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.

Posted in The Writer's Life

Gifts for the creator in your life…

The holiday season is upon us again.

Thanksgiving is a week away and that means that Black Friday Sales deals are on the horizon for many of us. If you’re like me, you probably have a few people on your Christmas list that are hard to buy for beyond the usual gift selections in the aisles of your local Walmart or Target. So, I thought I would take a moment and give you some great gift ideas for the creative people in your life.

I’m going to keep this fairly general. Nothing specific for writers, artists, or crafters will be included in this post. However, I will likely do something for each niche in the next few weeks. My goal here is to give you some general ideas for how to inspire and empower the creative people in your life. You know, make sure they know you appreciate and encourage their creativity, quirkiness, and maybe even help them see that side of their personality in a new light.

I don’t have to put any disclaimers here. I’ll provide some links to sites that I think are great, of course. But, buying from these businesses (some of them small businesses) will only support them. I’m not one of these bloggers who have affiliations and get kick-backs from your purchases. So I can recommend them without a reservation on the simple premise that I like them and buy from them as well. That being said, let’s get started.

The first thing I would recommend for any creative person is so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think about it first.

A Journal

Yes, it is the simplest tool that any creative person can put in their arsenal. For the writer they are essential. A place to capture ideas, keep track of progress on projects, empty the clutter of the mind, and to refer when we need clarity. It is the same for visual artists. A blank sketchbook is an equivalent of giving an artist a world of their own to play in. And the truth is, this can be the most inexpensive gift option you could give.

A blank notebook is simple and inexpensive at Walmart. In fact, for less than $10.00 you could put together a set of journal and pens. Want to get fancy? Try heading to a stationery shop or a local Barnes & Noble or BAM for something a bit more sturdy and fashionable. Couple that with a fountain pen and you’re good to go. It’s a classic gift that will help any creative mind figure out what to do next.

Want to shop online? Try out sites like Levenger.com or Jetpens.com for options. Amazon is always a great resource as well. And I’ll give one more option at the end of this blog that will let you add a personal touch.

Bonus Idea: If your creative person is more tech-focused, you can also look at giving memberships to blogging communities like Livejournal.com or deviantArt.com that will give them a year of ad-free usage with a few other perks. There are also paid apps that you can give as well.

The next gift idea is something I have given to creative friends on numerous occasions.

Books On Creativity

There are loads of these out there and all of them have their merit.  For me, there are two that stand out on my shelf. (Hint: I’ve blogged about them before.)

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book quite literally has the power to change lives. It certainly did mine. A self-study course on how to unblock your creative self, I return to her process over and over again. It is something I have done not only on my own but with a group of others that has given my creativity a boost even when I thought it was buried. And you have several options with this because there is the original which will run you about $13.00 for the paperback, but there are continuations of this that are also included in a lovely hardback compilation edition that includes her additional books in the same process.  You can find it here: THE ARTIST’S WAY. And there are companion books, journals, and tools that you can also opt for.

Another book on creativity that I love and find inspirational is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino. (Which incidentally, will be going with me on my road trip home to see family this Christmas.). There are others and I’m not going to make a list of titles for this post. However, if you’re interested in a more comprehensive list and review of this type of book, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and make sure you subscribe so you won’t miss out on those posts. Maybe we’ll make use of the Creativity tag and category for these. Let me know.

 

And my last idea for this post is …

A personal planner or accessories for one that they already use.

I’m going to do a more in-depth post about this one closer to the start of 2019. But, all creative people need a way to keep things going, organized, and figure out what to do with their time. We’re all a little scatterbrained these days. A place to keep track of appointments, tasks, accomplishments, birthdays, and goals is essential for me. And I don’t think I know a creative person who is serious about getting projects done and out there to the public who doesn’t use some variation of a planner.

Now I’m a planner addict. I’m one of those color-coordinated people that has a case of stickers, colored pens, and stencils. I use a combination of an Erin Condren Life Planner and a Bujo that I personalize. But I’m not going to tell you that it’s a cheap gift to give. You can get cheap planners at Walmart. And you can find all sorts of accessories. Some people use travel journals for this purpose. (Yes, I have one of those too.) There are digital options, as with everything. And there are versions that range from being a very utilitarian calendar to more like a workable journal experience.

Erin Condren offers highly personalized options. I’ve collected custom covers over the years. 2019’s is a paisley design that features my initials. Last year’s looked like antique lace overlaying a pretty shade of blue with my name on it, and my first one three years ago also featured my name but was geometric and colorful with the quote “I Want to See You Be Brave” on it. That last one served as a reminder to keep going with the pursuit of my dreams.

Erin Condren also offers a lot of accessory options and they even have notebooks that also fit their custom covers which, by the way, are interchangeable throughout the year. One of these personalized notebooks would make for a great journal in my opinion! And I love the options for stickers, their pens, and their stylized sticky notes.