10 Tools Every Writer Should Own

by Charlotte Ahlin
Woman sitting on a sofa and using a laptop at a table in her living room while working remotely from...
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It doesn't take much equipment to be a writer: a pen, some paper, and a few delusions of grandeur are more than enough to get you started. But let's say that you're a writer who never seems to have the right kind of pen on hand. Or a writer who consistently finds themselves falling down Wikipedia wormholes and Instagram-stalking their writing workshop classmates instead of writing. Or a writer who just wants to procrastinate by buying and downloading some new, writer-ly gadgets. If any of these writers sound like you, then here are a few tools that every writer should own.

A writer's "tools" aren't limited to just notebooks and fancy pens, after all. These days, quite a few of us do most of our writing on the computer. So we need word processors. We need programs to scan our writing for tired cliches. And we need time-management apps, to prevent us from reading lists of book-inspired Halloween makeup tutorials instead of writing. There are a lot of distractions out there in the world. In the event that you cannot lock yourself in an attic or trendy coffee shop for the next several years, you probably need some help staying focused, and getting those words on the page.

So check out these tools, both physical and virtual, that will make every writer's life better:

1. A Field Notes or Moleskine Notebook

Field Notes Brand Ruled Paper, $10, Amazon

Don't underestimate the power of a simple notebook. You never know when inspiration will strike next, so it's best to be prepared. Moleskine notebooks and Field Notes are portable, durable, stylish, and perfect for jotting down brilliant ideas. Bring your notebook to the coffee shop for a quick free write exercise, or pretend to write in it to avoid eye contact with the creepy guy on the train.

Moleskine Plain Notebook, $15, Amazon

2. Pen Loop or Band

Pen Loop, $5, Etsy

Look—if you feel deeply that you need a fancy fountain pen to be your best self, go for it. I, however, lose a pen or pencil every hour on the hour, and I cannot be trusted with any writing implement worth more than five dollars. So for absent-minded writers like myself, I highly recommend buying a pen loop, to attach your pen directly to your notebook and minimize pen loss (although if you lose the whole notebook, I can't help you).

3. Recorder Pen

Audio Voice Recorder Pen, $24, Amazon

If you are the type of person who can hold onto a pen for longer than 48 hours, recorder pens can be surprisingly useful. You can record spur-of-the-moment thoughts, sounds, interviews, and brainstorming sessions without having to pull out your phone or laptop (because where there are phones and laptops, there are tiny games about fruit to distract us).

4. Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey, Free or $25 for Pro, Cold Turkey

There's a whole universe of time management apps and programs out there, and Cold Turkey is one of the best. For the highly distractible writer, Cold Turkey lets you block time-wasting websites, games, and apps: if you try to go to a blocked website, Cold Turkey will show you a motivational quote instead. It also lets you set timers, schedule breaks, track your progress, and even shut you out of your computer entirely. There's even a special package just for writers. And once you download Cold Turkey, it's almost impossible to get rid of (but in a good way).

5. IdeaPaint

IdeaPaint Starter Set, $26, Amazon

Do you miss the creative freedom of writing on the walls as a kid? Well, IdeaPaint would like to invite you to start writing on the walls again (and this time your mom won't yell at you). These IdeaPaint markers turn any wall into a dry-erase board, with a special cleaning solution so you'll still get your security deposit back. Perfect for the writer who likes to sketch out big ideas.

6. A Dictionary, Thesaurus, or Dictionary/Thesaurus App

Pocket Oxford American Dictionary & Thesaurus, $8, Amazon

I know, I know—surely, in the time of Google, there is no need for a dictionary or thesaurus. And surely we don't need one made of physical paper. I'll admit, you can get by using the internet for a dictionary or a thesaurus in most cases. But you're not trying to "get by." You're trying to find the perfect word. So you'll need a thorough pocket dictionary/thesaurus if you like to write off the grid, or at the very least a dependable dictionary/thesaurus app, for when time is short and wifi is iffy.

Merrian-Webster Dictionary & Thesaurus App, $4, iTunes

7. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

You might have heard of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and you've probably heard a lot of writers turn up their noses at anything as outmoded as a style guide. That's OK. The point of style guides is not so that you can follow the "rules" of "good writing," it's so that you can know the rules of good writing. You should know the convention before you get unconventional. Even Picasso knew how to paint "normally."

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8. Cliché Finder

Cliché Finder, Free, Cliché Finder

You're a sophisticated writer. You're certainly not starting your stories with "on a dark and stormy night" (not every story, at least). But clichés seems to weasel their way into everyone's writing. Run your paragraphs through a trusty "cliché finder," and make sure that your work is one of a kind.

9. Writer's Market 2017

Writing may be the hard part, but finding someone to actually publish your work is... also the hard part (spoiler alert: it's all hard). If you don't already have a trusted source that lists publishers, websites, and magazines, I'd suggest an ink and paper copy of Writer's Market. It's a reliable compendium of publishers for writers of every level, alongside advice for freelancers on getting published.

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10. Coffitivity

Coffitivity: The Sounds of Productivity, Free Or $9 For Premium, iTunes

Truly, the best writing tool is a mug of coffee, a trendy coffee shop with attractive baristas, or an IV dripping caffeine directly into your bloodstream. The coffee shop is a writer's natural habitat. But, if you can't make it to the coffee shop for whatever tragic reason, there is a solution: Coffitivity, which provides you with the ambient sounds of being in a coffee shop, wherever you are. It might sound silly, but it's backed by a study, which shows that ambient noises boosts creativity. You can even choose what kind of coffee shop sounds you want to hear—like a chill morning murmur, a university coffee house, or a bustling Parisian cafe.

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