If you’ve got a writer in your life, then you probably know that they can never have enough notebooks — but that doesn’t mean a notebook is your only option. Writers, after all, are naturally curious and deeply idiosyncratic, so the list of potential gifts really could go on forever. And while this gift guide won’t go on quite that long, it does include recommendations from novelists, poets, writing coaches, and essayists, so you’ll be sure to find something that suits the writer in your life, whether you’re celebrating a writing-related achievement, a birthday, or simply letting them know you care and support their work. Read on for the best gifts for all types of writers, including the best drafting programmes, the best pens, and of course, the best notebooks.
The best books to gift
When asked about the best writing gifts they ever received, almost every writer we asked included a book about craft, from Anne Lamott’s practical, down-to-earth Bird by Bird to Julia Cameron’s spiritual classic The Artist’s Way, to Will Storr’s cerebral The Science of Storytelling. But the most recommended by far was Stephen King’s classic manifesto: On Writing.
“King offers so much good advice in this book, and it’s a great read — humorous, educational, and motivating,” Life and Other Shortcomings author Corie Adjmi said. “Through stories, King shares aspects of a writer’s life, the importance of developing your craft, the need for perseverance, and strategies to deal with rejection.”
If you know a writer who’s struggling to make an idea come together, Caroline O’Donoghue, author of All Our Hidden Gifts, told us The Rebecca Notebook could be game-changing. The book reproduces author Daphne DuMaurier’s notes when writing Rebecca. “It’s one of the few available documents that shows you how to outline a novel,” O’Donoghue explained.
The book was, in fact, a gift O’Donoghue was offered by a friend — she only wishes she could have gotten her hands on it sooner: “Even though I love it now as a document of how Rebecca got written, I would have appreciated it even more when I was starting out as a novelist in 2016.”
Along with the Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago that The Bread the Devil Knead author Lisa Allen-Agostini keeps on her desk, she also keeps a copy of Shakespeare’s plays on hand. She says: “It might sound ridiculously old-fashioned and not at all post-colonial chic but I feel every writer working in English should know some Shakespeare; the more the better. He’s influenced language, plot and characterization to such an extent that you’ve handicapped yourself if you don’t know his work.”
This pretty version of Shakespeare’s complete works from the Royal Shakespeare Company comes in paperback and hardback.
The best tech to gift
For anyone starting out on their writing journey, O’Donoghue also recommends gifting Scrivener, a software specifically designed for writers. She explains: “For my first novel, I wrote it mostly on Google Docs, which was a nightmare. Scrolling through a document, waiting for it to load, trying to find this bit or the other. Total nightmare. Scrivener lets you zoom out and see the project as a whole, or focus on tiny little pieces. It also lets you set yourself a daily word count, which is very satisfying to hit.”
Lauren Licata, founder of the global women’s writing community Paperbacks&Co seconds this. She’s particularly attached to the platform’s bird’s-eye-view outlining feature: “Think digital Post-its!” and says the software has been crucial for helping her and many of her clients to construct story arcs and stay motivated.
“My Bose noise-cancelling headphones have been a godsend,” says Matt Trinetti, who is often spotted wearing these headphones during daily London Writers Salon writers’ hours. “They help me shut out the world while I’m writing.” Monstrous Design author Kat Dunn agrees — her trusty pair have seen her through the drafting of her most recent novel, and make writing on the go (or in a noisy flat) feel not just possible but natural.
Author and editor Niamh Mulvey, relies on a reMarkable tablet to make sure she can work on a screen without hurting her eyes. “It lets me read and annotate manuscripts away from the screen but without the hassle and cost of printing stacks of pages,” said Mulvey, adding that it’s not just more comfortable for the eyes, but more convenient when on the move, too: “It’s also great if you travel a lot and need to have your various manuscripts with you.”
Similar to a Kindle, the reMarkable’s display is matte and designed to imitate paper, with the added bonus of touch technology that allows you to take notes directly on the screen with a stylus pen.
If you’re really looking to splurge on your writer pal, consider the gift of a lifetime: a dedicated computer just for writing. “One thing I have found myself unabashedly lusting over lately is one of the new coloured iMac computers (specifically, purple), Licata said. “I have always been so ‘on the go’ in my career that I’ve only ever owned a laptop, and I’ve begun to fantasize about a desktop computer that is only used for writing, with no other apps installed, and maybe doesn’t even have internet connected.”
The best pens and notebooks to gift
Poet Scarlett Sabat always carries a Moleskine notebook with her — and she has done for the past 12 years, using it as a journal and poetry sketchbook. “I have always kept a diary since I was a little girl … I will write down any phrases, or lines, if I’m working on a poem, or just get some kind of inspiration.”
Like London Writers Salon founder Parul Bavishi and Matt Triconetti, who also cited Moleskine notebooks as perfect gifts for writers, Sabat is a strong proponent of cultivating a daily writing practice, “even if it is just keeping track of events, if it’s just prose, it still keeps things going, and keeps you in it”. To keep her daily writing habit easy, she always gets the black A5 soft cover Moleskine, and writes with a simple black biro that she keeps between the pages of her notebook.
If your writing pal doesn’t consider themselves the Moleskine type, you might consider treating them to novelist Susie Boyt’s preferred notebooks by Clairefontaine. Boyt favours the red spiral-bound postcard size. “They’re sold as lined revision cards but they’re more like little attics of my mind,” she says.
Bavishi recommends a timeless gift, explaining that “a nice fancy fountain pen is always a beautiful gift to receive.” Boyt, who has owned the same Waterman fountain pen since school, agrees. The pen has earned a special place in her heart: “I can’t believe I haven’t lost it, which I hope makes it feel appreciated and disinclined to wander off,” she says.
The best miscellaneous items to gift
If you know a writer who, like Sankofa author Chibundu Onuzo, prefers to write away from a desk, then this bamboo lap desk is the perfect gift. Sturdy but flexible, it has enough space for a mouse attachment and mug of coffee, plus an adjustable tray so the writer in your life can make themselves most comfortable. “My laptop is always on it when I’m writing,” Onuzo adds.
Adjmi says that she spends her prime writing hours in her dressing gown: “My favorite time to write is early in the morning with a cup of coffee. I usually like to wear my comfortable Coyuchi lounge robe and slippers. When the writing is going well, and I’m totally immersed, I may very well stay dressed that way until 2 p.m.,” she says.
Coyuchi doesn’t currently ship to the U.K. — Adjmi’s robe was a gift — but this well-reviewed velour dressing gown from The White Company is the perfect alternative.
If you know a writer who struggles to put their phone down and their pen to paper, Licata has the solution: “I keep a vintage kitchen timer (shaped like a lemon!) to time my writing sprints.”
“Stashing our phones is a crucial skill for modern-day productivity, but I also find that little analog touches go a long way in making the writing process feel significant and special.” The timer is a regular feature in the virtual writing sessions Licata leads — especially her daily 15-minute writing spring programme.
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