Journal writing is personal and unique to the individual, as is the choosing of one’s writing instrument. There has been some argument over whether pens or pencils are the superior tool for journal writing. While both get the job done, there are pros and cons to consider based on what your journaling purposes are.
Pens and pencils are equally sufficient for the purposes of journal writing. However, pens typically offer a smoother feel while writing (depending on the pen type) and are more likely to stand the test of time. Pencils, on the other hand, allow for editing and erasing, and when used with a setting spray, can potentially last as long on the page as some pen ink.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of pens and pencils, it’s important to get to the bottom line: what are your purposes when journaling? The reason and way in which your journal will directly affect which instrument you choose to utilize.
What are your Journaling Purposes?
Are you hoping to pass down your journal to future generations of family members? Do you hope to preserve any passages for yourself for the sake of remembrance or as a form of art installation? If you have any intentions to preserve and archive your journals, you will want to consider an instrument whose materials are long-lasting, do not destroy or alter paper, and can withstand unique temperatures/excessive handling.
If you have no intentions of preserving, archiving, sharing or saving any of your journaling, then the type of instrument you use does not matter quite as much. For your purposes, you might like to use a writing tool that feels comfortable to hold, feels pleasurable to write with, and which does not leave stains on your hands.
Using a Pencil for Journaling
Who doesn’t love a good Number 2 pencil? Pencils are nostalgic, they are a remembrance of our school days as children (prior to the use of tablets.) Pencils have been used in differing iterations for centuries and will continue to be used for a long time still. They are typically made of graphite or charcoal and can be used in a multitude of ways, and allow for correction and real-time editing. Here are some pros and cons of journaling with a pencil:
- Pencils allow you to erase errors or passages you regret writing!
- Because you can erase and start over, you can soar through your writing, versus having to painstakingly think about the perfect/exact things to say and how to say them.
- Pencils allow for drawing and shading opportunities
- Pencil dust can be painted or inked over (if erasing seems too big a task, just wipe your slate clean with some paint or ink!)
- Graphite is resistant to ultraviolet radiation, moisture and other chemical (which makes it resistant to natural aging – especially when used with archival setting sprays)
- If you happen to be an astronaut, you can take your journal to space and write with a pencil (you cannot do this with a pen)
- Traditionally less expensive than pens
- The tip gets thicker until sharpened, meaning your ‘font size’ will invariably grow larger due to the nature of the blunted pencil tip shape.
- May not age well if in a journal that is being read a lot, and whose pages are being touched by fingers a lot. Without some sort of archival setting spray. Graphite is a type of powder, and powders dust off and blow away and can be rubbed off.
- Adds to deforestation. Though pencils are not adding plastic waste to our environment, their production does aid in deforestation, which is an unfortunate consequence of using pencils. One tall pall tree is used to create only 2,500 pencils (with 14 billion made each year, worldwide.)
- Some people do not love the scratching sound a pencil makes as it runs across a page.
- Depending on the makeup of the pencil, the graphite might be hard to read, especially if the writing has a light-touch.
- Requires sharpening (if wood) or
Using a Pen for Journaling
Pens are often the go-to tool for journaling because they feel so dang good to write with! Not only that, but the use of ink was been formulated in our minds to represent writings that are permanent, important and official. This kind of vibe can install a sense of purpose in your journal writing! Here’s all the things to consider when using a pen for journaling:
- Overall cleaner Look
- Smoother feel while writing
- Darker, therefor easier to read
- Zero sharpening required (which means no pesky pencil shavings to deal with!)
- Encourages a slower writing process, so you can really focus on what you want to say, to avoid mistakes and having to cross out your words (since you can’t erase them).
- Different ink color options (versatility!)
- When you purchase a re-usable pen, you can simply use refill ink tubes instead of throwing countless pens away!
- Since pens don’t blunt like pencils, your writing size and style can remain the same (unless you choose to alter it.)
- Pens often feel more formal (due to the nature of signing off documents in pen ink)
- Can often bleed through the page, making writing on the other side either impossible or undesirable
- Can smudge onto the side of your palm, leaving blue/black ink stains on your hands
- As you write, depending on which hand you write with, the ink may drag across the page if not set and dried yet as you journal
- Set in stone. Unlike pencils, once you’ve written something in ped, there’s no going back (unless you have white out…)
- Disposable pens add to plastic waste!
- Ink is sensitive to temperature (it can melt and boil in hot weather and freeze in cold weather)
- Pens tend to me slightly more expensive than that of their pencil counterparts
- It can be frustrating when ink gets stuck and stops coming out mid-writing session
- Pens can leak all over your journal or personal belongings (who hasn’t looked down in dismay to see blue smattered all over themselves or their personal items??)
In the event that you are looking to preserve your words like they are made of stone, consider using a Micron Archival Pen, like the Sakura Black Pigma (.45mm). These micron archive pens are ideal for journaling (and general every day purpose writing and signing as well.) They are made of felt tips, so they promise less smudging, and use a quality, waterproof ink that is both chemical and fade resistant (and quick-drying!) One pack of these will run you less than $10 (averaging $3-4 per pen!)
Can you Use Both Pens and Pencils Together While Journaling?
The sky is the limit when it comes to your journal. You can write in pen, pencil, paint, invisible ink. It’s your journal! Some people find switching between using pens and pencils irksome, due to the displeasing feeling of inconsistency. However, some people don’t give the slightest hoot! If that’s you, mix it up baby!
If you like writing in pen, but want to add a little color and flare to your journaling, try using colored pencils to create backgrounds. Use the colored pencils first, drawing pictures, outlines or coloring an entire page, and then use your pen to write over it. Sometimes the addition of color can also help to express your current mood or emotions, and that in turn can really enhance the experience and effectiveness of your writing.
The Key Take Away?
Both pens and pencils have their perks when journal writing and neither are necessarily superior to the other. The choice to use a pen or pencil is entirely up to you! If you want to use a tool that won’t drag and bleed onto your palms, you might opt for using a pencil! If you want something more permanent and long-lasting, you’ll probably want to use a pen!
At the end of the day what’s important isn’t so much the instrument used to journal write, but the act of journaling itself. However, if your instrument of choice makes or breaks your writing, we hope we’ve given you enough pros and cons to make an educated decision. Now grab that writing utensil and journal away!