Jilly: Practical Gifts for Writers

What’s on your wish list for Christmas, or your holiday of choice, or your next birthday? Do you prefer to receive pretty, imaginative gifts or plain, practical ones?

On Thursday, Michille offered a selection of cute and clever writing-themed ideas. I’d be delighted to receive any of them (my fave is the bathtub caddy with built-in kindle and wineglass holders) but if I had my choice I’d prefer something practical to keep my writerly bandwagon rolling.

Any of these would put a smile on my face:

Free: Creative Kickstarters
I’d love somebody to spend a little time and trouble curating (say) a dozen recommendations especially for me—could be novels, or biographies, music, movies or experiences. The idea would be to offer suggestions that the giver thinks would be new to me and that I would enjoy. Part of the fun for me would be to investigate the suggestions, to think about why the giver decided to recommend them for me, and to decide whether to go ahead and invest in them.

Inexpensive: Screen cleaning cloths
Do you use microfiber cloths to clean your phone and computer screen? It seems as though all my electronic devices are perpetually smeary, and there’s never a clean microfiber cloth to hand when I want one.

Inexpensive: Kitchen timer
When I’m in a good writing rhythm, I like to write for 45 minutes and take a break for 15, rinse and repeat as often as I can. At the moment I use the timer on my phone, but a mechanical timer for my desk would be fun and useful. The UK version of Amazon has a mind-boggling 173 pages of products to choose from.

Moderate: Bath Treats
I may have mentioned before that one of my favorite ways to treat myself after a good day’s writing, or to unstick myself when I hit the wall, is with a bubble bath (desperately jealous of Michaeline who has a local hot springs). Bath treats can range from the cheap ’n cheerful to the ludicrously pricy. I’d be thrilled with any of them.

Moderate: Coffee
My chosen way to kick-start the day is with freshly-brewed coffee from HR Higgins, a third generation family-run London coffee merchant. They have an excellent online shop and efficient postal service. A 125g valve bag of Costa Rica San Jose beans could be acquired for a smidge under £4, or you could splash out almost £40 for 250g of Jamaica Blue Mountain.

Expensive: Moleskine Notebooks
I love, love, love Moleskine notebooks—the classic version with a soft black cover, ruled pages, size XL (7.5 x 9.75 inches). I use them every day, for brainstorming, working through story ideas, blocking scenes, sketching settings, listing potential names, trying out titles, blog ideas, double-checking contest requirements, keeping a note of reminders, and a thousand other useful snippets. I can track the progress of a story by flipping back through the books. I get through at least half a dozen each year, and at just under £20 ($30) each they’re not cheap.

What simple gifts would keep your writing routine running smoothly?

How do you feel about practical presents? Would they leave you delighted or disappointed?

9 thoughts on “Jilly: Practical Gifts for Writers

  1. I like practical gifts, and the one I could get the most use of would be a pair of handcuffs to chain myself to the chair. Today I sat down at 10am and I will rise at 3pm—five hours of “work” with only 900 words to show for it, and the 900 words, if I find a better way to introduce this character, will be cut in the future. I twitched around that whole time, getting up to make a pot of tea, do the dishes, look at yesterday’s mail, wipe out a shelf on the refrigerator (seriously). So, sigh. Not even two hundred words per hour.

    I don’t use anything on my desk except coasters for tea and coffee cups. I don’t use notebooks or timers. But I’ve changed out the coasters a couple of times, so I think a gift of a nice coaster or two would be welcome.

    Besides the handcuffs, of course.

    • I feel your pain, Kay– I’m also having productivity issues. Thinking you may have identified a gap in the writer gifting market–office chairs with leg shackles, keyboards with wrist-friendly handcuffs…:-)

      • Padded handcuffs, of course.

        So timers don’t work, Kay? I’ve just started sprinting this NaNo and it’s been amazingly helpful. I even sprint brainstorming. Who knew it’d work?

        • It’s always interesting to see what works for people. Timers disrupt me. If I’m writing well and stand up because a timer goes off, I just lose my momentum. If I’m in the flow, I write unto I run out of juice. If I’m not in a flow but am producing, I go until I hit my limit, however I’m measuring it that day, and then quit. But timers—yeah, no.

        • For some reason, I’m very, very good at ignoring a timer when I want to — I often do it when I’m cooking. For me, the timer keeps me in place for a set amount of time. If I set it to vibrate, it can be ignored even more easily.

          I know half the reason for a timer is so that one doesn’t go overboard and sit for three hours straight, then get up to body aches and dehydration. I think more than half the trick is knowing one’s own natural timing. For me, 45 minutes works really well. Some people may need to get up and take a break every 20 minutes. Others might find a 90 minute stretch to be more productive. Even if I ignore my timer, I usually stop and take a quick break somewhere in the 45- to 60-minute period.

  2. I feel like all I deserve for Christmas is a lump of coal — but if anyone is looking here for ideas for me, please make it the Italian candy coal kind (-:. I really couldn’t use a lump of coal; I’m afraid it might melt through our cheapy woodstove.

    I suppose for me, the most practical gift would be some sort of coupon — “You get two hours of writing time!” and my loved one would cook dinner or vacuum everything. But the biggest thing s/he would have to do would be to nag me — “OK, writing time is coming up today — do you have your drinks ready and your computer spiffed up? Do you need to take a nap or a meditation break? Here, let me take your phone away from you. And your wi-fi — you know you can look up anything important later.” LOL, so what I want for Christmas is a four-hour nanny — one hour of nagging, two hours of work, and one hour of praise and treats after it is all done.

    To tell the truth, I’d probably hate it!

    Maybe it would be nice to have a lucky writing cardigan or lap blanket in this kind of weather. I wonder if Barnes and Noble carry any? I know they had a very nice line of literary tote bags and umbrellas two years ago.

    A practical gift of a tea-assortment (Freres Mariage!) would be also good. Some non-caffeinated choices for my post-noon writing adventures.

    As far as inspiration, someone either here or on Jenny’s blog suggested Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Another book that I’m working through and I suspect will be very helpful is The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal. I’m buying those for young people in my life this holiday season; I wish I’d read them when I was younger!

  3. Jilly, I’m with you on the Moleskines. Our local super-shopper-saver club had a 3-pack on sale for $45, which is an amazing deal, so of course I picked them up. I may decide to wrap them and put them under the tree, too.

    My practical gifts would be pens and highlighters. And I’m picky, I’ll admit. I like Pilot G-2 Gel pens, 0.05 (extra fine). Any color works, but I particularly like black, red, and blue. For highlighters, anything goes brand-wise as long as I get green, yellow, orange, blue, pink, and purple (all the colors I use when doing Margie Lawson-style EDITs).

    Lastly are sticky notes. The big, lined kind so I can make notes and tack them to edited pages. Those never go out of style. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Nancy: A Different Kind of Writer’s Gift List – Eight Ladies Writing

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