I think it’s natural, when you spend a huge chunk of life working at something, to develop specific preferences about the tools you use to make your work easier and/or a little more delightful. Since we’re in the holiday season, I thought I’d ask some of my favorite writers about their writing must-haves (anything from paperclips to creature comforts). Maybe one of their favorite things will give you an idea for your own wish list, or inspire the right questions to ask a writerly loved one in your quest to find them the perfect gift.
“Semicolon notebooks with paper my fountain pen slides over (I write all notes in pen/paper and much of the first draft) also a black (of course) Retro Tornado mechanical pencil and eraser refills for all editing – I’ve edited all 17 books with it! Gregorian chants. I put them on the minute I sit down and I get lost in them, the world disappears, and I can write.” ~M.J. Rose
“Cappuccino. And a good gift for the writer you really like…..Bose noise-cancelling headphones.” ~Karen Essex
“Ticonderoga pencils; multi-colored notecards (not neon!); one dog on my lap, one in his bed near my desk.” ~Marisa de los Santos
“Office cat.” ~Lisa Brackmann
“My space heater! My office is in the basement and I’m always freezing on the best of days. Sometimes I write more because I can’t bear to get up and leave the bubble of warmth.” ~Kristina Riggle
“Diet Dr Pepper and Pandora.” ~Matt Norman
“My current obsession for writing ambiance: Stress Relief Candle from Bath & Body Works, lit by matches from “MatchBooks” purchased at independent bookstore, One More Page, in Virginia.” ~Erika Robuck
“My Jane Eyre writing gloves. They keep my hands warm, they’re soft, and I glance down and see words written by the great Charlotte Bronte. (They’ve actually got a hole in, so I’m thinking I need a new pair.)” ~Barbara Claypole White
“One of these days I need to make a very large dry erase board for my wall that looks pretty because it’s my essential.” ~Marci Nault
“Yellow lined note pads, fine tip gel pens, ample supply of snobby coffee K cups, utter peace and quiet (chirping birds outside are okay, neighbors’ barking dogs are not) and Book Lovers Old Books soy candle.” ~Sue Meissner
“I must have sticky notes and I prefer pretty ones! They don’t have to be “Post It” brand, but patterns, shapes, and colors are a must. I use them on the wall, on my laptop, and on my old-fashioned planner. They work especially well for procrastinators who have to move around things/deadlines/projects on a to-do list. Or so I’ve been told.” ~Amy Nathan
“My real list of must haves is a little different from a what-to-buy-a-writer list. For the latter, I’d say these things: a notebook that fits into whatever purse said writer carries (something cool but not too nice/expensive – I think all writers have a stack of notebooks that feel “too nice” to actually write in)(Moleskines fit this bill); fine-point pens (I favor Sharpie); mechanical pencils; drafting erasers; calendar(s) from the year(s) in which the novel takes place; a small desk clock. But most special, I think, would be some kind of desktop-suitable talisman that relates to the topic of the book (or, if the writer is secretive about the topic, related to writing) — a coaster from the city/country in which the novel is set, for example. But please, NO more mugs! Writers have too many already! (If the writer in your life has a mug collection, fine, but if not — no more mugs!)” ~Julie Lawson Timmer
“Fuzzy socks, mini Post-its, The Republic of Tea – tin of vanilla almond tea bags (yum!), and either my coffee-mug warmer or Contigo tumbler (both of which keep my drink warm for hours).” ~Kristina McMorris
“Apart from my laptop, my writing essentials include blank index cards, well-sharpened pencils, music, and an excellent selection of tea. I’m also a coffee drinker, but I rarely make it at home, so tea is my writing go-to and I always keep a lot on hand. Sometimes candles, especially if I’m writing late (I like the Paddywax Library Collection). Assorted teas and iTunes gift cards for music are always on my writerly gift list and occasionally weird things like electric pencil sharpeners.” ~Jessica Brockmole
“I always feel the need to drink something whenever I’m writing — but the problem I used to have is that I’d fill a glass with ice water (or coffee or whatever) and then forget about it as I got sucked into a scene I was working on. By the time I took a sip, water was warm (and coffee was cold). Then I got this amazing mug which allowed me to fill it up with any liquid of my choice — and through some sort of science-y magic, keep frozen (or hot) in that state for the next 12-24 hours. I could put ice in it, spend an entire night working, pass out on my desk… and in the morning, there’d still be ice in there.
I feel the same way about these erasable gel pens (all sorts of colors, refillable) — they’re my go-to when marking up a script and editing on the page. Clean and easy to write with, but also — 100% erasable, no eraser shavings, no mess.
Again, magic.” ~Kevin Dieboldt
My favorites? I do love a good notebook, but I’m picky. Pocket-sized notebooks are almost always good. But for bigger notebooks, I’m partial to unlined pages and spiral bindings (this one from Paperchase is my favorite). I consume mass quantities of Twinings Pure Peppermint Tea, which I like to drink from a 32 oz Ball Jar (Caution! Hot!), so needing a refill doesn’t become an excuse to stop working. This binder is my favorite for wrangling a huge brick of manuscript pages. I use Post-it tabs to mark key sections. And I love the Pilot Just Meet mechanical pencil I swiped from my husband. It’s nice to have a writing implement that feels like a little bit of luxury, but isn’t crazy expensive. And I’m obsessed with my electric throw blanket. The more comfortable I am, the easier it is to lose myself in my work.
What are your writer must-haves?
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