Gifts For Writers, 2014

Gifts for Writers 2014

It’s that time again.

Got a writer in your life who you like enough to spend time and money on them?


It’s the 2014 edition of gifts for writers.

1. Chemex

Sometimes I like to pretend that ha ha ha I don’t really need my coffee to write ho ho ho that’s fine no really I can just have a cup of water, but the morning I try to write without coffee is either the morning I write like, 14 words (and 8 of them are “buh”), or it’s the morning I run out into the forest, stabbing woodland creatures with a pen. Either way: I needs my coffee, and smart money says that one of your favorite writers needs her coffee, too. As I’ve noted in the past, the Chemex makes coffee taste like coffee smells. It’s an elegant, easy way to brew coffee. (Though if you’re rolling around on a king-size mattress stuffed with cash, consider the DRAGON BREWER, which I’m pretty sure comes with its own hoard of gold. Or, at least, it costs one.)

2. A Coffee Subscription

Last year I said, “Hey, Tonx is a great coffee subscription,” and it was. It was so great, it got bought by Blue Bottle, whereupon it became a mediocre coffee subscription, so, yeah. Not doing that anymore. That said, other coffee subscriptions do exist. Royal Mile Coffee roasts helluva good beans regardless of whether you buy ’em as part of a subscription or bag by bag. Another friend recommends Klatch Coffee. Or, you can just hunt and kill other coffee drinkers for their blood, then harvest all of it in a sack, put a big pretty bow on it, and stick that sloshing red bag under the Christmas tree. Like a floppy beanbag full of liquified Santa.

3. A Special Writerly Coffee Mug Shut Up Yes I’m Shameless I Said Shut Up

Coffee should go in a coffee mug. Well, I mean, it should go into the writer’s mouth, but that’s its final destination, and really, isn’t life about the journey? What I’m saying is, the writer in your life needs some writerly mugs, and BOY HOWDY HEY LOOK I have a couple of those over there at the terribleminds merch store. Art Harder! Certified Penmonkey! Writer Juice! The Secret to Writing! No, I have no shame. That part of me was destroyed during The War.

4. A Writing Shed

The first year I did this list, I recommended you steal Neil Gaiman’s Magic Writing Gazebo, but obviously that’s impossible because that Neil, he needs it. You can try to take it from him but he’ll turn your eyes into buttons and your heart into a shrieking raven because that’s just the kind of power he possesses. Still, hey, a writer’s shed really is an option because now I have one! I call it the MYSTERY BOX, because inside the box will be created many mysteries. My friend, The Russian, calls it the “Write-Hole,” and occasionally I think of it as the “Murder Pit” because underneath the floor is — well, spoiler alert, a murder pit. And the attic is where I’ll keep one of my editors, Brian White. Anyway! Want the eternal servitude of your writer pal? Buy them a writing shed. Just don’t steal mine. I don’t have Gaiman’s magic, but I do have a murder pit.

5. Evernote Notebook

Behold: the Evernote Smart Notebook. Write into it. Use the Evernote app to snap photos of the pages which then become digitized as part of the Evernote app. The writer could use it to take notes, write drafts, sketch characters, or even design their very own murder pit (mine features walls lined with starveling squirrels, each clad in itty-bitty bondage gear). Or, you could just buy a regular notebook for said writer and said writer will curse you as the Luddite dullard that you are. Because technology is awesome, weirdo. GET ON BOARD THE ROBOT REVOLUTION.

6. This Sexy-Ass Livescribe Pen

Or, same idea, different angle: the Livescribe pen! All the shit you write down on paper also becomes digitized. Because magic. I mean, because technology. But technology is basically magic anyway. Which means using this pen makes you some kind of wizard.

7. Or Just Some Regular-Ass Pens

Fine, cheap-ass, just buy the author some pens. Real, non-fancy, non-digital, occasionally-stabby pens. Everybody has a preference for pens (and you are free to add your own favorites to the comment section below), but for my mileage, I like these little motherfuckers right here — Uni-Ball Signo Medium Gel Sticks, which is so absurd a title I’m pretty sure I just made up the name of some character or some smart drug in a new science-fiction novel. “Hey, Signo, you got those Medium Gel Sticks? I wanna get high and see cyber-ghosts, man. Call Livescribe and Chemex, tell them to get over here so we can get cyberfucked up.” Anyway. You can buy those pens if you want. Or don’t. I don’t care. You’re in charge of your own fate, despite clear evidence that I should be the one making all the decisions for you.

