This summer I’m determined to double my daily wordcount and establish a writing habit. I’ll be experimenting with various productivity hacks to get more writing done, but today I took a big step forward by getting a bluetooth keyboard to pair with my iPhone and iPad.
I’d already done online research and had an idea of what I was looking for, but I wanted to try out all the keyboards before making a decision. I need something I can write comfortably on for house, and something where I can get into that flow state and boost word count during writing sprints.
Here are the FINALISTS and my actual choice.
Best keyboards for writers (2022)
#1 Logitech K380
This keyboard is well built, stylish and colorful… but it was heavy. Not my favorite to toss in a bag and go to a coffeeshop; but definitely my favorite for writing on the coach with Netflix in the background.
#2 Logitech Keys-To-Go
The Logitech Keys-To-Go is a wonder, super light and thin, and nearly waterproof, but the whole thing is soft plastic so you don’t get the tactile clicking experience. It feels a little flimsy – but definitely not cheap. For writing at a picnic table near the kiddie pool or something.
#3 BELKIN Mobile Wireless Keyboard
As far as I’m concerned, the Belkin Qode F5L175 is the greatest keyboard in existence.
It’s super thin, super light-weight, but still feels stable, with a beautiful and comfortable typing experience. The keyboard is a LITTLE cramped, but that actually makes me feel like I’m writing faster. Unfortunately, they don’t make them anymore – but you can still find some on Ebay. (Mine is actually half-broke and I used it anyway, taped together. I bought 3 extras but they all shipped dead on arrival.)
If you’re looking for a keyboard iPad cover, I have to assume that the Belkin models are of similar quality; personally I never got used to this style of writing device and prefer a small keyboard with my phone; the ipad set a little distance away.
#4 Logi MX Keys
For my everyday workhorse, I use a Logi MX Keys – it’s got a solid weight and feel so it doesn’t slide around. You can get the compact version if you don’t need the full panel, and it comes with my favorite ergonomic mouse. If you’re spending hours at your computer, writing or designing or whatever, these are some premium grade tools but you’ll definitely prefer them to cheap junk.
Best Vintage & Retro Bluetooth Keyboards
#4 Elretron Penna
I bought one of these for $400 (the cherry wood version) and it’s currently in my closet at home, but I still love and treasure it – down below I have a mini-rant on why buying an expensive keyboard isn’t silly if it motivates you to do more writing.
If you want to go to a coffee shop and look and sound like an obnoxious writer, this is for you – the keys are a bit clacky but not too much, and it doesn’t feel plasticky. I use it for book events and shows, and I get a ton of people stopping at my table just to play with it. There are cheaper, more subtle brands but the wood is obviously the best.
#5 Qwerky Writer
This one has that antique typewriter feeling without being too clunky. It’s well designed, but feels a little too much like a toy, and it might be more of a statement piece that a serious writing device. It’s not my favorite aesthetically, but it’s if you like the style it’s a strong choice for this kind of thing.
#6 KnewKey Rymek
The Rymek is charming and nostalgic. It’s a bit unusual as far as keyboards go, with the half-moon keys, but it’s very stylish. I don’t know what’s up with the reviews in the product link below – it’s got a 4.5 average so ignore the display stars.
#7 Actto Retro Keyboard
This might be my new favorite. It’s more compact and solid than some of the others, but still has a vaguely vintage style and soft pastel colors. Designed in Korea, they’re well made and have space to hold a phone or ipad. It’s a little too bulky to haul around with you, but ideal for writing by the window with cake. There’s a slimmer version that’s more portable, and a black version that’s very stylish. It’s cheap enough to make a thoughtful gift for anybody trying to write a book.
Retro Clones – here are a few others that are basically ripoffs of the Penna or Qwerky, so if you like the vintage style but can’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a keyboard, these might work. I haven’t tested the quality but they look pretty sharp, I might just buy another with the wood/dark keys.
- Retro Typewriter Keyboard, 7KEYS Electric Typewriter Vintage with Upgraded Mechanical Bluetooth 5.0, Multi Devices Connection$138.99
- Retro Typewriter Keyboard Punk Vintage Style Bluetooth 5.0 USB Wired LED Backlit Multi Devices Connection All-Metal Structure$138.00
- GUAZI STORE 83-Key Mechanical Keyboard dot Retro Typewriter Mechanical Keyboard Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard, Keyboard Gaming$138.00
Best Writing Devices & Laptops
My current laptop (when I made this post) was a 15″ Asus Zenbook, but I’m actually in love with the smaller 13.3 inch Zenbook, which has better style, better typing experience and is lighter and more portable. That’s my favorite writing machine, however there are unexpected benefits to using smaller devices with bluetooth keyboards.
