Could this smartpen be the best thing for writers since the invention of ink?

image courtesy of Livescribe

Okay, so we all know now that being a writer is about actually sitting down and writing. There’s simply no substitute for doing the hard work. If you’ve been following this blog, you know how much I love new storytelling technologies—-but you also know how passionately I feel about the workaday aspect of writing.

As Stephen King puts it in his book On Writing, “butt in the chair.”

As a novelist, I do a lot of writing on my computer, but I also do a lot of writing by hand.  I love both methods equally, and whether I’m writing by hand or by keyboard depends on where I am and what mood I’m in. When I was writing The Year of Fog, I filled several notebooks while sitting in my Jeep in the parking lot of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. I also write by hand when traveling. In my home office, I use a healthy mix of the two.

The problem with handwriting, however, has been that what I write on the page often never makes it onto my computer. So I’ll compose whole scenes that then simply never make it into the novel-in-progress file on my computer, which means they never make it into my book. I’ve tried writing by hand on my iPad, and once purchased a very expensive stylus for just that purpose, but soon discovered that I’m just not cut out for writing on the screen.

Lo and behold, along comes my dream product, a pen that looks and feels and acts like a pen, with actual ink that you use to write on actual paper, with one huge improvement over regular pen and paper. Livescribe 3 captures what you’re writing in real time, via the Livescribe app, automatically syncing to your IOS device. If you’re an iPad user (check), a writer (check), and someone who’s tired of losing your work (check), Livescribe 3 is for you.

The beauty is in the details:

Livescribe has teamed up with Moleskin to make this highly efficient process even more beautiful. Write in your Livescribe Moleskin notebook (which has the feel and classic beauty of your old Moleskins), and watch your words magically appear on your iPad screen. Better yet, everything you write can be synced automatically to Evernote, so that your handwriting can be searched in the same way you would search typed text. Amazing, right?

If you prefer old-school spiral bound notebooks, Livescribe has those too. And if you’d rather not pay for special paper, you can always print out the Livescribe paper on your home printer and gather it into a binder.

Who is the ideal user?

The beauty of Livescribe is that all of your handwritten pages can be added to Evernote and other platforms along with your typed pages. You can search and re-order to your heart’s content. And you can share your written pages with, say, your writing group. For me, this also means that my husband–who is my first reader and first editor on everything I write–can see my work in its most raw stage and provide comments. And because I blog frequently about writing and teach online writing classes, I love that I could use Livescribe 3 to show my readers and students how I build a story from the ground up. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Of course, an even more obvious use for the Livescribe is for students. If they’d had this when I was in college, I’m sure my notes would have been far more useful! That’s because Livescribe 3 records audio while you’re writing. So you can write your notes, but have a backup of exactly what your professor is saying.


At $149, Livescribe 3 will set you back more than your average fountain pen. But if it means the capability of keeping track of your handwritten work with the same efficiency that you keep track of your typed work, I’d say it’s worth it.


Great pen for writers. Totally worth it.

Purchase Livescribe 3 or check out the other Livescribe products, including the Echo set for students.

Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Year of Fog, Golden State, Hum, and other books. She is the publisher of Fiction Attic Press and the creator of The Paperclip Method for writers.