8. Or How About Some Pencils You Goddamn Hipster

Oh, oh, fine. You’re one of those. “I don’t use pens. I use pencils. I cut them down from local artisanal pencil trees and I harvest the graphite by hand from a Park Slope graphite mine.” Okay, whatever, jerk. Just settle down. If you think the writer in your life would prefer some fancy pencils, well, here they are: Palomino Blackwing, 602.

9. Kidnap A Writer For A Plexiglass Inspiration Prison

I did once suggest that you kidnap Neil Gaiman as a gamboling muse-imp, but that really isn’t an option as his lawyers have suggested with this piece of paper called a “restraining order” (ha ha ha I violated your restraining order, suckers!). But hey, why not another author? For instance, I would make for excellent kidnapping, provided of course that someone takes me in, feeds me, bathes and combs the monsters out of my beard, massages my feet, tells me bedtime stories, pays me six figures a year. I’ll be some writer’s Muse Monkey. I’ll be a Personal Writing Coach. I’ll perch behind your writer pal’s monitor and yell at her any time she tweets instead of writing that book she’s supposed to be writing. I make an excellent gift. And I eat very little. By which I mean, I eat a lot. And drink a lot of coffee. And I’m fairly rude. I don’t really wipe my feet and I curse a lot. On second thought, I make a horrible gift.

10. Scrivener

Listen, I think Scrivener is just too much. I don’t get it. I tried cracking that nut and it was like, “HERE, TAKE 32 HOURS TO LEARN HOW TO USE THIS THING PROPERLY. ALSO, SCRIVENER IS AS UGLY AS A DONKEY COVERED IN WOOD PANELING.” I prefer the elegant simplicity of Word, and I like how Word sometimes just shits itself and loses my word count — it keeps things interesting, you know? Writers seek conflict, after all! Ha ha ha, weep. Anyway. Just the same, while I am personally too “old-man-get-off-my-lawn” about Scrivener, I know a lot of writers who utterly adore it, and so — why not nab a license for your Best Writer Pal? Actually, Scrivener 2 is now out, so hopefully we’ll find out what happened to Scrivener. Did he and Final Draft finally get together? Did he learn to breakdance to save the community center? Tune in.

11. Anti-Social

Once upon a time I recommended the software known as Freedom, which is a thing an author can use to artificially lock himself out of the Internet like an ascetic in order to get some fucking work done. Here, similar piece of software by the same company (though for my mileage these two products should be combined into one because c’mon): Anti-Social. Helps a writer block specific websites and social media services so that, again, said writer can get some fucking work done.

12. Actually Social

You know what’s a good present? Just go talk to a writer. Not while she’s writing — because that’s how you die. Never interrupt a writer while she’s writing. That’s like interrupting a grizzly bear during its meal. Just let it eat, man. Just let it eat. No! I mean, when that writer is done writing? Go talk to them. Be nice. Let them blab about their writer problems. Engage in conversation, communication. Most of the time we just sit in the dark, going blind like cave owls, our hands curled into arthritic typey-typey shapes. Ease us out of the grotto. Make us feel human again.

13. The Hemingwrite

The Hemingwrite! It looks like a word processor from 1991, and it kinda is, except it also syncs with cloud apps and has an epic battery life and has wi-fi and an e-ink screen and yet won’t tweet or update Facebook or look at adorable otter videos. It is as bare and spare as you can get.

14. Backup Battery

An external backup battery for phone or iPad has saved my writerly ass many a time. I’m sitting there trying to look at porn I mean write a story at a conference or convention and my phone starts to enter into death throes (mysteriously jumping from like, 12% to 0% in the space of four seconds), boom. Plug in, drain the little energon cube I carry around with me, and I’m back.

15. NatureBox Healthy Snacks

NatureBox — healthy snacks delivered monthly. Nuts and dried fruits and funny little seeds because basically you’re just a bird? I dunno. Point is, though, writers need good healthy proteins to keep their brain functioning during the writing process, and something like this is that. Plus I’m sure you get all kinds of crunchy foods like heritage grain enemas and freeze-dried bok choy injector needles or whatever. Shut up and eat right, hippie. You and your author buddies.