In this video I show you my current set up and process, and I briefly talk about Word vs. Scrivener and what I’m LOOKING for in a writing app or software.
A few years ago I bought a black RazerBlade Stealth gaming laptop, mostly because I wanted a writing device that made me feel like a cool dark fantasy author; it’s held up for three years but has been frustratingly buggy and prone to crashes. I’ll go back to a new Asus next time, or a macbook – I don’t love macs at all but it’s hard to argue with their sleek form and the powerful new M1/M2 chips.
If I just needed a very slim portable laptop for writing only, I’d get a macbook; a lot of writers buy one JUST for book formatting because Vellum is absolutely the best software for that. But for all my normal stuff, I prefer a PC, and I want it to be as dark as possible, a non-shiny coal would be perfect.
Since I’m a digital nomad/designer, I haven’t used a full desktop for years and need a SUPER powerful laptop – I’ll probably upgrade soon to a Ryzen9 Asus Rog… but I still prefer the classic zenbook as just a writing device (the ZenbookS just came out and it’s great, I’ll probably get one).
- 2022 Newest ASUS ZenBook 13.3” FHD OLED Ultra-Slim Display Laptop | AMD Ryzen 7 5700U | AMD Radeon Graphics | Backlit Keyboard$879.99
- 2022 New ASUS ROG Strix Premium Gaming Laptop: 17.3″ FHD 144Hz IPS Display, AMD Gaming 8-Core Ryzen 9-5900HX, 32GB RAM, 2TB SSD,$1,899.00
- 2020 Apple MacBook Air Laptop: Apple M1 Chip, 13” Retina Display, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage, Backlit Keyboard, FaceTime HD$949.00
Next Level Writing Gear
Some of my author friends swear by the Freewrite by Astrohaus; which is a one-piece writing device with a small screen, but it looks a little too much like a toy to me.
There’s also a pretty sexy travel version. Other writers adore the Alphasmart Neo (which now apparently comes in purple). I’m not sure why the price is showing zero – maybe because you can only get one used?
- Neo2 Alphasmart Word Processor with Full Size Keyboard, Calculator$0.00
- Freewrite Traveler: Portable Distraction-Free Writing Tool, Smart Typewriter, E Ink Display, Full Size Scissor-Switch Keyboard,$529.00
- Freewrite Smart Typewriter 3rd Gen, Distraction-Free Writing Tool with Frontlit E Ink Display, Mechanical Keyboard, and Wi-Fi$669.00
I don’t love these for aesthetic reasons, but you should definitely think about them for practical reasons. You can actually write more, faster, and better by limiting the screen size.
This is because we can think in pictures (visualizing scenes) and words get in the way. Having the wide space of you open manuscript can be daunting. Limiting your thoughts to each sentence at a time can work wonders… but that’s why I write on my iphone with the iAwriter app. Functionality is part of it, but I also want to feel and look cool on the off chance having pretty writing devices will make me feel like doing the work (this is also why you should have a SEPARATE writing device for drafting or word sprints, as opposed to your main desktop or editing computer.)
I actually have a prototype given to me by the founder of Ilys.com, with NO screen – your bluetooth keyboard just goes straight into a little black box and you can reclaim it later. In that version, you can’t even backspace or delete, which forces you to keep writing forward instead of editing. I haven’t found a way to mass produce it yet but I really think “screenless” writing has a lot of potential – I’m going to test my new setup with just turning my phone around or keeping it in my pocket during sprints. Make sure you check out my list of best book writing apps and writing software.
Getting in a writing habit
The other thing I’m interested in is creating a MOOD, with ritual and high quality tools… as an artist, I’m attracted to the aesthetics of the retro-inspired bluetooth keyboards. I’m skeptical of these, even though they’re attractive, because they’re so ostentatious.
