Writing Gifts

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis
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I want to talk about writing. Really I do, but instead I’m going to talk about stuff. Sharon Lee talked about the Levenger catalog on her blog the other day. Levenger, if you don’t know, carries really nice office supplies, furniture, fountain pens, and all sorts of luxurious sorts of office related supplies. The question Sharon has, is who buys this stuff? Who uses it? I wonder the same thing. I used to covet some of the stuff, almost as a marker of being professional. Like I would be a real grown up writer if I had some of the cool stuff. I do admit they’ve cut down considerably on their breadth of products over the years, and to me, the offerings aren’t nearly as enticing, though I can’t be sure if that’s because I no longer find things as interesting, or if their products are not as amazing as I remember them being.

The thing is, as I’ve grown into this career, I’ve learned that sure, I like a few really expensive things, like my computers, which are an iMac and a Macbook Pro. That has to do with my ability to be productive, more than anything else. I find them less time consuming and frustrating over the long haul, as compared to Windows machines. But other than that, my expensive things are my shelves and my books. For the rest, I have plebian tastes, or maybe the better term is functional.  I like smooth gel pens. I like regular notebooks with paper, or better yet, yellow pads, for taking notes and scribbling out ideas. I don’t use much other stuff. Yeah, a stapler and a hole punch, and yes I have a monster expensive chair (after three back surgeries, I figure it’s a sane choice). So anyhow, I tossed the Levenger catalog with barely a look. Nothing was interesting.

But that made me think, just what might a writer want for a gift? Especially if you want that gift to be really appreciated. You want it to be fun and clever, yet useful. Let’s start super high end.

This is a walking desk.  walking deskI should say it’s the Cadillac of walking desks, what with the treadmill being off to the side and the desk raises and lowers according to what you want to do. I’ve heard a number of writers talking about this sort of setup (though frankly far far cheaper) as a means to avoid stiffness, back pain, swellling, and a number of other issues. I’d try it. Course I’m not sure I could keep track of my feet. Some writers say they can’t compose while walking, but they can certainly blog or check email or do research. So if you’ve got an extra five grand laying around, you might buy this for the writer in your life.

Next let’s go with something much much much more affordable. It’s a hat. This hat: awriterhatI know, it’s pretty silly. But it is a useful thing. It’s so easy to forget that in fact you are a writer. That when you are home, you are also at work. You have to remember that writing is your purpose during certain hours. Being able to put the hat on is a trick for your mind, that while you’re wearing it, you must write. It can do the trick for those writers struggling with focus and to help them stick  with their writing instead of cleaning, raking leaves, cooking, or what have you.

 

This next one is kind of a cheap one too. But one of my favorites. It’s a Milky Gear Journal. amilkygearIt has black pages and works well with Gel Ink pens (so if you’re giving one of these, or two or ten, include some gel pens). Light colored, of course. So what’s the big deal, you might be asking. Who cares about writing with light, shiny pens on black paper? But writers do. It’s an artsy way of writing and all of a sudden you can jump out of a rut and write cool and interesting things because it’s like you’re writing with magic. I know, sounds silly, but trust me, it works. There’s something about the shiny on the black that just feels magical.

Noise cancelling headphones would be my next suggestion. It’s really easy to be distracted by the life that goes on around you, so they are really cool. I’m not pointing to any in particular, because I couldn’t tell you which are the best. I want some, and I’ve eyed some Bose headphones. Maybe one day.

Speaking of headphones, I personally think a good gift are headphones with a speaker for the phone. That way if you end up having to be on the phone, your hands are free to type. Maybe that’s because you have an interviaheadsetew and want to make notes, or you are talking with your agent or editor and need to scribble down ideas and thoughts. Maybe that’s because you ended up having to call your internet provider and are stuck on hold. Maybe you’re talking to a computer tech who is walking you through how to fix your computer. But I find headphones for the phone priceless (the speakerphone sucks). I like the kind that go behind the head instead of over the head, and that cover both ears. Over the head headsets start putting pressure on the ears and hurt over time.

 

This last one might sound strange, but give it a minute: Tarot cards and/or runestones and books on how they might be used for a reading. These would not be for personal use, but for character development and plotting. They can be a fun way to engage your story, or to generate a story. Do a reading for a character and discover things about him or her and make those things relevant to the story. You can go with a tradition Ryder deck, or one of the many beautiful options out there that have a particular bent–fairies, wizards, dragons, and so on.

On top of that, I still covet  leatherbound notebooks with a cool designs on them. Or moleskin notebooks. I also love fun and unique pens. I also love crystal suncatchers for the windows.

What do you think? What does your inner writer want?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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29 comments to Writing Gifts

  • I’d love to have Dragon software as an app on my tablet so I could talk to myself in the car are read my ideas later. Don’t know how accurately it would transcribe, but if nothing else, they errors would be good for a laugh!

  • I am soooo bad at gift buying. I need to see that catalog. But I will say, I bought David B Coe some really nice scotch. And he kindly left it at my house, which is the best way to gift a friend. (nods head) And Misty Massey gives cookies. (OMGosh, wonderful cookies.)