16. Or, Fuck Your Healthy Snacks, Just Have Ice Cream

After going mad eating like, chia seeds or gluten-free air-puffed acai-puffs, your writerly loved one may just need some goddamn ice cream. And hence, I suggest to you the finest ice cream ever crafted by man — seriously, this is the apotheosis of ice cream, this is the end of all ice cream, game over, man, game overJeni’s Pint Club. The first rule of Pint Club is that you eat all the pints by yourself in a closet so that you don’t have to share with anybody else.

17. A Great Writing Advice Book

So many good writing advice books out there. The classic is, of course, Stephen King’s On Writing. Or I might suggest Lawrence Block’s three-in-one package (featuring the Liar’s Bible). OH AND HEY MAYBE THERE’S THIS BOOK CALLED THE KICK-ASS WRITER BY SOME CHODEBAG THAT YOU COULD CHECK OUT IF YOU WANNA. (A recent review of the book features a favorite recommendation: “Chuck Wendig is like a bearded, potty-mouthed Scheherazade, except he’s not saving his own life from within the King’s chamber’s he’s saving your writing ass.” Thanks, Mary Beth Bass!)

18. Show Your Work

Not a writing advice book, but a creativity advice book — Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.

19. Just Some Weird Shit

Doesn’t matter what it is, but writers love weird, quirky stuff. “Hey, I got you this cat skeleton” will probably get you arrested unless you’re giving it to a writer. I suspect it’s that each curio, each artifact, is suggestive of story. Unique objects. Strange things. A serial killer’s typewriter! A sex toy Christmas ornament! A life-size Yeti pelt! Aim weird. Writers love weird.

20. A Writerly Shirt (Yes, Still Shameless)

T-shirts! For writers! Art Harder! Certified Penmonkey! *bangs tin bucket*

21. The Storymatic

A deck of 500+ cards, meant to tickle a writer’s story glands and force those organs to excrete hot, fresh narrative. Also cool but not yet released: Writer Emergency cards.

22. Things That Smell Like Books

Some writers are total book sniffers. They’re just junkies for the stuff. Sure, sure, e-readers are nice and all, but e-ink fails to exude that precious odor (which is really probably just the odor of a million dead mites and discarded human skin cells). So, help your junkie book-sniffer with this whole panoply of book-scented things. Perfumes! Candles! Sweat! Tears! A jar of dead mites! Okay, maybe not all of that. But definitely the first two things.

23. Ear Stuff

“Ear stuff” sounds like “butt stuff,” kinda, but that’s not what I mean. Wonky perv, you. What I mean is, above I covered the olfactory, so now it’s time to handle the aural side of a writer’s needs. Audible gift account? Sure. Pandora? Why not? Will you buy a recording of me yelling at writers to finish their shit? I can do that for you. I’m your huckleberry.

24. Physical Pleasure

For god’s sakes, people, writers need love, too. Strop up against us like cats. Rub us down with various lotions and oils. Attend to our erogenous zones! Failing all of that, might I suggest getting a writer a massage? A proper massage does wonders, given that most of us have the posture of a dead, curled-up beetle. Help us look and feel human again, willya?

25. A Beard

All writers have beards. Even the seemingly beardless are possessing of beards — our words hanging dense and heavy upon our chins, a carpet of tangled story like so many fibers and tentacles. As such: buy the writer in your life a beautiful yarn-beard. Luxuriant. Rich. Plump. And they can spray it with book-scented perfume, too.

Bonus: Cross-Stitch Profanity!

The wunderbar Liz Lincoln did for me an ART HARDER, MOTHERFUCKER cross-stitch to hang on the wall of my new writer’s shed, and she has an Etsy store. Further, I think she’ll take commissions, though I do not suspect those will get to your writer pal in time for Xmas.

80 responses to “Gifts For Writers, 2014”

  1. Unfortunately I don’t have much room for a Writing shed but that is awesome to keep in mind for the next house. I love my Livescribe pen. It is very awesome.

    And dammit, I am going to eat ice cream. Because ice cream is awesome. And I have some in the freezer.

  2. Oh Lord, I want a writing shed. I’m actually praying for and saving up (SLOWLY) for a good old tiny retro trailer. I thought it would be the perfect girly writing shed. Love your’s though! Might be sharing that with my love. 🙂

  3. I would get #1 if someone else made it for me, because seriously?, I don’t have time to make my coffee in two-fucking stages! That’s too much damn work! LOL. And I would totally get that Livescribe if it had a pencil version. I only do mechanical.

