April arrived, finally. March was possibly the longest month I have ever lived through. My mother likes to say March is her least favorite month. I think it’s mostly a weather thing, but this year, I have to agree. So welcome to April, and this week’s link roundup. I hope you’re all well and staying home, safe, and sane.
I add that last one because I know a lot of people are really starting to feel the magnitude of the situation. Millions of Americans filed for unemployment last week. People are worried. I wish I could help with that, but I hope I can at least provide a small distraction. Don’t be hard on yourself. Do what you need to in order to manage. If being creative helps, go for it. If you can’t focus on writing, go ahead and binge Netflix or bake or nap. If you’re still out there working in the trenches, thank you for taking that risk for all the rest of us, and stay as safe as you can.
I offer up another mixed list of links this week. Enjoy, and have a good weekend.
Sneaking in a little late this evening for a quick edition of Friday Links. It’s been a weird week for everyone, trying to keep all the wheels turning while battling the stress and anxiety of recent events. I did not want to forgo posting this week’s links, however, because routine is important. So here’s a pocket of normal in the middle of the insanity.
First off, if you didn’t see my post earlier this week, please check it out now and join us for the Virtual Writing Cruise. We kick things off tomorrow with a virtual happy hour. Just sign up for The Creative Academy — membership is free — and you’ll be able to RSVP for any of the workshops that interest you. Please do click those buttons, however. We want to make sure the room tech can handle everyone who wishes to attend.
Now on to the rest of the links. Like last week, these are a little more random than usual, things designed to distract and entertain. Enjoy!
‘Tis the season of shopping and gift-giving. But what do writers want? (Or what hints should you drop to friends and family?)
Truthfully, most writers would like a book deal, but assuming that’s not within the scope of your powers, I’ve a few more practical suggestions. Some might overlap with other gifts-for-writers posts this time of year, but I hope to spark some fresh ideas. I’ve tried to provide items within a range of budgets and for varying tastes. Apologies for the late date of this post, as I know a few of these might be difficult given shipping times, etc. Have fun, and don’t forget to leave time between shopping trips to get your own writing done!
Assorted Gifts for Writers: 2019
I love software gifts for writers with technical inclinations. Scrivener sits high on my list of great gifts. For writers working on a series, historical novels, or anything with world building, Aeon Timeline offers a simple way to keep track of dates and facts. Check out 4 the Words for writers who like gamifying their lives; it encourages a daily habit with low minimum word counts and fun monsters to battle.
Shopping for a writer looking to work on their craft? Gotham Writers Workshop offers a wide range of online classes in addition to their in-person courses, and gift certificates are available.
Do you know a writer with a stationery habit? Check out Goulet Pen Company or JetPens for fabulous fountain pens and ink, rollerballs and ballpoints, journals, and pencases. FYI: the Lamy Safari or Pilot Metropolitan make reasonably priced gifts for anyone just getting into fountain pens. And Field Notes currently has a wonderful selection of pocket-sized notebooks with illustrations of national parks on their covers.
Let’s not forget books. Writers love books, because writers read long before they wrote. For beautiful editions of interesting classics, old and modern, visit Folio Society. (Note: I’ve linked to the USA site; there’s a separate one for the UK.) Persephone Books reprints lovely editions of titles that have gone out of print, mostly by mid-century women authors. The ladies at Slightly Foxed have a similar mission to reprint books–often intriguing memoirs–that are worth reading but have slipped out of the public eye in recent years.
As far as specific titles go, I love this year’s Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dryer. It offers advice on (writing) style with a great sense of humor.
Health and Wellbeing
Writers spend long hours hunched over desks, so consider giving the writer in your life something to help keep them healthy. Gift certificates for a massage, bubble bath, healthy snacks, or some soothing scented candles might all be welcome. I’m a fan of the S’well water bottles; they keep drinks cold for 24 hours and can sit on a desk without worry about spillage, plus they’re great at conferences. Keep your favorite writer hydrated!
Odds and Ends
If you’re shopping for writer-themed odds and ends–mugs, T-shirts, jewelry, printed scarves, etc.–check out these diverse sites:
You might also consider giving the gift of cultural appreciation. Writers need to refill the well from time to time, so membership to a local museum, gift certificates to a cinema or theater, or tickets to some sort of event can get them away from their desks and spark their imaginations.
