My birthday was a month ago. It was pretty much like any other, except for one thing:
This was the first year in perhaps my entire life when I did not ask for or buy any books.
I simply have way too many books to work my way through right now. They are in a very specific order. And I knew that if I bought more, my plan to work my way through what I’ve organized would get derailed.
I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, but I’m sure there’s someone else out there—at least one person—who wants to read their mountain of books in a unique sequence.
That’s why this year, I bought pretty much exclusively clothes and vinyl records with any money I got from family and relatives.
Maybe you’re in the same position this holiday season…except it’s you doing the shopping.
Maybe there’s at least one writer you need to buy for who has leveled a moratorium on books.
If so, what are you supposed to do? How can you celebrate their love of language and writing without contributing to the Mount Everest of books in their house?
I know there are a lot of articles on the internet on this topic. Some of them have pretty cool recommendations. Most, though, are just packed with clichés
That’s why in this week’s Creativity Matters, I’ve put together a compilation of non-book items that personally help me to have a more fulfilling experience as a writer.
And no, none of them involve funny socks or cute mugs with literary quotes.
Cool Notebooks and Pens
This is perhaps a bit obvious, but for those of us who journal, brainstorm, or even like to sketch out ideas, cool notebooks can help enhance the experience, particularly if they provide some sort of experience themselves.
Recently, I went to the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit, and being literally surrounded by the world of his paintings reminded me of how much I love his art.
My favorite of his paintings is “Bedroom at Arles,” a simple depiction of a bed, table, and chair surrounded by a window and small paintings on the walls.
I was running low on pages in my existing journal and it was time to order a new one. With Van Gogh in mind, I ordered a journal from Amazon with the painting on it.
However, I wasn’t expecting the journal to be as high of quality as what I received. The texture of the notebook itself is rugged, yet has a shimmery veneer. The pages are smooth and easy to write on it. Best of all, it’s magnetic, with a clip on the end of the back cover that seals the journal.
The point is this: don’t just buy your writer friend any notebook. Get them something that is sure to be different from anything else they have. And then there are pens. Is it just me, or do any other writers have a favorite brand of pen? Mine is the Pilot Precise V5 and I can’t get enough of them, in black or blue or any other color.
Find out what interests the writer you have in mind, as well as their pen preferences, and you’ve got a perfect gift.
Everyone’s minds automatically go to coffee mugs as a great writing gift…but what about the drink itself? And I’m not talking about going to the grocery store, getting a ton of Bustelo, and wrapping it up in Santa paper.
I’m talking about really making the preparation of a hot beverage an experience.
I’ve never used loose-leaf tea in my life, at least until I got introduced to it through British Bee Tea. I never thought I would do anything with tea that wasn’t prepackaged, but the next thing I knew, I had ordered empty tea bags from Amazon and was filling them myself. It’s an extremely fun, rewarding act. That’s why I wholeheartedly endorse giving not just a beverage, but the tools your writer will need to enjoy it.
Also, if you need a place to start, British Bee Tea is great. They have everything from handcrafted blends of tea to honey.
Since the pandemic, I’ve discovered that I do my best work when I am able to stop writing and divert my attention to something else.
This is especially true for being on Zoom meetings. It isn’t that I’m being inattentive. It’s just that staring at a screen hurts my already failing eyes.
So, sometimes I will turn into a restless three-year-old and play with toys.
There’s just something about playing with a toy that helps me use a different part of my brain to work out my ideas.
At a bookstore last summer, I found these cool puzzle blocks called Plus Blocks that let you create 3-D objects. As you can see, I’ve created a range of abstract objects, from a dragon to robots. I made these during a webinar on Saturday.
Again—not because I was bored. The webinar was amazing. But I feel like I absorbed the concepts a lot more because I was busy with my hands, not just sitting still watching the Zoom meeting.
I also recommend silly putty, puzzles, and any other toy that can help exercise your mind.
This is probably my favorite. It’s a little pricey—mine cost $150, and that was on Prime Day.
But I guarantee that if your writer friend opens up a box with one of these sweet babies, they’ll flip out.
Here’s the deal: just as thinking toys can help you work out different parts of your brain, using different tools to write can expand your ideas and conception of your projects.
Typewriters are marvelously tactile, not to mention that they have a cool vintage vibe. But they are also messy and hugely inconvenient, even though for most of the 20th century, they were the most convenient option writers had.
But now, with Bluetooth typewriters, you can have the tactile, vintage experience without the inconvenience of ink smears and easy mistakes.
Here’s how I like to use mine: the iPad functions as “paper” and Bluetooth-connects to the keyboard. You then type as normal and the letters just show up on the iPad document. This is even better if you have iCloud storage and can sync all your documents across your devices. As the Chief Literary Strategist at Inkling, I do a LOT of editing and communication with my writers. I use my regular computer for work and my typewriter for my own writing. This lets me clearly differentiate the areas of my writing life and wire my brain to the kind of thinking I need for each tool.
It’s an expensive gift, but I promise you that your writer will appreciate it.
Maybe you can’t give books as a gift, but bookmarks are always up for grabs. Like notebooks, everyone has their own tastes, but I’m personally a huge fan of magnetic ones.
For one thing, they don’t slip around. I can put a book in my purse or backpack without fear that I’ll arrive at my destination with the bookmark stuck at the bottom of the bag and my place in the book lost.
For another, they’re available in all kinds of cool colors or with pictures. I have several. Mine have dogs, Bible verses, or solid colors with a shiny texture.
They’re honestly the most practical gift you can give to someone who loves books, but doesn’t want any.
The Ultimate Writing Project Workbook
Now that you’ve been through the whole list and have a great idea of what to get your writer friend, how about adding on a bonus?
I’ve got the perfect thing: my Ultimate Writing Project Workbook.
It contains dozens of prompts, worksheets, templates, brainstorming tools, and more to help you reach your full creative potential with your writing and develop a new project. Best of all? It’s free.
Click here to find out more and download a copy for yourself or a friend.
Also…do you have any other suggestions of gifts that writers will love? Drop them in the comments so everyone can benefit from your ideas.