  4. Classic post. Sort of a room/shed with a view/livescribe pen feel to it. I say, as a gift, give writers time, but then that could deprive us of artistic material and a small bit of normalcy. What about trust funds? Oh wait, WCW was a doctor!

  5. 1. green tea for me, not coffee, preferable tieguanyin oolong, which gives you a burst of creativity straight from the iron goddess.

    2. that’s not a writing shed. This is a writing shed:

    3. scrivener sucks, especially if you work between multiple laptops, PC’s, Macs, friends computers, and machines at the university or the library. You end up with enormous unwieldy files, especially if you add images. I’ll stick with MS Word.

    4. that Hemingwrite looks like the computer equivalent of a fixie bicycle. Retro,completely unsuitable for the task, and requiring a beard. How did they manage to create a minimal machine that’s bigger than a laptop? Probably deserves a replay of this:

    5. the only book this writer wants for Christmas:
    (no, not the only book, but the one I want the most, but probably can’t wait until the 25th and will buy it for myself)

    6. pens – Kaweco Sport fountain pen, preferably the lovely Art series in tortoiseshell. Compact enough to always keep in your pocket. And yes, using a fountain pen is the equivalent of a fixie. Bite me.

  6. Damn, you crack my writer’s mug up – er, I mean, you crack me up – oh hell, it’s late and my morning coffee’s already worn off. Can’t write worth a damn without caffeine in my system.

  7. Well, I got a massage gift certificate this past year for V day . . . finally. Do you think I’ve found the time to use it yet? *sigh*

  8. This list was funny as shit. But seriously, hell-to-the-yeah on that coffee subscription. And, despite my wife’s protests, I will be trying out the full beard this month.

    Does anyone know of a machine that can maybe add a few more hours to the day? I’d like one of those.

  9. I’ve found that the coffee brewed within the glorious womb of the Chemex is greatly improved upon if the preparer has, in fact, an equally glorious handlebar mustache or an epic beard.

  10. I’ve been eyeing these Fiction Magic cards from Deb Lund. Sort of a smaller version of the Storymatic cards, at a more basic level rather than specific story elements. (Which I think leaves more room for interpretation and brainstorming.)

  11. What’s this pen that lives in my pocket? Let me check. Uni-ball… signo… gel 207 ultra micro. What about all those pens in my backup pen drawer? 207 micros or ultra micro also?

    How about that. This Wendig blatherskite has good taste.

  12. Yeah Scrivener is awesome. The sync thing they have going on Aeon Timeline is godly. You can run it both ways. You can create a timeline in Aeon and have it automatically make scrivener documents or the other way around. Or perhaps a little bit of both. The best thing about Scrivener is the flexibility.

    • +1 on Scrivener love. Honestly, I wouldn’t get shit written without it, if I depended on Word, because my brain words won’t organize order in like that. Even though I’m a total pantser by and large, Scrivener pays off in the rewriting process because I move so much stuff around.

  13. ah a beard, i knew my story was lacking.

    Also it was quite funny, my mum was trying to get christmas ideas for my little sister to give us (shes 6) and i suggested a book “no, no she needs to get you a proper present.”


  14. Okay, so I’m the weird one. No coffee for me, bit Dr Pepper caffeine fix YES. A must.

    And ice cream a month? Where the hell do I sign up?? WANT.

    Scrivener.. bleh no.

    I have a writers cave I shut myself into…it works. I even have pink curtains…because I can. 😛 And a Harry Potter Wand pen, snitch and a time-turner. (because I might need to go back in timea—sometime)

    Sticky notes…lots and lots of sticky notes.

    The one thing you forgot Chuck….CHOCOLATE. Sometimes I just need it to function writerly.

    Carry on!

  15. To the person who dislikes Scrivener because of limited access: Flash Drive. You wouldn’t be able to convert Mac to PC or vice versa, but you’d be able to run it on various machines.
    The Storymatic cards look like fun, but do they include naughty fun? I mean… Come on… it can’t all be clean.
    I think I own most, if not all, of your writing help* books already. (*I picture you pulling your hair and screaming behind me as I write to finish my shit.)

    • Scrivener also works over Dropbox if you make sure to always close Scrivener and let the Dropbox sync up before you shut down. That way it even works between Windows and Linux.

