Last month a reader posted on my facebook page that their 8-year-old daughter wanted a “writing set” for Christmas this year, and asked me: “What does every budding author need in their ‘set’?”
Of course, “need” is a relative term. All you actually need as a writer, at 8 years old or 80, is a story in your heart and mind and some means of recording that in words, so you can share it with your listeners and readers.
But I loved the idea of putting together a “writing set”, especially one for a young “budding author” who’s already starting her life as a writer with one of the most vital things in her toolbox: a parent’s support.
So I thought back to what I was given, when I was around that age, that made me feel like a real writer. And I thought of what I use in my everyday “writing set” now. And I blended those together in this list of my suggestions:
1. A SPECIAL BOOK FOR WRITING IN
The brown one here was mine, when I was 12. I still remember picking it out at our local Coles Bookstore. There’s something about that old-fashioned-gilded-leather look and the lovely blank pages inside that makes you feel like a true storyteller.
2. A POCKET NOTEBOOK
I always have one with me. In my case, they range from little notepads scooped up from a hotel bedside table to those little spiral-bound notebooks you can buy in packs of three from a drugstore to the fancier little Moleskine versions, like the red one here that was my primary notebook for my research travels for my book The Firebird.
3. A BLANKET
Indispensable. Sitting in one place for hours, especially during late nights, early mornings, and winter, gets chilly. If you can’t find a blanket, a cozy cardigan will do, like the beige one my notebooks are sitting on in the above photo. It was a castoff of my father’s, and has kept me warm through many a writing session.
4. A SPECIAL PEN
For one of my childhood birthdays, my parents gave me a silver-toned pencil-and-pen set. It came in a box, and was beautiful. And best of all, they had taken it to the engraving kiosk at the mall, so both the pen and pencil were engraved with my initials. If you have a young (or even not-so-young) writer on your Christmas list, this is one gift that’s sure to make them feel like an actual writer. I suggested to my reader that, for her daughter, she might want to engrave not only her daughter’s name, but the word “Writer” after it.
5. A SPECIAL CUP OR MUG
Eight years old is a little young for coffee, but hot chocolate can fuel the writing muse equally as well! My own preferred writing mugs tend to change to subtly match the subject of the book I’m writing—I ended up using my tartan one a lot while I was working on A Desperate Fortune, and back when I was writing The Rose Garden my favourite mug was floral—and I have a special Motivating Mug (pictured here) that I use when I’m approaching deadlines.
6. WRITTEN INSPIRATION
If there’s a single book that’s helped me more than any other on my journey as a writer, it’s been Phyllis A. Whitney’s GUIDE TO FICTION WRITING. As a practical guide for working your way through that first novel (and keeping your focus through later ones), it’s invaluable. But for an 8-year-old, you might want to start with a few Writer’s Digest magazines. Around this time of year, WD also puts out a special edition Yearbook filed with all sorts of tips and advice. Just remember, there’s no one “right” way to write—don’t take anything as gospel. My favourite writing books are the ones containing many different articles by a wide variety of well-published writers, because I can almost always learn something useful from a few of them, and as my skills and needs develop and change other articles within those books become relevant.
7. A LAP DESK
For my 8-year-old self this would have been the icing on the cake! I loved staying in bed all day and writing as it was, but to be able to do it comfortably and without having to change position every five minutes would have been wonderful. This is the kind of thing I mean—the ones with the beanbag bottom and the hard top. Some, like this one from Chapters/Indigo, even come complete with a cup holder so you have a place to put your Special Mug.