So. It’s that time of year when we all have those conversations that go something like…
“What do you want for Christmas?”
“Eh. Don’t know. What about you?”
“Haven’t really thought of anything yet.”
Present-buying is HARD. Until you ask a bunch of people what they want as writers, that is, and then you end up with 3 A4 sides of notes. Here are my picks of the requests that will make your favourite word nerd happy.
The short version: we want useful stuff.
While I’m a fan of pretty much anything from, say, The Literary Gift Company, the last gift guide focused on stuff that felt like a present. This time though, I actually asked writers what they wanted. And they overwhelmingly asked for things that would either help them to write or be used while writing.
So if in doubt, ask yourself whether the gift you have in mind will help them to write more, or more enjoyably. If it’s a yes, go for it. It was also notable that a lot of writers specified they’d like things that are ethical and sustainable. Just so you know.
Stationery, please. All the stationery.
Our writers were very specific in their requests (“moleskine notebooks: squared or dots, plain in a pinch, but never lined” for one writer), which leads me to one important piece of advice: ask your pet writer what they like or look at what they currently use before you buy anything.
If you don’t want to get lost in a decision-making rabbithole of mechanical pencils (what brand is best? Propelling or clutch? What size lead?), a voucher for a good stationers, or an art supplier if your writer also illustrates, will get you points, but here are some ideas for starters:
I know people adore Moleskine notebooks, but it’s Leuchtturm that makes me swoon. The notebook version even has a contents page you can fill in at the front (this is something I do in all my pads so I can find things later), they have brilliant colours and if you’re feeling fancy you can personalise them.
A nice fountain pen. Oooh. Covet. People suggested all sorts of writing implements for presents, but fountain pens have a particular romance – how about this little number from Lamy, who sell through Amazon in the UK?
A pencil case in which to keep one’s fancy new pen is, of course, a necessity. I’m seriously into Harris Tweed at the moment, so love the handmade ones in the image below, and Etsy is a treasure trove for lovely handmade pencil cases among other things – try this foxy little number or this personalised one.
Post-it-notes. Yes, really. Great for visual writers and a secret weapon for plotting, get multiple sizes and colours – A5 ones in neon colours are particularly pleasing.
Other practical stuff
Scrivener, my writing software of choice, is finally available for the iPad, woohoo! Scrivener for iOs is a separate purchase to the computer version, but you can connect them and access your work on any device using Dropbox. This was very popular request, and it’s reasonably-priced too.
Yes, you can get online calendars, but it isn’t the same as having a paper diary.
Quite a few writers mentioned the Mslexia Diary, which has a monthly writing exercise, weekly reading recommendations and inspirational quotes as well as super-practical things like a pitch calendar, submission tracking and a manuscript layout guide.
I’m tempted by these extras but am not really an inspirational quotes kind of girl and love the Action Day Planner. The productivity nerd in me also covets the Self Journal, which deals in 90 day cycles.
You want to know what we really really want? A massage for our aching shoulders.
This was the idea with most votes, and is a great gift because it’s the kind of thing people feel too guilty to book for themselves. Find a nice Swedish or sports massage that will really get into the knots, and buy them a voucher.
Vouchers for coffee shops were a popular suggestion (for a lot of us they are super-productive work places, and also a way of carving out time to write), or how about some really gorgeous, thick, organic hot chocolate to enjoy when writing at home?
Nice wooly thing to keep us warm came up a lot too, because sitting writing makes us cold and being cosy is always good. Fingerless gloves, cardigans and blankets were all suggested, but nothing beats a good pair of socks. Taking into account ethical considerations, my suggestion this year are these thick wool socks from Finisterre (and as a shameless sock-nabber, I can confirm their snuggly credentials)
Another idea I liked was this, the Artists and Writers Cookbook, though surely this would count as procrastination rather than work…
A subscription to a writing magazine came up a few times too – Mslexia is the most popular among writers I know, but you could also try the London Review of Books or Writing Magazine (which has a useful competitions supplement once or twice a year)
Plenty of writers asked for an agent, an acceptance letter, a publisher, better book sales. Anyone out there hiding a genie under their jumper?
If we’re talking realistic but expensive items, a new laptop just for writing or a Bamboo Spark (which lets you write by hand then magically turns your scribbles digital) came up as wish-list items, and one or two particularly easily-distracted folk mentioned the Freewrite.
Alternatively, a decent desk/chairs accessories like ergonomic keyboards, laptop stands, laptop cases and ipad keyboards are all things we’d probably hesitate to buy ourselves but will help us look after our poor mistreated bodies and help stave off text-neck for another year.
Help us to actually sit down and write
Actually, the most requested wish-upon-a-star items were time and focus. But when we ask for that, what we’re really asking for is to be helped to actually write: to be given permission to do it, and support/circumstances to actually make it happen.
And as it happens, this vague, airy-fairy-sounding request is one that we can actually do something about!
For someone based within reach of London who already has a project on the go, may I do a blatant plug and suggest giving them time without distractions at a one-day writing retreat?
If you know someone stuck in an editing swamp of gloom, how about a developmental edit? If you want to do this, I strongly recommend getting your writer to pick an editor themselves first, but it might be just the thing they need to get their book back on track.
For the writer who’s getting there but lacks confidence in their work or feels they don’t know enough, how about a residential writing course? In the UK Arvon have a huge variety, or try Ty Newydd or Moniack Mhor.
Finally, if your writer is looking a little sad, if they’ve lost their mojo and their notebook is sitting lonely and untouched by the bedside, book them in for my Writer’s Block Detox starting on 2nd January. Every day for four weeks they’ll get a writing prompt, plus weekly videos and exercises to get things moving again and leave them fired up and full of ideas.
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