    • I was probably a bit harsh on Scrivener. I know a lot of people love it.
      I wrote my first novel in Word on a little netbook (whatever happened to them?) and had all my templates set up, along with chapter plans, character notes, image folders etc. With the advance from that novel I bought a shiny new Mac and then bought Scrivener and found it did all the stuff I was already doing, but compressed it all into one huge file. I’d already established a work method and was too set in my ways to adjust.
      Scrivener would be very useful for pantsers, who write first and then have to organise packets of text into coherent narrative, but planners will already know how to organise their work.
      My difficulty is that I work on several machines, not all of them mine. I can’t load Scrivener on all these machines, but they all have Word preloaded. I have my manuscript on a memory stick and can plug in anywhere and work.

      • and having seen the Hemingwrite, I realised I missed my old netbook (it was stolen)

        It was very small, more robust than an iPad, and only just powerful enough to run MSWord Lite and not much else. It kept distractions to a minimum, and I found the small keyboard easier for my neanderthal two-finger typing style.

        so I just bought an old used netbook on eBay for $25. woo-hoo!

  16. I’m primarily relieved I’m not the only writer who finds Scrivener cumbersome. I just want to sit down and type, and have my spelling errors flagged by angry red snakes. Anything beyond that, at least for me, is like a toddler dressing her daddy up like a princess. Lots of glittery crap that doesn’t quite fit, smudgy clown lipstick, and a crooked plastic tiara. It might work for someone, but I just sit and gawp at the 1001 features I really can’t find a use for. It’s distracting. I am a fuddy-duddy. But I learned to type in like 1981, and I can own my fuddy-duddyness.

    I’ll take most of the rest of this list, though. My writing shed, aka the screen porch out back, could use a few upgrades.

  17. Forget waiting for Christmas–I just snagged the Evernote Smart Notebook. And the Weekly Planner. And, ooooo…are those PENS?! o_O

    Quickly! To The Author-Mobile!!


  18. For other people that think Scrivener time-travelled straight from 1995 (that design!) to give them a headache, I’m loving Ulysses. It’s everything I liked about Scrivener, nothing I didn’t, and it’s minimalist enough to keep me from fucking around with fonts all damn day (copying and pasting ANYTHING into Scrivener is a gawtdamn nightmare).

  19. Beards: I knew that hair on my chin was good for something, I won’t pluck it ever again!
    As for Scrivener I thought I was the only hater in the world, so THANK YOU Chuck for this nod of approval. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate! Word is my one true love and just to make things more interesting with the word loss issue, my pc shuts down randomly too. It’s all part of the authorly existential angst though right?

  20. I have a Livescribe and love it. It’s been useful for work and play – I’m even ‘happy’ to pay for the notepads, but I do treat them like treasure once I’ve got them because they’re quite expensive.
    The Hemmingway looks a bit like the Dana, doesn’t it. I considered getting one many years ago 🙂
    Great list, and I’ve droped hints 🙂


  21. I am a terrible writing utensil addict. When I’m out and about and can’t use my fancy glass-nibbled ones, my go-to pen is a Fischer Space Pen. Writes on ANYTHING (tested this one on the inside of a butter wrapper once and it wrote clear as day). And the solid aluminum body has made it through over 20 years of stabbing and pocket/purse/desk jockeying. Just buy a new pressurized ink cartridge every couple years. They’re about 20 bucks, too.

    Not to mention they’re the perfect accessory for imaginary missions to Mars and other flights of fancy. 😉

  22. HOLYCRAP magic pens! Not that I tend to hand write things I need to keep, but still. What a world we live in!

    I need to hurry up and get writing-famous so somebody gives me a Hemingwrite. I don’t think my dog blogger clout is quite good enough.

  23. My wife is in the process of getting me a “writing place” – it’s not octagonal so not really a gazebo…also not a shed. It’s designed with lots of windows and is going to be built on a piece of land we bought in the Shendoah Valley. It will be up before the new house is – so I’ll have a place to write while constructions is going on. I’m really excited about it as having ANYONE around me when I write is frustrating – so a place “just for me” is something to look forward to.

  24. Favorite pen of all time comes straight from the MS office supply room – Uni-ball OYNX fine. Sometimes you get a dud in the box but they are cheap so its not an issue. Good for drawing too.

    I love writing longhand but I hate transcribing it (and I don’t think there’s a program in the world that could understand my longhand to change it to print).

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