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Merry Christmas…

It is Christmas week and I am enjoying some time with family and friends this year. Returning to the old Kentucky homestead for some much needed time with my grandparents, best friend, and my brother and his family is always a change from the usual hermitage I live back in East Texas. Taking time away from the normal routine is refreshing and this year, I needed a reminder of what the holidays are meant to be about.

I have enjoyed spending time talking into the wee hours of the morning with my grandpa. Discussing politics, history, science, and philosophy and religion have been staples since I was a girl.

I’ve also enjoyed meeting my new goddaughter who was born four months ago. Getting to spend time with her mom and the rest of her family is a blessing as well. We managed to have an afternoon at their house and then an evening here for dinner.

As I get older, the holidays are less about the gifts. Not that I don’t enjoy presents. I certainly do and I’ve been given some amazing things this holiday season. However, what I’m treasuring more is the time I am able to spend with the people I love in my life. Time to chat, to play board games, share meals, and generally feel normal amidst the chaos that’s been the last year; those are the real gifts this year.

We’re all blessed to be healthy and able to be around one another safely. I know that many are not. I have friends who are struggling with loved ones on ventilators. Others are financially struggling and there are hard candy Christmases all around. I think it is important to remember to pray for those families. My extended family is not immune to loss this holiday season. But we’re all clinging to what we do have. We’re celebrating together because we don’t know how long we’re given. So we’re cherishing these moments and making lasting memories.

This may be my last post for the year. I’m working on a plan for the new year, of course. However, I’m taking time with family and enjoying it while I can.  I hope that all of you reading this have a very Merry Christmas and my best wishes for us all in the coming new year.

Posted in Reviews, The Currents, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

The Writer’s Wishlist

The same question comes up every year about this time. “What do you want for Christmas?” For those who get excited about the gifting part of the holiday, it is a good question to know the answer to. And if you’re one of those people who has an aspiring author in your life, it can be hard to get them to give you an answer to that.

Personally, there aren’t many people that I exchange gifts with every year. I typically stick to the family for budget reasons. I also know that I am likely a hard person to buy for aside from the typical notebooks, pens, and fun drinkware that are common. Part of the reason I’m hard to buy for is that I usually get what I want for myself. If there is something I really want it is just too expensive to expect (and in many cases accept) as a gift. It’s not like I’m 13 and asking Santa for that new Macbook. I’ll get it one day, but it’s likely going to be a Christmas to myself sort of purchase.

What I want to do is give you a few items that will be useful to the writer or even the students in your life.

TECH RELATED IDEAS

We all know how technology-focused our society has become. We rely on our phones, tablets, and laptops daily. Even when we unplug for the day from social media, the phone is nearby, an e-reader is commonplace, and maybe a gaming system comes into play. So here’s a top pick for tech gifting for writers that won’t break the bank. It will, however, require you to know a bit about their preferences.

A good pair of headphones. Sounds simple, right? I have my eye on some airpods or the pro version. There are budget friendly options that I use all the time though. I have a cheap pair of earbuds that I got at our local Walmart. I have odd shaped ears so I get the kind that have the ear loops attached so I don’t lose them. They’re less conspicuous when I’m out and about. However, I also have a wonderful pair of noise-cancelling over ear headphones as well. They’re by a brand called mPow Tech and they actually have great sound. These are Bluetooth and so wireless when I’m going back and forth with things but there is also the option of a 3.5mm audio jack to connect directly to your devices. The pair I have I bought about 4 years ago and I spent about $40.00 USD for them through Amazon. They’ve gotten a little beat up over the years using them so much. So, I would love to replace them soon. That being said I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase the updated version of them. Which can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Mpow-Cancelling-Headphones-Bluetooth-Playtime/dp/B082D6WV5B/ref=sr_1_4?crid=1YSJ3MVPB912N&dchild=1&keywords=mpow%2Bbluetooth%2Bheadphones%2Bnoise%2Bcancelling&qid=1606600066&sprefix=mpow%2Bnoise%2Bbluetooth%2Bheadphones%2Caps%2C269&sr=8-4&th=1

Another tech option would be a new keyboard. Writers are usually going to wear these out on a regular basis anyway. On a whim I purchased an 87 key mechanical that is wired for myself. It was a bit of a novelty in that the keys looked more vintage, like an old typewriter. I call it my clicky-key keyboard. I love this one. My only regret is that I got the one that was just the QWERTY and I didn’t get the standard layout with the ten-key instead. I use that keypad more than I realize.

I realize that I might be the odd duck, but when I am stuck for productivity and inspiration, I cycle through keyboards. I have an ergonomic split key and a quiet touch flat one. I also have a magic keyboard in the Bluetooth. Now, I’m waxing nostalgic and wishing I could find an old keyboard like I had back in high school; the old IBM ones in the computer lab at school. And I’ve had my eye on a new mechanical keyboard that is backlit. I think I would like the backlit ones since I get so much eye strain in the evenings. Just being able to put the lights low and have that glow would be a good thing when I’m composing.

