Picking gifts for writers isn’t as easy as you might think. If they’re anything like me, they’re finicky about what they will read, write on, or write with. So that takes books (any), notebooks (Moleskines) and pens (medium-point Kilometrico ballpoints) off the table. And if they write about travel, they probably have all the caps, tote bags, stubby holders, and branded water bottles than they can ever use. So, with that in mind, here’s my list of some of the best gifts for writers this Christmas. And if it sometimes sounds like I’m dropping some unsubtle hints to the people in my life, you’d be spot on.
(There are affiliate links in this post, so if you click through and make a purchase I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. However, I don’t ever recommend anything I don’t already use and love.)
1. A hotel room
This one sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. Although I get to stay in some of the most sublime hotels imaginable, I’m never really there. I’m usually dropping my bags before rushing out to dinner, touring a succession of rooms and facilities on a site inspection, or waking up early to catch the next tour or onward flight. For a writer, a night or two (or more) in a hotel means time to work uninterrupted, to order room service on a whim, to sleep when tired, and to swim in the hotel pool when it’s time to let the Girls in the Basement do their thing. (Who are the Girls in the Basement?) Somewhere close to home works – and if you want me to get really specific, The Calile Hotel here in Brisbane is top of my list … and number 12, according to The World’s 50 Best Hotels. Really, though, it’s not about the hotel at all, but about being freed from domestic duties and having a space in which to focus singlehandedly on the task at hand for more than five unbroken minutes.
In good company? Cheryl Strayed binge writes in hotel rooms.
2. A giant tea press
More than one barista-made coffee a day will make me skittish and strung out, but tea? Different story. Whether I’m working or not, I drink gallons of the stuff – usually roasted green tea (hojicha) which has a sweet but earthy flavour. Research suggests that green tea is full of antioxidant compounds called polyphenols which fight disease, the amino acid L-theanine, which boosts mood-enhancing brain chemicals including GABA, dopamine and serotonin, and just enough of the stimulant caffeine to perk you up without making you want to pace the floor. The problem is that my home office is located away from the kitchen, so a giant tea press would serve to reduce all the back and forth trips I make. This would (a) save time and (b) reduce the frequency with which I open the fridge and sample its contents while waiting for the kettle to boil.
In good company? Stephen King once tweeted, ‘I believe the secret to successful writing is strong brewed tea’.
3. Scented candles
A writing ritual is a collection of intentional practices that writers use to create an atmosphere that’s most conducive to creative work. Key elements include entering a designated space, and engaging in regular routines, such as brewing a pot of tea, putting on background music, and lighting a candle. The simple act of lighting a candle serves for some as a symbolic transition in the creative mindset. The warm glow reduces the need for harsh lighting, minimises visual distractions and promotes an ambiance that’s conductive to deep thought. At different times, I’ve found the flickering flame can induce a meditative state that boosts concentration, while scent can trigger sensory associations and evoke specific moods. Scented soy candles by Ecoya, founded in Australia, are my absolute favourites, providing sheer sensory delight.
In good company? Jack Kerouac lit a candle at the start of every writing session, and blew it out at the end.
4. Audible Plus
There’s a reason why audiobooks are the fastest-growing segment in book publishing. I discovered Audible Plus only recently (slow adopter), and now can’t imagine commuting, housework or gardening time without it. Also, at the end of a long day, most writers are tired of looking at a screen, or a page, which means that after dark can be a good time to shift from being a visual to an aural reader. There’s nothing quite so delicious as listening to a bedtime story – and, with an Audible subscription, you don’t need to co-opt your significant other into reading to you. There might even be some benefits attached to listening to, rather than reading, a story. According to the Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, our brains create more meaningful images when we hear a story rather than read the same words in a traditional book.
In good company: It’s three years old but this guide lists UK writers and their favourite narrations.
As previously indicated, there is no shortage of branded water bottles in my house. So, a water purifier / water bottle might seem like an odd inclusion for a writer (especially a travel writer). But the Grayl GeoPress is, hands down, the best purchase I’ve made this year. It could come in handy for anyone whoever hits the road – whether that’s a dingy hostel, or a five-star hotel in any country where the water is known to cause tummy upsets. I bought it to accompany me on a donkey trek through remote Far North Queensland where we had to draw drinking water from random streams and rivers, some of them contaminated with heavy metals due to this region’s history of tin mining. It’s easy to use – even if forcing the filter cartridge down through the dodgy water you’ve scooped feels like a big effort after a day of hiking. But this little beauty reliably provided crystal clean drinking water – minus waterborne pathogens, chemicals, heavy metals and more – in about 8 to 10 seconds. There’s good support and service too. Towards the end of the trek, I lost the lid in a fast-flowing river, and after hearing my tale of woe, the Aussie-based branch of the company replaced it free of charge.
In good company? Grayl has a bunch of ambassadors who are far more hard-core than me.