My brother and his girlfriend returned from a trip to Japan recently, bringing us all gifts. I received a notepad, a letter set, and a package of Pilot Frixion Ball erasable pens. I’ve seen my Chinese and Korean students using these, but I haven’t seen them for sale in stores here.

They’re amazing. Not as dark as my preferred black gel pens; they make a thin graphite line like a mechanical pencil. But I can already see myself reaching for these more often.

I had to give up the Zebra Sarasa black gel pens when they changed the outside design. They were already getting expensive (around $6 for a 4-pack of refills), so it was easy to let go. I decided I wouldn’t go searching for a new pen. I decided I would use all the pens and pencils I already have.

Pencils are great. If you can keep them sharp, which means carrying a sharpener. You can erase pencils, but the eraser at the end never lasts as long as the lead. Which means carrying a second eraser. I used to carry a spiral-bound notebook with a retractable pen clipped into the coils. Now I carry a notebook, plus a pencil case, and I still never seem to have everything I want.

I could do the Monday and Tuesday crossword with a pen, but I prefer pencil and eraser. This morning, I did the Monday with my new Japanese pen. Of course I made a few mistakes (“Take a spill” is TRIP, not FALL), but making mistakes is how we get to the next step. Fix them and move on. Don’t waste your time looking for an eraser.