This is a story of how investing $6 in my learning gear made a big difference.

This text was originally written in 2022 to be included in Overcoming Learning Anxiety , but felt superfluous, so I am posting it in a separate text.


For the longest time, I did not care about the writing material I used. I was perfectly content with whatever pen I’d find on the ground or have given to me by my family, my friends, or my workplace.

What I didn’t realize is that there is no one-size-fits-all pen. What works for you might not work for me, and vice versa.

For example, the first pen I bought with the intent of upgrading my writing experience was a Pilot G-2 07. I was tired of the worthless pens I was using at home for journaling and taking notes. I just went to the pharmacy and grabbed whatever black pen looked good in the Pilot display at my local pharmacy. I felt like Pilot was a brand that earned my trust over the years.

Luckily, the Pilot G-2 was definitely a step up from the pen I was previously using:

  • Deep dark ink
  • Effortless glide
  • Satisfying clicky button

But it also had cons:

  • Empties quickly
  • Smears!!
Smears! I hate smears.

Being left-handed definitely didn’t help with smears. Thus, the search for my pen of choice began, a pen that, no matter what type of paper I chose, would not let me down and would not definitely not smear.

Online searches seemed to center on three candidates:

  • Pilot G-2 07 (which I already knew was not for me)
  • Paper Mate InkJoy
  • Bic Cristal

I went to my local pharmacy and saw bags of Paper Mate InkJoys and Bic Cristals, similarly priced at 10 pens for $3. “Screw it”, I said, and I bought both. That is the best $6 investment I have ever made.

I proceeded to write an entry in my personal diary to test the pens. After a couple pages, the results were in: The Bic Cristal ticked all the boxes for me. Although its ink was paler than I would have liked, it was easy to push on paper, had a comfortable hexagonal barrel, and most importantly, did not smear.

Amusingly, the Bic Cristal is the most cheaply priced pen out of all the options I tried. The best tools are not necessarily going to be the most expensive, but you will never find the right tool for you unless you go out, search different options and compare them yourself. Don’t cheap out on this step - these are your learning tools. Invest the time required to find the pen and highlighter that makes writing a joyful experience for you.

Thus, if you’re looking for recommendations, mine are:

  • Pen: Bic Cristal (black or blue)
  • Highlighter: Bic Brite-liner Grip
So, am I a good pen seller? ;)

Note: This process led me to learn about the history of the ballpoint pen, which was a fascinating read.

Note 2: I stumbled upon this video about the Bic Cristal from Joe Van Cleave who, like me, is enamoured with his Bic pens. This is what we’re aiming for: finding the tools that genuinely make us excited to get to work to use them.