When was the last time you wrote something besides a to-do list down on paper? Might have been a little while, huh? What about journaling? When was the last time you wrote down your thoughts, inner secrets, and personal struggles and triumphs?
Let’s talk about old school pen and paper used for journaling with a particularly focus on the best pens for journaling, because after all, you need easy-flowing ink to get those thoughts down.
Just as the printed pages of a hardcover or paperback book bring a certain sensory experience to the act of reading, there’s something special about journaling. The feel of the pen in your hand. The glide of the ball or nib across the page. The uniqueness of your own handwriting. The satisfaction of pages written. Writing by hand, especially when you’re putting down thoughts, ideas, and feelings, has a way of freeing the soul, and the pen you use can add immensely to the quality of the act. What you put down on paper causes you to pause and reflect. It’s a way to stop going through the motions of daily life without thought.
We’ve gathered anecdotes, reviews, popular wisdom, and snatches of memory to compile a list that the kids would call pinnacle—seven of the best ink pens to be found for journaling—whether you’re aiming for a mental health boost or not.
4 Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is an under-appreciated, under-practiced activity that can benefit anyone. I’m no exception to this. I don’t journal nearly as much as I should, but the times that I have done it regularly have yielded a lot of personal insight, shedding some light on how and why I think the things I do, and – at the risk of being sounding overly deep – what matters most in life.
- Organization of the Mind—When you dream at night, one reputed theory has it, it’s a way your brain has of rerouting neural pathways that have become stressed or misaligned by your daytime activities. Similarly, journaling helps you impose order on the emotions your body has attached to your thoughts and actions. Keeping a log, especially by hand on paper, is almost literally “getting your head on straight.”
- Freedom from Plaguing Thoughts—We’ve all heard a friend or relative say, “As soon as I write something down, I forget it.” It’s wry humor, but it can be a beneficial truth. Once you journal a few paragraphs about something or someone that’s been bothering you, you can set it aside and think about other things—sort of like a mental reboot. Then, when you go back to what you wrote, you may find that you’ve already gotten past the troubling ideas.
- Brain Exercise—Writing is a discipline that must be practiced by frequent repetition, like a musical instrument or a sport, to be kept sharp. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Journal every day for a month or six weeks, and then go back and compare the first entry to the most recent. You’ll notice a distinct improvement, and likely, clearer thinking.
- Writing Is Power—Everyone knows that the word “spelling” comes from the same root as the magic type of spell, and that’s more than a cute bit of trivia—the “wizards” who read and write on a regular basis have an intellectual advantage over people who don’t. And, to lend truth to another old saying, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” the written word can strongly influence people, even those in high places. In journal form, it will certainly influence your own future mental wellbeing.
Best Pens for Journaling
There are many criteria we could use to quantify the “finer points” of each of the seven pens below, but at the end of the day, the nature of being the best (for you) is that intangible “rightness.” So we’ll simply mention, for each pen, what makes it a winner in our eyes—and in our hands—along with at least one disadvantage apiece.
1 – Pilot G2 Blue Gel Ink Pen
I’m starting with this, because it’s my personal favorite. Blue ink flowing from this pen on yellow-ruled pad paper is my preferred method of journaling.
Refillable—Nothing is worse than your pen running out of ink in the middle of a sentence, or even a signature. Provided that you have the extra cartridges, that’s never a problem with the G2.
Reliable—This pen is known for never skipping, being able to write on otherwise doubtful surfaces, and being free of those little gunk-balls that can gather at the tips of other ballpoints. One reviewer even reported that her Pilot wasn’t bothered by the ever-present dust in the air of Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Go for the fine point model—on certain papers, the medium-point G2s have been known to bleed, causing a sloppy line.
2 – Bic Cristal Stic Medium Ball Pen
Ubiquitous—If you’re within a certain age range, this is or once was what you thought of when you heard the word “pen.” They’re everywhere—in offices, businesses, homes, schools—and they bring the emotional comfort of familiarity. Nostalgia, maybe, but factual. A nice feeling.
Disposable—Bic ballpoints are no-frills utilitarian, and if they break, clog, run out, or get lost, they’re inexpensive enough to easily replace.
You really do get what you pay for. And as we mentioned, this pen doesn’t cost much.
3 – Matte Black Forest Fountain Pen
Elegant—If you’ve never scratched a fountain pen across the fibrous page of a decent journal, you ought to try it once. The nib works by capillary action instead of pressure; it’s an entirely different mechanism. You feel it in your wrist and in your fingers—you could be Chekhov or Dickens for all your hand knows. Will it increase the sophistication of the reflections you write down? A definite maybe.
Versatile—The top-selling Forest Fountain Pen is refillable in two ways: by cartridge (with multiple ink colors available), and, with the included adapter, by ink bottle. We like the bottle method for its hearkening back to an older day (arm garters and desk blotter optional).
I’d recommend keeping the Forest on your desk or nightstand—no matter how technology advances, mankind still can’t seem to engineer a fountain pen that won’t leak in your shirt pocket.
4 – Novium Hoverpen
Memorable—As the name implies, this pen does something close to defying gravity, thanks to the magnets in its base. The Novium doesn’t actually levitate, but it does balance on its tip. Anyone sitting across your desk from you will likely comment on your Hoverpen, if not demand to know how they can get one. You’ll have their attention when it comes time to sign on the dotted line.
Exclusive—This pen boasts several characteristics you’d expect to find in the writing instruments in its price range, including archival and waterproof ink, durable and ergonomic construction, and ability to be refilled. In short, it’s a status symbol, not just a novelty. Makes a great gift, too.
At over seventy dollars, the Novium Hoverpen may be cost-prohibitive for those on a budget. Also, you have to put the pen’s cap back on for it to “hover,” so if you lose the cap, you’re out of luck.
5 – Your Laptop
I know, I know, this isn’t a pen, but there are advantages to skipping pen and paper altogether and going with a convention desktop or laptop computer. I know, because I’ve done it with great success. I understand that we spend too much time in front of screens as it is, but the conventional keyboard and monitor should still be considered.
Fast—If you know how to type and like stream-of-consciousness journaling, your computer will allow you to record your thoughts and ideas faster than you could with pen and paper.
Secure—Worried about your private thoughts being discovered by a curious roommate or spouse? Computer files can be password protected—unlike a notebook or bound journal. They can also be saved on the cloud, reducing the risk of accidental loss or security breach.
If you are limited to hunt-and-peck typing skills, you don’t benefit from any increase in writing speed, and with any electronic device, the intimate relationship between eye, hand, pen and page is lost.
It’s a matter for a whole different post on the materials of journaling and their effect on mental health, but the page you write on matters as much as the pen you write with. There are many options to consider—white paper vs yellow legal pads, bound journals vs notepads, ruled paper vs unruled, the list goes on. The trick is to find what works for you.
Tell is about your new favorite way to get your best reflections down!
We hope you’ve been inspired to choose a favorite pen and use it to open the doors of your psyche. It can be a sublime pleasure to do so. And remember, if you’re too upset to write, you probably should contact someone you trust and talk to them. Once you’re safe again, you can get back to jotting down your dreams and strategies. Have fun and keep it up!