Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

3 Perfect Gifts for Writers that You Should Never Give Us – 8th Most Popular Post of 2012


Originally Posted on September 7, 2012


The people in my life are amazing. They get me things I will use, things I will appreciate, things that speak to who I am in the world. In fact, they get me so many of these great things that, well, I have cupboards full of them.

For all of you who love writers, here are 3 perfectly apt, thoughtful gifts that you really shouldn’t give.

1. Journals. Many of us keep journals. If you are like me, you keep several – a writing practice one, a life one, a prayer one. And yet, still, journals are not good gifts for a couple of reasons. First, we probably have 30 of them. Second, journals are particular to the writer. Some of us like unlined; some of us prefer spiral bound. None of us like the ones with the kitten on the piano by a rose. Yet, we will feel obligated to keep and use said journals, every time cringing a little and flipping through to see how many more pages we have to fill before we can move on to that perfect one we bought ourselves.

2. Pens. If journals are idiosyncratic, pens are even more so. If you doubt me, check out this ode to my favorite pen and note that it was one of my most popular posts in 2011. Some of us like fountain pens; some of us roller balls. Some prefer pencil, although these people are probably simply trying to relive that elementary school moment when they got the lead to just the right angle. Pens just aren’t safe.

3. Mugs. Almost every writer I know has a mug of something on her desk when she writes – tea, coffee, whisky. Since we sit for long periods of time, we seem to need some sort of beverage to keep more than just our fingertips moving. So often, well-meaning friends buy us mugs. In fact, my favorite three mugs came from three good friends – a giant green one from Jan, a powder blue one from Laurie, and a hand-throw cream one from Betsy. So you see, I love mugs, but you can also see that I have plenty. A single person does not need more than three special mugs. We aren’t likely to share them with guests – we have cheap mugs from pharmaceutical companies for that. Plus, there’s the heft, size, and shape of the handle – it’s best to just steer clear.

At this point, you may be asking what you should get a writer. Here’s my best recommendation – gift cards to grocery stores. Many of us don’t make a lot of extra cash, so having extra cash is useful – but if you give us cash, we’ll probably spend it on the journals, pens, and mugs that we like. A grocery store gift card is wiser.

How many journals, pens, and mugs do you have? For what grocery store would you want a gift card?

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • LarryTheDeuce

    I don’t have mugs…..but a guy at work gave me a Moleskine type of journal that our company had special ordered with our company logo on it….and I thought to myself that it was cringe-worthy and how I wouldn’t buy it….and then laughed at myself.
    LarryTheDeuce recently posted…We Want Royalty: A Older Christmas PostMy Profile

  • Joanne Yeck

    I see instantly why this was a favorite post! A post for next year, “perfect gifts for writers.” Or, perhaps, that’s coming!

    Joanne Yeck recently posted…The Churches of Buckingham CountyMy Profile

  • Mike

    I have a thing for pens. Too many! I also collect Starbucks mugs. Once again, too many. My favorite collection is Bibles. I have some from my family dating back to 1940.
    Merry Christmas Andi.
    Mike recently posted…THE POST-TURKEY DAY POSTMy Profile

  • Steve Thomas

    Was it Meatloaf who sang “One out of three ain’t bad”?

    I can always use more pens. I like ones that are better than Bic stick pens, but nothing I can’t throw away when it needs a refill. Zebra F-301 is great, but The ones you steal at the doctor’s office advertising meds are usually nice. No meds for impotence, incontinence, or “lady’s troubles”, please.

    I don’t need journals. A notepad for shopping lists or remembering appts would be nice if it fits in the pocket of a t-shirt, nicer if it has a string with a pen attached.

    I drink coffee out of thermal stainless travel mugs; my coffeemaker brews directly to one or two at a time instead of a glass carafe that the coffee gets stronger and stronger in, no need there. But I like to use coffee cups that are 16 ounces in size for cooking (one dry, one wet, is sufficient.) I keep bacon drippings in a coffee cup on the stove. At 3 AM, I scramble eggs with salt, pepper, butter and shredded colby in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, and let the cup soak full of hot detergent water, so a bottle brush will clean it easily when the morning comes. And I need a new cup for a shaving mug, because the handle on the old one broke off. Hand soap (I use Cashmere Bouquet) shaved into bottom of cup smells better than those hockey pucks from Williams or Palmolive, and a brush gives nicer lather than an aerosol. So I could use a dozen coffee cups.

    But a big gift card for a cheap restaurant with free wifi, would be nice for when I’m dying of cabin fever and am looking to have a friendly stranger strike up a conversation with me instead of leaving me alone to write. Did I mention that I haven’t shaved since my mug broke last summer, and people ask me whether I’m Santa Claus or Amish? Answer: the Amish don’t have mustaches, so tell me, little girl, have you been good this, and would you like some help being naughty? I’m not looking for nookie, but I hear a lot of interesting stories, and someone who is in the story-writing business can always use a fresh inventory of inspiration.
    Steve Thomas recently posted…“Forever isn’t long at all, Christopher, as long as I’m with you.”My Profile

  • Nicole

    So true! I am super picky about all three. To my family’s credit: I got a mug and pens this year, but both were “right” – so I’m a happy camper

  • Teresa Parker

    Three reasons why no one would ever give me these.
    1. I write my journals on the computer because I hate to write by hand.
    2. See above.
    3. I only drink water and never use a cup.

    I conform to no known writer-ish generalizations!

  • Alison M. Gunn

    Hi! I wanted to let you know I’m getting a Pinterest page going, and one of my first “pins” is of your site and this particular page. Thanks for providing a great image as well as inspiration.

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