    As for me? I recently started back writing in a notebook, to free my brain to work, and as you suggested, the gel pens do it for me. The smooth sliding motion on paper feels creative all by itself!

  • Lyn, I agree Dragon would be interesting (Amazon had the desktop version [Mac/PC] on sale a few weeks ago as part of their lead to black Friday deals).

    Speaking of Apps, I’m looking forward to the day when a Scrivener port is finally available for iPad.

    I’ve found I seem to work better with fountain pen & paper for a first draft. I prefer Cross (my Century II has done well enough I just got a 2nd)… would REALLY have liked to get one of their “Year of the Dragon” designs, with fine point. Ink cartridges have become a staple idea for stocking stuffers.

    Journals: I use standard yellow notepads for 1st drafts, but have an abundance of journals that I’ve started tinkering with for various thought captures (to be given as gifts later, for example:I’ve got one that I’m writing for my son [almost 2]). I’ve been impressed with what I’ve gotten from Peter Pauper Press (look them up on Amazon)… hardcovers for a reasonable price.

    Would also love upgraded tech – iMac or Macbook Air, but that’s not just from a writerly standpoint…

  • sagablessed

    “What does your inner writer want?”
    A contract for a 5 book deal. :D

    Otherwise a quiet space and someone to walk Monster (my dog) when it is 15 degrees out like this morning. And a chair that does not put my butt or legs to sleep.

    I have thought about VTP (voice to page) software, but seeing how badly VTT works on my phone….no way.

    Oh, and another $100.00 B&N or Amazon giftcard from my folks. Cuz, books.

  • Dragon software sounds like a dream, but I’ve found I actually can’t make it work for me. It doesn’t pick up my words very well, and I always feel put on the spot when I’m using it.

    My absolute favourite gel ink pens are Zebra Sarasa. But I used to have the metallic and milky gel inks. That would be fun to have again, especially black paper.

    I would *love* a treadmill desk. Up here, children’s author Arthur Slade was able to jury-rig his own setup and he lost something like 60lbs, walking at a reasonable pace while writing. I’m pretty sure it didn’t cost as much as $5K, though. I have a sit/stand station at work and that helps my energy levels there.

    That’s my big wish. I mean, I’ve already got the headphones and the whiskey. ;) I’m getting better at making good use of my time. But it would be nice to have a workstation that addresses multiple issues at once.

  • Janet Walden-West

    My inner writer is low brow and low tech. She comes out for these 3 for $2.00 pens that can only be found at Big Lots (and undoubtedly come from China and cause cancer in lab animals), 5 subject notebooks and a decent book stand to hold the battered notebooks when it finally comes time to start typing. Now you all know my dirty little secret ;)

  • Well, I used to just want some new pens and maybe an ink cartridge for my printer, but now I really want a walking desk! *Goes off to search for $5000*

  • Lyn: The other option is a handheld voice recorder (you can also clip them on a shirt or hang them on a lanyard). They are fairly cheap and allow you to listen back at slower speeds so that you can type stuff out, and they don’t screw up what you’re saying. Of course they aren’t already type in for you, but it’s a way of writing in the car all the same.

    Faith: cookies and scotch are good. I was going to include Writers Tears in the list. I so want a bottle!

    Jeff: I’m going to go check out that pen just to drool a little. I want to upgrade the tech too, but not out of any need. I just like the shiny.

    sagablessed: yeah, a book deal would be lovely. Gift cards are wonderful things, but walking in the cold is good for the soul and so’s the puppy, so embrace it! (she said, while typing with one dog on her lap so the laptop doesn’t fit there and the other snuggled up to my thigh).

    Janet: I’m a little afraid of Big Lots, but that’s a long story. I am curious about what kinds of pens, now, though. I like the idea of a book stand for notebooks. That would be cool.

    Sisi: I’m kind of interested in the walking desk too, but I would have to rig something for my treadmill.

  • Ken

    I really like the hat. Let me also second the notion that gel pens=awesome. Larua, I like Zebra’s “Z-Grip” pens. I’ll have to check out the Sarasas. Other than that, I’d probably kill myself on a treadmill desk. I’ve got a functional laptop with Scrivener and a stack of wire notebooks for when I need to scribble notes. I think that the only thing missing are more bookshelves…cuz, books

  • I don’t like writing on paper as my handwriting looks like a drunken chicken walked across the page to the point where I can even barely read what I wrote. And my brain thinks faster than my hand can move. And then there’s the left-handed thing and I smear the ink. For gifts, I just want to have my laptop back, more time in the day to write before it drives me even more insane than I already am that I’m not writing, less physical stress from the job that makes me sleep most of my day away (we hatesess graveyard shift, we hatesess it!), and oh yeah, that five book deal sounds good too.

  • Janet Walden-West

    http://cellonorthamerica.com/superglide_2.html -in black, of course.
    Only the kind of desperation that comes from searching fruitlessly for That Toy for a sobbing 5 year old drove me into the Big Lots zoo. Then, I was hooked. WalMart, Target, Staples and Office Max don’t deign to carry this cheapie variety. So I’m forced to brave Big Lots every few months (I buy a few dozen every time, ’cause folks, Walmart’s got nothin’ on this place).

