My Writing Tools: The Humble, Simple, Indispensable Legal Pad


The Why

As much as I love my Moleskine notebook, there are times where it's easier to draft in a larger format. Enter the venerable, humble, simple, cheap legal pad. The only hard part can be using both sides of the page, but this post includes an easy how-to so you can do just that.

The Tools

Legal pads are a great tool for writers because they are cheap and they can be found anywhere. You can get a single legal pad from Walgreens for 79 cents, or a dozen from Office Depot for $12.09. Nip into any store with a school or office supplies section, and you'll find a legal pad.

For outlining, mind-mapping, and drafting, a ready-and-waiting legal pad is always in my bag. The large format works especially well for knocking out a day's writing. After filling up 3-5 pages of a legal pad, I know I've accomplished my minimum for the day, with plenty of room in the margins for notes and edits before typing.

BONUS: Get your money's worth by using both sides of the page.

Using both sides of the page is the one thing about the legal pad that is not entirely simple. Legal pads are top-bound and have a cardboard back so the pages aren't flopping about. While this is great for keeping the pages together and to give you a firm writing surface, you can't just turn the page over and write on the other side. It's possible, but not practical. If you're like me you'll give it up after about, oh, 2 lines.

Once you fill up one side of all the pages, though, you still have blank, inviting paper to use — and after all, you might as well get your money's worth.

Here's a simple, 5-minute hack to "reset" your legal pad so you can easily use both sides of the page:


  1. Pry the binding off the front, top and back of the legal pad. I used a Swiss Army knife to do this.
  2. Remove the binding
  3. Flip pad over
  4. Reattach binding with glue, staples or binder clips

Now you're ready to get back to writing, you thrifty, clever writer, you.

More: All My Writing Tools

1 thought on “My Writing Tools: The Humble, Simple, Indispensable Legal Pad”

  1. I also benefit from planning projects with pen and paper. I usually get a bunch of those wirebound notebooks at back-to-school time. There is always some ridiculous sale like 10 for $1. That provides plenty of note taking fodder for the year plus extra to give the kids.


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