stick one I had, but it was such a rip-off in terms of the quantity of ink, plus it didn’t like the pressure change that comes with my slow hand moving to super speed to jot down fast-flying ideas. Similarly the “alpha-gel” or whatever it was called. But the V5 is doing OK. I love my refillable Parker fountain pen, though – any ink I choose and I can mix the colours – messy, but so me!

    Isn’t it funny what our stationary choices reveal about our personalities? I’m a sucker for light blue inks or brown tones. Not so much the black. I have to change colours to mix up the writing on the page – like a visual map. More important than the ink, however, is the design – comfy to hold, a must!

    Loved this post!

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