  • Laura: wonder if they make the light gel inks for the black paper? I doubt Dragon would work that well for me because I don’t talk the stories through out loud. I wonder if I could change. And I *still* want to try Writers Tears :D

    Ken: I’d probably kill myself too. More bookshelves are always a plus.

  • Daniel: May all the gifts come through for you!

    Janet: I might have to go in and look for one of those. If I can find one around here. I know they are around in the state, but I tend to avoid finding them at all costs. :D

  • Nathan Elberg

    1) a functioning laptop & laser printer- got it!
    2) a desk- got it!
    3) reliable, cheap electricity- got it!
    4) a good furnace to keep me warm- got it!
    5) a good family- got it!
    6) decent health- got it!

    I’m pretty much all set. Thanks for asking.

    Here’s another take: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIEIvi2MuEk

  • Ooh, Nathan, yeah, how could I have forgotten that I need a good furnace and cheap, reliable electricity (he says bundled in multiple layers of clothes and shivering). Guess the decent health couldn’t hurt either.

  • Nathan Elberg

    I second the motion on the five-book deal

  • I desire a chair-mounted split ergonomic keyboard, like Catie Murphy’s: http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/images/np_evol.jpg

    But since no one seems to make them any more, I’ll settle for new contacts so I don’t have to lean so close to the monitor. :)

  • Nathan: Not even a pen or a paperclip? Or a pair of slippers? *smile* seriously though, that’s awesome. But you forgot to add the reliable internet. And oh, yeah, chai! (well that’s me anyhow).

    Daniel: Just get a dog for the warmth. They are great blankets (when they want to be).

    Misty: I haven’t seen that one. I have a kinesis split keyboard for the desktop. I don’t know how I’d like it chair mounted. I wonder. I’d love to try it out. Guess i need to go to Ireland and visit Catie. Think it will work as a tax deduction?

  • Ken

    Rrrrroooooaaaadddd Trip!!!!

  • Ken – the Sarasas write more smoothly, in my experience.

    Diana – Sorry you haven’t had the chance to try Writers’ Tears yet.

    Also, re: the cards. I agree about this being super useful. Really, truly, this is a fantastic writing tool. Used for that purpose, it’s helped me with plotting, and it’s also been a big help in getting to the nitty-gritty issues in character building.

  • Razziecat

    Oh my, the book deal sounds lovely ;)

    I would like a home office, with a not-too-”office” desk and a decent chair. The noise-cancelling headphones are a great idea too (although Audiomachine turned up a bit on my current cheap headphones works pretty well :) ) That phone headset, though- ugh, no, I use one all day at work.

    A few notebooks and cool pens would be nice. Sometimes I still write in longhand. There’s something inspiring about it.

    I should try the tarot thing. Someone did a reading for me once and the result had far more to do with one of my characters than it did for anything going on in my own life :D I’ve got a couple of decks around, maybe I’ll have a go next time I’m stuck on plotting.

  • Marlie Harris

    I just tried to Google those “Milky Gear Journal”. Pentel doesn’t stock them anymore! This makes me extremely sad! I was really looking forward to those for Christmas.

    I guess I can settle for the Dragon Tarot deck instead. I love the idea of using them for plot and character development. I also love the idea of pens. I am a pen freak. I have a dragon pen that I am saving for the first time I sign a book contract. I love pens.

  • Misty: I’m in!

    Laura: me too. Want to try!

    Razziecat: I have some directions around somewhere (that I may have lost in the move), with variations on how to use Tarot for creative writing.

    Marlie: I found these, which are not Milky Gear, though you’d be getting quite a load of them: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Page-Journal-Cover-case/dp/B009UZ403E/ref=pd_sim_sbs_op_5 I bet a craft store might have them, or maybe Staples. I’ve got a fetish for pens. There was a guy at Orycon this year who made an acrylic/wood pen that was gorgeous. I am hoping to get one.

  • mudepoz

    Orchids. Bones. Good lighting. Lots of spiral bound notebooks and good, sharp pencils. A sturdy lock to keep Faith OUT of my orchids and bones :)

  • Mudepoz: What kinds of bones???? Two of my orchids are still alive, btw. They survived the move and everything.

  • [...] was over at Magical Words today talking about gifts for writers. Check it out. And the comments. Fun [...]

  • mudepoz

    YAY Diana! I’m really proud of you. Orchid appreciation and growing is a virus. Well-known, there are even books written on it. Bones? I collect animal bones of all sorts. I’ve always been fascinated by the internal structure of things. Maybe knowing that my favorite artist is Georgia O’Keeffe. She was in her nineties when she came back to Wisconsin, Madison, and I was allowed to deliver flowers to her by the florist I worked for.

    It didn’t matter the artist wasn’t totally there. The hands that created all that beauty were there. Bony, gnarled, and beautiful.

  • It’s odd. I can’t write poetry on a computer, and I can’t write prose with a pen.