Finally, give the gift of time. If you know a busy writer who has a hard time carving out time for their craft, offer to watch their kids for a few afternoons, sign them up for a meal delivery service or give them gift certificates for their favorite take-out place, or pay to have someone clean their home a couple times a month. Especially for writers on deadline, this type of personalized gift can really lighten the load.
Happy Friday, everyone! I’m hoping this will be my last very quiet week on the blog, as I’m back from my travels and I’m plowing through an enormous backlog of work, but by the end of the long weekend everything should be all caught up and properly on track. Which gives you something of a hint as to my plans for the Memorial Day holiday. May you all have something a little more beach and/or BBQ on your calendar.
This past week I spent much of my time away handling some ongoing family matters, which means I was not on the internet very much. As a result, this week’s links are a bit sparser than usual. This does nothing to diminish their quality, however, so I hope you find a bit of inspiration or great things to read when you click through. Wishing those of you celebrating a wonderful long weekend, and a lovely regular weekend to everyone else. Enjoy!
The author Joan Didion, whose birthday was yesterday, wrote a wonderful essay on the purpose of her own journal, “On Keeping a Notebook,” which can be found in Slouching Toward Bethlehem as well as her larger collected works of nonfiction, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live. In it she discusses the difference between her own notebook keeping, which consisted primarily of jotting down impressions and thoughts as she had them, descriptions of interactions she witnessed, and so on, and regular diary keeping, which she claims to have never managed to do.
For Didion, the notebook served as a sounding board as well as an archive. She used it to unload, to work things out, and even though she considered it a hedge again a time when she might run out of ideas, the things she wrote were less story sparks and more snippets of things that were too short to use elsewhere. Her notebook was scratch paper, writing as stream of consciousness, getting things out of her head and down onto paper. It was a record of where her thoughts had been at various times in her life, rather than a chronicle of places she had been and people she’d met.
So if you’re finding it hard to write today, this sixth day of the December Writing Challenge, which also happens to fall on Sunday, consider pulling out a notebook and just letting your mind flow. Dump it all out. What you think, what you see, what you feel. No, it won’t move your current work in progress forward, but it will give your brain a bit of rest while still getting words down on paper. It all counts. Now go write.
Lots of people keep notes, make lists, and otherwise track things they need to remember, whether they’re writers or not. But I’m most interested in how writers keep track of and organize their thoughts, because in addition to all those other things they need to recall — doctors’ appointments, play dates for the kids, due dates for work projects, dinner parties, shopping lists, birthdays, the annual flu shot, getting the gutters cleaned — writers have to keep track of their ideas.
There’s a myth that all writers keep a pen and paper on them wherever they go, be it a nice notebook and a pretty fountain pen or just some scrap paper and a stubby pencil, so when the muse strikes, they can jot down a few words or sentences to avoid forgetting what might be the germ of a poem or article or story. In reality, I know a lot of writers who do no such thing. You’d be amazed how often I attend a writers conference only to have someone borrow my penduring a pitch session so they can make a note of what I’ve asked them to send me.
But many writers do have a system, generally some sort of small, portable notebook where they can accumulate bits and pieces over the course of their day, ideas or things they’ve seen or smidgens of dialogue that felt inspirational in the moment. I’ve heard of writers with notebooks for different purposes; one for actual writing of drafts, another for jotting ideas and notes, and separate notebooks to serve as story bibles for individual projects where all the details of the world are kept in one place.
In this electronic age, however, I see more and more writers who have gone digital. Notes are kept on tablets or laptops or even in smart phones. I acknowledge the convenience, but I can’t help but feel something is getting lost in the process this way. I like the idea of notes that include sketches or scribbled out bits, or of notebooks that have things slipped between their pages — maps or postcards or flyers from tourist spots. Yes, you can snap photos on your smart phone to serve as visual reminders of a particular landscape or site, but it’s not quite the same.
How about you? Do you keep a notebook or journal of sorts, whether as a writer or just as an individual interested in keeping record of your life? What form do your ramblings and memories take? And do you ever go back through old writing to visit your past self?