All the Tools You Will Ever Need To Become a Writer

Smaller than a breadbox, cheaper than fancy stuff

I love gadgets and gear, so it was a crushing disappointment to realize that my chosen profession of writing was pretty light on material needs. I imagined it would be fun to get equipment and to talk about it with other writers. I abandoned that fantasy when I traveled with a friend who is a photographer, and every time we left our hotel room she needed to stop and dig through her huge, thousand-pound camera bag to make sure she had the right lenses and the right camera bodies and a big-enough tripod and lights and batteries and, in the olden days, film. While she was still in the midst of that, I would merely pat my pocket to make sure I had a pen and I was good to go.

My kit is simple, and it’s been the same almost since I started writing: a pen and a reporter’s notebook. I’ve switched positions on pens a few times, but for the last several years I’ve been loyal to Pilot Precise V5 RTs.

By the way, I consider a retractable pen essential — I’ve ruined the inside of too many handbags when the cap on my pen has gone missing. The super-fine point of the V5 makes it possible to write in teeny-tiny letters when you’re running out of room, and you can still read what you’ve written — a miracle!

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As for your writing surface, I’ve written on steno pads and legal pads and hotel stationery and boxtops and scratch pads and the inside of my wrist, but you can’t beat a reporter’s notebook. I never knew such a thing existed until I became a reporter, and I found it uncanny how it seemed to be exactly the right size — not too big, not too small, easily held in your hand. I’ve been told they were designed to fit in the back pocket of jeans, which makes sense. They used to be hard to find, so whenever I was in the office at The New Yorker, I would sneak into the supply closet and grab a bunch. The good news is that you can now buy them online.

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I’ve even found fancy, design-y ones with pastel-colored covers and such, but honestly, I really am happy with the old workhorse, made by Portage. I love that the cover has a little message which states, quite plaintively, “THESE NOTES ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME.” Yes, indeed.

Writer, writer, writer. Oh, I also write. Staff writer, The New Yorker. Author of The Library Book, The Orchid Thief, and more…

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