Holiday gifts for writers, Part 1

The holidays are a time of assumptions. People assume — sometimes accurately, sometimes not — what writers would want as gifts. They mean well. They want to acknowledge our efforts and facilitate our journey. But sometimes their gifts are not want we need.

Examples, all from personal experience:

Holiday gifts for writers

Pens

I already have lots of them. I buy several dozen at a time because I go through them quickly (and lose them quickly, even though I keep a stash in every room and purse).

I like one type of pen only. First, it has to have a medium point. Mediums glide across a page, whereas fine-points take longer because they press into paper more deeply. This is not an insignificant difference when my fingers are racing to keep up with my mind. Too, mediums seem to work better when I am lying in bed and hold them at a 90-degree angle.

Two, I only use pens that have a foam grip. Plain plastic or metal pens feel cold. They also make my fingers slip, and when I’m on a writing roll, I don’t want to make adjustments. Third, I like pens that click, rather than those that twist or have caps. Too much effort.

Notebooks and journals

I love the notebooks and journals I have received over the years. Stunningly embossed, brilliantly laminated, tastefully bound. So precious (and steeply priced) are they that I place them on a special shelf in my closet. Where they remain, unused.

I am afraid of mucking them up with my messy handwriting and smudges. Instead, I reach for my standbys: spiral notebooks and ruled yellow pads. I can abuse these to my heart’s content.

Flip through their pages and you’ll find incarnations of opening sentences, cross-outs, doodles, occasional grocery lists, and, on occasion, brilliant prose. Best of all, I have no problem ripping out their sheets or tossing them into the garbage. Freedom!

Books about writing

Writing is a 24/7 job; I’ve been at it for decades. And so, the last thing I want to do is read about it. It feels like work. (Imagine being an accountant and receiving accounting books as gifts.)

At this point in my professional and personal life, I am most interested in the unfamiliar: topics that expand my worldview and build intellectual muscle. Non-fiction is my primary vehicle.

I love American history, especially from the Civil War era on; early 20th Century — yes, yes, yes! I love biographies (as long as they’re not about royalty and other writers) and books that make me laugh (rare; it’s hard to top Bill Bryson). I also like books about technological, politics (though not current) and social change.

And there you have it — what not to get this cranky writer for the holidays. Perhaps you should compose your own list, so when people ask what you want for the holidays, you can set them straight.

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