Ergonomic Writing Tools

 
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I am what you might call old-school.  When it comes to brainstorming, plotting, and writing first drafts, my favorite tools of choice are still the pen and paper.  I clean up and edit on the computer, but nothing beats a pen for me to do anything creative.

I've been writing since I was five, and playing the violin nearly as long.  These things are hard on your hands, so now we have a writer-violinist in her thirties with carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis in both hands.

When you're writing longhand for hours at a time, these things matter.

In an effort to keep my production steady even as my hands have declined, I have tried just about every ergonomic writing instrument on the market.  Here are some impressions, ranked in order of preference:

Evo-Pen
           
I have to admit, it was a close call between this and the PenAgain.  Sometimes I switch between them depending on my mood :)  I do seem to reach for this one more often, though, and have recently ordered three more so that I can keep them everywhere.  Next on my list is the chrome-plated version, I'll let you know how that one works out.

All of the ergonomic pens that I prefer completely change your approach to holding a pen.  This one you can cup in the palm of your hand, with your index finger over the long top side of the pen.  It is lightweight and writes smoothly, and so far the ink cartridges seem to last longer than I had expected.

For writing pages at a time, I have not found a pen to beat this one.  My school-age kids are constantly trying to steal it from me, so it isn't just old folks like me who appreciate it.  :)


PenAgain

This is my close-second favorite pen.  I have this original 3 pack, the ErgoSof, and the ErgoSleek.  The ErgoSof is very much similar to the original, I don't notice enough difference between them to be worth comment.  The ErgoSleek has the look and the feel of a very nice pen--nice heavy feel to it, nice operation.  It does take different refills than the other two varieties.

These three packs are good for stashing all over the house wherever you might need to reach for a pen.  You slip your index finger into the curve at the top of the pen.  When I bought these pens I was having a particularly hard time with joint pain in my thumb, and this pen took care of that until I found the Evo-Pen.

The clip on the pen is not really useful as a clip--it's too small and fragile to actually clip it to anything.  I just added a pencil pouch to my manuscript binder and carry the pens in there.  When my kids can't steal my Evo-Pen, they will steal these.


RinG-Pen
You may have seen this one before.  I know I had.  The first time I tried one, for whatever reason, I hated it.  But recently I have tried them again and now have four of them in various places.

The grip of the pen is similar to the PenAgain.  You slip your index finger through the ring, and use your fingers to guide the pen, not hold it in a death-grip.

My gripes with this pen: 1) the actual barrel of the pen that you grip is skinny, like a cheap disposable pen.  I know you don't need to grip hard, but still, it would have made the pen much more comfortable to have a wider grip.  The barrel is curved so you won't have much luck adding a pencil gripper to make it bigger, either.  2) The length between the ring and the base of the pen is pretty long, so trying to maintain a normal grip on this pen can make the base of that ring dig into the base of your index finger.  This happens to me, and I have pretty long fingers.  For short writing stints, you probably won't notice, but for marathon writing sessions...this is not my pen of choice.


EzGrip ResQ Gel Pen
This was the first pen I tried.  It does help, but not as dramatically as some of the others.  I find the grip to be too similar to conventional pens to really solve the problem.

However, the grip is super soft, and it is enough that I was able to write with this pen when I couldn't even hold a regular pen.

It also takes Parker style refills, which are very common, easy to find and inexpensive.  This is a plus; most of these pens take custom refills.

I ordered two of these.  The first one had a dry ink cartridge in it; the second wrote beautifully.


Bic XXL
I know there are people who swear by this pen.  I never could get into it.  It is just a regular pen with a big fat foam-covered barrel.  If your problems aren't severe, this may be enough to get you by.

For me, just holding this pen is painful. 

Refills are standard and inexpensive, and the pen writes just like any other Bic.  But I never could get past the pain of the three-finger claw grip necessary to use a traditional pen like this.

If it works for you though, between the pen itself and the refills, it could be a less expensive option for less painful writing.




For those of you who don't require old-fashioned tools to produce, here are my favorite carpal-tunnel friendly computer products:

SafeType keyboard
SafeType I swear by this keyboard.  I tell everyone this is the keyboard that saved me from surgery when my carpal tunnel syndrome first flared.

The keys are in all the same places.  Only the position of your hands changes.  It took me about twenty seconds to start typing on this just as well as my old keyboard.

If mine died tomorrow, I'd buy another.


Zero-Tension Mouse

I have tried so many mice in this type of style--and this is hands down the best.  Most durable, most comfortable, most accurate, easiest to set up.  And it doesn't drag the side of your hand all over the surface of your desk.

It's the handshake grip that really helps my hands.  I found with a SafeType keyboard typing felt great, but then to use the mouse I had to twist my arm over, which didn't feel great at all.

I know it's expensive.  That's why I tried so many others first.

But this one works better than all the others I tried.  If mine died tomorrow, I'd buy another.