The 2022 Gift Guide for In-Writers
Or just some things you might like.
I don’t shop much these days, but I still can’t help getting excited about really nice stuff. Bearing in mind that many of us will exchange gifts in December, I think the important thing is to get the gifts right, so they’ll be really loved and appreciated, and won’t quickly make their way to landfill.
I also just think gift guides are fun, especially when they’re tailored to you. Maybe you don’t observe Christmas, but you are in the market for a good book about the creative process, for example: see below.
So here are my suggestions for some things you might like to ask for, buy for a loveable writer near you, or just give to yourself (you deserve it! What a year!). Some of them were nominated by others via social media – I’ve tried to present the best selection. If you have your own ideas, please share them in the comments.
[Apologies that there’s no audio reading from me this week – for some reason I have Marge Simpson voice today, plus I’m not sure a gift guide works in audio form. Normal service resumes next week.]
First, a reminder that I’m doing an In Writing Creative Hour this Sunday 13 November at 5pm GMT – i.e., we’re meeting on Google Meet for a chat and 50 minutes of writing in companionable silence. It’s a great environment to get some work done while also having a sense of solidarity with the community (people who understand how difficult it can be). Paying subscribers will receive the link by email first thing on Sunday.
This gift guide is sponsored by the writing school Curtis Brown Creative.
You can now buy CBC gift vouchers, which can be used as payment towards the school’s four-, five-, six- or ten-week online creative writing courses. I took the course Character Development – The Deep Dive last year, and it helped me to form my ideas for the project I’m writing now. Then again, with other courses available from novelists Tessa Hadley, David Nicholls and Marian Keyes, it’s going to be quite hard for you to choose.
Get your gift voucher here.
Several people suggested that Writers’ Tears whiskey makes a good gift. Is it going to help you write? Probably not. Is it going to be a delicious companion drink to a long conversation with another writer? Possibly. Does it add atmosphere if you drink it while reading Irish literature? Sure.
This one is on my own Christmas list, as I love Mason Currey’s newsletter Subtle Maneuvers. Daily Rituals explores the routines and working habits of writers, artists, philosophers, composers and more – from Jean-Paul Sartre’s amphetamine habit to Igor Stravinsky’s technique for ‘clearing the brain’, which was to stand on his head.
In September 2021, I interviewed the supermodel David Gandy, who was launching his clothing brand Wellwear. After the piece ran, he and his publicist very kindly sent me the Ultimate dressing gown to say thanks; there was no suggestion of me promoting this anywhere, so I really wouldn’t be bringing it up now, over a year later, if I didn’t bloody love that dressing gown.
Writing involves a lot of sitting still, and we must find climate-friendly ways to stay warm while slogging over an infuriating paragraph. I wear the dressing gown at the obvious times when you would wear one, but I’ve also been known to wear it at 11am over a jumper and jeans. It’s made of 100% cotton but it’s an extremely efficient warmer-upper, I don’t know why – it’s heavy and big and sort of fleecy on the inside. Whatever. I recommend it.
Writers write good letters. Receiving a good letter makes the day brighter. Ergo it would be selfish for you not to seek out some headed notecards and start corresponding. Papier has tons of beautiful notecards and paper that can be customised with your name or initials, but I particularly like these ones, because green is my favourite colour, and also, not coincidentally, the colour of In Writing.
£528 for a teeny tiny laptop with hardly any functions? That’s right! I was dubious myself. But several subscribers to In Writing swear by it.
In the comments under one of my newsletters in August (Screen vs paper: does it matter how you write?), Caroline Donahue said she loves the Freewrite Traveler for early drafts, ‘as it allows me to type, but not edit. I revise on the computer, with the tinkering you mention, but this has been huge for getting words down quickly.’ Kristian Brodie agreed, ‘I’d hesitated buying one for years because of the cost, but finally bit the bullet just before Christmas. Since then I’ve written over 100,000 words using it. Zero distractions. It’s amazing.’
The magic (so they say) of the Freewrite is that you can’t check your email or google anything. You can’t even really revise your work, as the screen is too small, so theoretically it encourages you just to keep going and get the words down. It has a full-sized keyboard, and you can also use it in direct sunlight, which I like the sound of, as it’s lovely to be able to write outdoors. Basically, I want one – no, I need one. You probably do too, now.
All profits from the new collection What Writers Read are going to a very important charity: the National Literacy Trust, which helps disadvantaged children develop literacy skills (if you’re interested in the enormous and wide-ranging impact that childhood literacy has, I’d recommend Cressida Cowell’s episode of the In Writing podcast). Pandora Sykes has brought together a terrific list of contributors to discuss their favourite books, including Nick Hornby, Ann Patchett, Benjamin Zephaniah and William Boyd (and they all waived their fees).
Jewellery designer (and former journalist) Claire Hill uses shorthand symbols in her work; this one means ‘Inspire’. I suspect in the Venn diagram of people who subscribe to this newsletter, there are quite a few in the overlapping area between ‘journalist’ and ‘looking for inspiration’.
This necklace is made of recycled silver that’s plated with 14k gold vermeil, so it’s not cheap at £147, but it does look very special. There’s also a solid silver version for £127. Thank you Lals Cotton for suggesting this.
LATE ADDITION: This book almost, but not quite, made it into the email, for boring technical reasons of Gmail limiting the number of images I could include – so I’m adding it to this web version instead.
Wild Card by name, wild card by nature, because you might not expect me to include a book on tarot here. I have no experience of tarot cards, but what's interesting about this guide by Jen Cownie and Fiona Lensvelt (who works as an editor in the book world) is that it's really about storytelling, and how stories can help us to understand ourselves. It’s full of probing questions that would be an excellent resource for creative prompts and character studies: Could you share your wealth with others? What's blocking you from acting? Do you indulge your fancies enough – or too much?
Finally: cafés really are full of people trying to write their novels and screenplays. Sometimes it’s easier to get the work done there – but it’s expensive hanging out at cafés, so it might be very thoughtful to give your favourite writer a coffee fund. Even better: find out where they like to go, and see if the place does gift cards.
Thanks again to Curtis Brown Creative for sponsoring this special edition of the newsletter. Buy a gift voucher here to use in payment for one of their online courses, such as Writing a Memoir, Writing a Psychological Thriller, or Creative Writing for Beginners.
I look forward to seeing you at 5pm on Sunday – good luck with your writing this week!