PLANNERS & GOAL SETTING TOOLS

Let’s talk about planners. I’m an analog girl in this digital world when it comes to my planners. I prefer paper, pens, and highlighters to my iPad or phone any day. There is just something about writing it all down that helps to solidify the plan of action in my mind. Over the years I’ve used many different planners. My first was a daytimer back in high school. There are certainly more options today. From a $9.99 to nearly $100.00 for the year, you can take your pick of styles, customization options, or even DIY approaches. While I enjoyed the idea and practice of a bullet journal, I found it to be too time consuming and prefer something that has already got the form and function I need.

As much as I like, and have used, Erin Condren Life Planners over the last 10 years; I think I’ve spent my last money with that company for personal reasons. So, I’m looking into alternatives for 2022. I’ve used it in conjunction with another planner system to help keep myself on task for my personal goals. So I may just invest in a good binder next year instead and switch entirely to the Momentum Planner by Productive Flourishing. For $18 you get a fillable PDF Printable that is a full year of guided planning that really helps to break things down. While not as aesthetically appealing as the more feminine-branded Life Planner, it really makes up for it by being super functional and customizable.

Alternatives that I would also consider is Passion Planners. They have a great design for people who need to track time as well as goals. And I would also consider the Dreambook & Planner by Dragontree again. Their holistic approach is really a game changer and gets you to dig deep to find purpose and passion in your life while also walking you through the goal setting process to be successful.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

DESK & SPECIALTY STATIONERY ITEMS

I’m working on a long term personal project that will help me bring some personality to my workspaces. I wish I had room for a corner desk with more worktop space for notes. But, I’m working on being organized in the spack and desk that I do have access to while also being a bit more aesthetic as well. I’m sure many other authors can relate. Decorative tastes change over time. For me, they’ve gone from being dark and broody to being much more light and feminine. So, I’m looking for things in rose gold, creams, teal, and aqua to complete my space so I can use my own pictures in the future. Not to mention this new obsession with flamingos. (I have no idea why.)

So think about things that can brighten their space. Desk organizers are a great start. Pen cups, post-it holders, novelty paper clips, and binder clips. Think about new artwork as well. Paint them something yourself or find something from a local artist. Consider gifting a new cover for their favorite chair, file storage boxes, or novelty file folders. I’d also say to consider a large magnetic dry erase or corkboard as well. These can help tremendously as storyboards that are reusable. And I have my eye on a simple one that is a monthly calendar with corkboard space at the bottom as well.

PERSONAL & WEARABLE

There is a common problem for writers and office workers everywhere. We spend more time at a desk, usually in a chair, staring at a screen, and doing repetitive movements all day. Many of us deal with eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and back issues over time. A good desk chair is an expense that most writers will put off because it is expensive. I’ve found several inexpensive things that have helped me over the years.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

A good seat cushion. Something with support where you need it. As a bigger person, these wear out fast for me. So, it is always a struggle to find one that will really support with comfort and still hold up over time. I personally look for something with sciatica in mind. Forgiving on the tailbone and yet providing some padding on the hips and legs. I tend to sit and lean forward in my chair, so something for support in the back is a good idea for me as well. I’m sure I’m not the only one with those issues. It’s a gift that adds comfort to an already long process.

Finally, two wearable items that have alloed me to be more productive and avoid the pain of headaches due to eye strain and alleviate the pain from carpal tunnel.

I found the first item at my local pharmacy. Compression gloves that were infused with copper were in that unique section where they put all the “as seen on TV” items. Now, I don’t know that the copper necessarily has anything to do with the effectiveness. All I know is that, I purchased them when I was having issues and they helped tremendously. These are a sized item, so you want them to be snug on your hands. Mine aren’t fingerless, but the tips are gone allowing for ease in typing or using my touchscreen devices. Not every writer will need the compression and a nice pair of fingerless gloves will be a welcome addition to their writing sessions. There are some lovely literary themed options through a company called Storiarts.com. They even make throws and totes that have printings of classic books. So they are worth checking out for the booknerds in your life.

The last item I will suggest is a good pair of blue-light blocking glasses. I’ll admit to dropping a pretty penny for a pair of these. While those glasses were a great product, the company that makes and distributes them was a nightmare in terms of customer service and the delivery process. So, I hesitate to recommend them. There are other companies out there though, other brands that are just as good. I found a three pair pack on Amazon for about $23.00 and even those have been a lifesaver on my eyesight.

So, there you have it. My gift guide for the wordsmiths in your life. I provided a link to the headphones above. However, I don’t use an affiliate link for those. I honestly have those and recommend that particular brand. They’re a heck of an alternative to the brands that are a couple hundred bucks. Maybe next year I’ll do an affiliate program for specific brands. But this year, I’m keeping it fairly general.

Whoever you’re gifting for this holiday season, I hope that you have fun and create some wonderful memories with the people you love this season. I know, I plan to.