December is here and that means it’s time to get your Christmas wishlist in order or perhaps you want to buy a gift for the writer in your life. There are lots of novelty writing gifts out there, such as typewriter key cufflinks and fridge magnets and ‘amusing’ slippers (I haven’t actually seen writer’s slippers, but I bet there are some). Speaking for myself, my heart sinks at the thought of unwrapping one of these type of gifts. If you’re at risk of buying novelty jewellery with a writing theme, then come this way.
I’ve picked 11 gifts that writers might actually use.
1. Write on the Go – pencils never run out of ink or batteries. They are light and they don’t leak. I always carry a pencil with me, in every bag, just in case inspiration strikes. This set by Louise Fili, is particularly fetching. Who wouldn’t want to write with these? Buy them at Waterstones for £10.99.
2. Smell the Spirit of Tolstoy – When one has a room of one’s own, it’s good to set the atmosphere to suit whatever you’re writing. Whether it’s music to set the mood, art for inspiration or soft lighting. These scented candles have a literary theme, as each one is named after a classic author, such as Jane Austen (Gardenia, Tuberose and Jasmine), Oscar Wilde (Cedar Wood, Thyme Basil) and Leo Tolstoy (Black Plum, Persimmon, Oak Moss). Envelope yourself in the scent of genius. Buy for £10 at www.boots.com.
3. Writing Prompts – 642 Tiny Things to Write About is a little book that’s packed full of writing prompts. Perfect for a writer you know, who is suffering from block. The pages are blank apart from little prompts, such as “What were you doing this time last year?” or “describe your first kiss” and “write yesterday’s fortune cookie. It got everything right”. Buy this bundle of joy for just £6.99 at Waterstones. There’s a big version too, if you know a prolific writer.
4. Go Analogue – Unless your writer is a gadget geek and won’t put pen to paper, you can’t go wrong with notebooks. Any writer who doesn’t want to forget those fleeting thoughts has a notebook full of scribbled ideas. And of course, the king of notebooks is Moleskine. One of the classic leather bound ones will set you back a bit, but I prefer the larger, lighter and easier to keep open soft back ones. Get three for £5.99 at Book Depository or about £9 at most bookshops and stationers. And now they come in a range of colours, not just the brown.
5. Help for Writers – Writers like things that promise to help them write. The Writer Emergency Pack contains 26 illustrated cards, each featuring a different idea for getting unstuck. But this isn’t just a bunch of writing prompts, it actually gives you practical ideas to get through a tough patch, such as ‘switch genres’ or ‘imagine the story narrated by Morgan Freeman’. It’s created by screenwriter, John August, so there are some great tips and techniques. Available for $19 (£15) (shipping to US $5 Intl $15) at www.store.johnaugust.com.
6. More Help and Inspiration – this is another writing tool in a box. It includes a 160-page book, with writing tips and exercises from well known writers, plus 50 flash cards to inspire and break the dreaded block. It’s not readily available in the UK, but you can find used copies on www.amazon.co.uk for around £14.99.
7. Tools for Writing – for help with getting organised, writers love Scrivener. It’s a software package designed specifically for writers, offering a corkboard view of their work in progress. It also offers a place to keep all their research and character profiles. There is a 30-day free trial or you can buy it for $40 (£32) at Literatureandlatte.com.
8. Get Professional Help – Magazine subscriptions are one of those things I never get around to investing in myself, so it’s a great gift. That means your writer gets 12 months of advice, competition opportunities, industry news and author interviews. There are lots to choose from but, Writing Magazine, Writers’ Forum and MsLexia (for women) are all good and cost around £40 per year or Writers’ Digest in the US.
9. Chase the Shadows Away – it’s always good to have a nice space to write in and a classic anglepoise lamp is ideal. You can direct the light away on brighter days and adjust as the hours drift by. You can get an anglepoise for almost every budget, but this John Lewis one is mid-range at £65 and it comes in smart slate blue, as well as noirish chrome.
10. The Gift of Time – the ultimate gift for any writer is time away from life to just write. The Urban Writers Retreat offers one-day retreats in the heart of London’s trendy Brick Lane area. Arrive at 10am and leave at 4pm, for a day of nothing but writing. I’ve tried it and it works. They also offer longer, countryside retreats, in Devon, but the day retreat, in London is £45 including lunch – a bargain. Check www.urbanwritersretreat.co.uk for new dates.
11. Space and Time – if you want to go all out, then create a VIP writing retreat and book your writer into a hotel. Choose somewhere with a view of the sea or a nestled at the end of a wooded lane, deep in the countryside. Alternatively, for the writer who prefers to take the Donna Tartt approach, book them a room in the heart of a city they love – it doesn’t have to be Paris or New York, Bath , York or Glasgow would do.
What do you want under the Christmas tree, this year, to keep you writing? Let us know below.