Most writers don’t need a whole lot to practice their trade. Once you have the basics like a computer, software, paper, and pens/pencils, (and oh, yes, space in which to write), those are the only tools you really need to be successful. That being said, there are many more products writers may find both helpful and fun. If you’re looking for a gift idea, or just looking for something that may help you in your writing life, take a look at the following list.
A Writer Tshirt
Giving a writer a fun writer Tshirt that can be proudly worn is a great way to show your support his or hers writing. It gives them the opportunity to show the world what they do with a bit of humor. If you’re not sure what to give as a gift to a writer, this is a great default.
A journal (maybe more than one)
A journal is a place where you can do your free writing, or where you can work through problems that are impacting your work. They can also be places to keep ideas and experiment with forms like poetry or lyric writing. You can have one journal for everything, or get a few and dedicate them to different types of writing.
Whiteboard (maybe more than one)
I tend to be forgetful and I tend to come up with good ideas when a pen and paper or my laptop aren’t available. Bad combination. To help, I got a couple of small whiteboards and put one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen. Now when I get a great idea in the shower or while making dinner, I can jot it down on the board. These are more water and damage resistant than electronics or paper and are great for messy environments.
Yes, I know the computer has a dictionary function, but many are not as robust as a large, old fashioned, print dictionary. Plus, if you’re a word nerd, there’s just something fun about looking up random words in the dictionary.
See Dictionary, above. The same idea applies because most computer thesauri are not as comprehensive as their print counterparts.
Some writers like to “storyboard” by writing or drawing elements and scenes from their books on index cards and then arranging them to see how they fit together. You can move the cards around if you think of a better arrangement. It’s a more visual form of outlining. A cork board makes this easier than laying everything out on the floor, only to have to pick it up to vacuum, or having it blow around when people walk past.
Spiral bound notebooks
During the back to school shopping season, you can find packs of four or five notebooks for less than $1. They’re great for jotting down ideas, research notes, and character descriptions. Keep one by your bed for those ideas that come to you late at night. Yes, you can use your computer or cell phone, and many people do, but I find that writing some things out longhand clarifies my thoughts more than banging away at a keyboard.
Whether you go digital or get a wall calendar or weekly planner, a calendar is a must to keep track of deadlines and to-do’s,
Good spreadsheet software can come in handy for creating submission trackers and expense/income spreadsheets.
Financial software or ledger
If you don’t want to use a spreadsheet to track your income and expenses, get some good financial software. At the very least, get a ledger and make sure you write everything down. It’ll make tax time much easier.
Basic grammar/style guide
The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White remains the gold standard grammar and style guide. If you are a technical writer or business writer, you may find The Chicago Manual of Style useful, as well. There are also guides for academic writers and other specialties.
There are tons of apps that you might find useful, too many to list here. There are apps for note taking, calendars, word processing, script writing, storyboarding, and many other things you might find useful. Spend some time shopping the app store for your platform of choice to see what you might find useful. There are also plenty of games to help you waste time, so shop carefully.
File cabinet and files
No matter how digital you try to be you will always have paper to file. It keeps drifting in even when you actively try to avoid it. At the least you’ll probably need a file drawer in your desk or an accordion file. At worst, you’ll need a full blown file cabinet or some banker’s boxes.
Amazon Prime membership
For $99 per year, you get free two day shipping on most things that Amazon sells. (You also get free movie rentals and book loans, but those are just perks. The real value is the shipping.) It’s so nice to be able to order ink, toner, paper, envelopes, and other supplies (plus not having to take time away from writing to go to the store) and have it on your doorstep in two days.
There are apps for this, or you can buy a more old school recorder. Either way, these come in handy for recording interviews and making notes to yourself on the fly.
A lap desk is great to have on hand for those times when you want to write or do research on the bed or couch. It keeps your laptop from burning your legs and lets you get into a variety of positions so you can work in comfort.
Amazon gift card
This comes in handy for buying those deeply discounted Kindle books, apps, and MP3’s that Amazon sells. Having a gift card balance on your account eliminates the need to put bunches of those $1.99 or $0.99 charges on your credit card, which can get your card shut down for suspected fraud. If you have Prime, listed above, it’s also great for all those $5.00 shipments you can now order without paying for shipping.
These are great for marking passages while researching or editing. They’re perfect for marking passages and making short notes in library or borrowed books in which you cannot make your own notes.
Personalized note cards
Yes, much of life is digital these days, but there is still something to be said for the power of a handwritten thank you note on a nice note card. They’re great for sending to agents, editors, and others who’ve taken the time to help you.
A good coffee machine
If you’re a coffee drinker, you can save a fortune by making your own instead of hitting Starbucks every day. You might like a Keurig or similar single cup coffee maker that lets you rotate through a variety of flavors (tea and hot cocoa, as well) every day. Or you might prefer a good espresso machine or a simple regular coffee maker.
Rory’s Story Cubes
These are “dice” that you roll which act as story generators. They are available in the original set, plus two newer sets that add actions and voyages to the mix. You can use them alone when you’re stumped for ideas, or play with others using the game rules that come with them. The cubes are also available as an app so you can roll on the go.
Not every product is ideal for every writer. Some prefer old-school solutions, some prefer high tech, and others like a mix. Think about how you work best and choose products the help, not hinder, you.
(Photo courtesy of John O’Nolan)