But let’s say you want to go to a coffeeshop and immediately let everyone know you’re an author working on real book. In that case, you might want something elegant, fancy, and loud – with that lovely click-clacking sound that is sure to catch the attention of everyone in the room (and probably drive them crazy). As you can tell, I’m not sold on the idea of these “narcissist keyboards”… and I’m dubious about whether they could actually improve writing speed, except for one thing:
Getting into a writing habit relies on eagerness to do the work and confidence that you have what it takes to get it done. I also believe sometimes expensive, beautiful tools that make you feel good while doing the work can actually influence you’re productivity and motivation. And make no doubt, these are beautiful tools.
Why I bought a $400 keyboard (a justification tangent)
I had insomnia and ended up buying the Penna Typewriter. THIS one. Because it’s beautiful. I love the pictures. I wanted to feel like a writer, and create a luxury writing experience for myself. I wrote this justification argument after I ordered it… but down below I have some more details now that I’ve actually played with it.
So what’s the difference between a $40 keyboard and one that costs 10X as much?
Functionally, not much. They both work the same. Hopefully when I’m in the heat of a project, they’ll get out of my way and let my fingers convey the words that fill my story. HOWEVER: I also know, after writing over 25 books and publishing millions of words, that writing is not all about functionality. You rarely just sit down and do the work. How you feel about yourself and the work you’re doing matters.
That’s why having a ritual, or special tools of your craft, a little bit of comfort and magic, can actually help you get the work done. This keyboard expresses what I want to become as a writer: I want to be known for aesthetic descriptions, beautiful passages, high-quality but engaging writing.
Is it a “waste” of money? On the surface, yes obviously, because I didn’t *need* to spend that much.
On the other hand, the point was to spoil myself, my inner muse.
If I’m inviting my inner child out to play, I need to bring the toys. If I want divine inspiration to show up, maybe I need to put an offering on the altar first.
Ceremonial magic is thousands of years old, and it works like this:
- Choose what you want
- Ask for help
- Offer something in return
Whether or not it works isn’t the question. If you believe it works enough to boost your own confidence, it’s no longer placebo (the boosted confidence and eagerness may actually boost your wordcount). Basically, I’m training myself that my writing is fun and easy; but also valuable.
I’m worth a $400 keyboard, because I’m writing books that will earn a living.
Other random thoughts:
There should be an app so that when you hit the keys of ANY keyboard, it broadcasts obnoxiously loud sounds of a traditional typewriter… just in case people don’t see what an awesome writer you are, they could still hear it. Also, would the sound of typewriter keys clicking away induce the magic to start happening (the way the sound of running water makes you want to pee?) I think maybe it could. I’m going to make some long white-noise recordings of keyboards to share… I actually want to put together a podcast that is ONLY the sounds of famous authors typing.
Yeah but does it work though?
Today I got to play with the new keyboard and compare it to the Belkin I bought earlier. At first, I was a little disappointed: the wood finish is so smooth and light it feels fake, plasticky. The keys wobble a little, and seem insecure – for the price, I expected fine engineering. The Penna is also REALLY loud; I partially chose it because in the promo videos the sound was dampened or muted. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to coffee shop or conference with it. It’s also a little bulky, and about as heavy as the 13.3″ laptop.
I did 5 minute sprints of each, using iAwriter. The Belkin felt crisp, like apple peels. I felt fast, tight. I had to constrain my reach and limit my keystrokes, but that brought focus. The Penna felt loose and sloppy. Soft like butter. I could write with wild abandon on the regular-sized keyboard, but I was making lots of mistakes, getting stuck, hitting the back key often, sometimes it took 3 or 4 tries to spell a word.
HOWEVER I was surprised to find I’d written 211 words on the Belkin and 277 on the Penna. That was in 5 minutes. In two 20-minute sprints, I could write 1662 words (which is about my current daily word count). Since the Penna is about an inch off the table, I’m worried about strain on the back of my hand, which gets sore muscles quickly from typing all day.
But currently I’m excited to dial this down: I think the Penna is an excellent at-home writing machine to get off my laptop and do serious sprints, and create an artistic ritual around my creative process; I think the Belkin is super for quick sprints in coffeeshops or wherever (although I LIKE the idea of sitting in public with something like the Penna, and keeping the recording device in my pocket, so it looks like I’m just madly typing nothing into thin air, but it would be really obnoxious due to the noise.)
Now that I have the hardware, I need to figure out where exactly I’m going to do the writing, so it’s easier to write on any device and bring it into my laptop. Read this post next on best writing apps, software and programs.
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.