Looking for a great gift for your favorite copywriter, content marketer, editor or journalist?
Check out the following list of presents. Affordable, portable and pair-able, these little gifts pack huge power to help writers brainstorm, boost productivity and improve writing.
I’m talking pencil and notebook.
Unimpressed? Before you pooh-pooh the artlessly simple duo, let me tell you why I think it’s a peerless present for writer friends—and maybe even you.
Distraction: The Writer’s Digital-age Demon
Today professional writers are tasked to churn out a tsunami of content. At the same time, they face an epic enemy that deprives them of the mental focus needed to produce.
Blame it on email, Instagram, WhatsApp. But the biggest culprit is Google Search.
Quality Pencil and Notebook: Affordable Luxury
Pencil and notebook are antidote to Distraction.
But not just any pencil and notebook.
Your pencil and notebook need to be beautiful. Luxuriant to touch. Excellently crafted. And cheap enough to replace frequently—encouraging extravagant, uncensored scribbling.
The 10 gifts suggested below meet all these criteria. A curated roster of the darkest, sharpest pencils and quality notebooks, the list also includes essential kit that goes with them.
10 Perfect Holiday Presents for Content Marketers and Writers
- Blackwing Pencils. An aura of graphite-scented glamor surrounds the Blackwing Palomino, an iconic pencil prized for its vintage aerodynamic design, ebony line and “buttery” writing action. John Steinbeck—one of many literary Blackwing devotees—crooned over the pencil’s ability to “really glide over the paper.” An early ad in The New Yorker claimed the Blackwing “reduces finger fatigue.” Introduced in the 1930s, the Blackwing Palomino is crafted with a hexagonal cedar barrel, flat gold ferrule and adjustable, replaceable erasers. The Palomino’s strength—its graphite core—is also the pencil’s weakness. Why? Because a dark lead is a soft lead. So you have to sharpen Blackwings. Like every five minutes. With a special two-hole sharpener made in Germany. But then, the pencil’s finickiness adds to its appeal. In an age when electronic “notepad,” keyboard “pencil” and delete-key “eraser” can be accessed with the swipe of a finger, there’s something satisfying about toting an artisanal pencil and all its trimmings. If you agree, you’ll love what’s up next: Palomino Blackwing erasers.
Price: $2 each at independent stores below; $24 per dozen at Amazon
Where to buy: CW Pencils, NYC; A.I. Friedman, NYC; Amazon
- Palomino Blackwing Erasers. They look like a lozenge. A Pez. Dentyne gum. These are some of the edible images that come to mind as you pinch a pink Palomino Blackwing eraser between pointer and thumb, poised for insertion into the Blacking pencil’s famous flat ferule. Remember what I said about finickiness? Your writer friend will adore the fun fussiness of customizing Blackwing Palominos with her choice of colored erasers. The erasers come in purist-preferred pink, black, and white. Rule-breaking, rebellious non-traditionalists can also choose from blue, orange or green. Supposedly the differently colored erasers have the same erasing action. I disagree. Meticulous testing in the Marketcopywriter Blog Lab reveals that the black and pink erasers are softer and less paper-tearing. But why not perform your own geeky testing? Buy an array of colors—they’re just $3 for a 10-pack—and let your friend choose her favorite.
Price: $3 for 10-pack
Where to buy: CW Pencils, NYC; A.I. Friedman, NYC; Amazon
- Kum Palomino Pencil Sharpener. If you buy into the Blackwing mystique, this pencil sharpener is a must-have. Made in Germany, the tool is crafted with two prism sharpening holes. The #1 hole pares the Palomino cedar tip into a conical point. The #2 hole precision shaves the lead into a lethal weapon. The sharpener also wins esthetic points. It’s designed with a midcentury-vibe, candy-colored transparent cover that looks a lot like Apple’s 1998 iMac. Plus the sharpener’s got the fussiness-is-fun factor. If you use a Blackwing Palomino you have to carry the sharpener at all times.
Where to buy: CW Pencils, NYC; Amazon
- Uni Kuru Toga Roulette Mechanical Pencil. Industrial-chic design meets graphite practicality in the Uni Kuru Toga. Quality crafted in Japan, this pencil is the gift of choice for writer friends who like a dark fine line, but aren’t into the the obsessive pencil sharpening that Blackwings require. Aside from its silver, knurled-grip, post-modern esthetic, the coolest thing about the Uni Kuro Toga is its unique lead rotation system. The pencil has a spring-loaded clutch that twists the lead every time you lift the pencil—leaving a precise, even-width line on the page every time. Fiddly-factor bonus points: The mechanical pencil uses tiny, pellet-like, adjustable erasers. You have to slide them into a clamp, insert the clamp into the top of the pencil and cover it with an itty-bitty cap-and-clip that’s easy to misplace and lose.
Where to buy: Kinokuniyo Books, NYC; Amazon
- Leuchtturm 1917 Notebooks. “Details make all the difference,” to Leuchtturm, the German bookbinders that craft these lovely notebooks. Volumes come hardbound or with durable, wipe-clean laminated soft covers. Book spines are stitched—not glued—so notebooks lie completely flat or bend backward. Made with high-quality cream colored paper, the book’s pages are numbered and include a table of contents—both features so incredibly handy you’ll wonder how you ever managed to live without them. Notebook aficionadas face a pleasurable dilemma in choosing a Leuchtturm 1917 notebook from the company’s full range of sizes, covers, colors and paper types—the latter which include plain, grid, dot, line and and scannable “white line” that comes with its own app. J’adore the softbound Jottbooks, pictured here.
Where to buy: A. I. Friedman, NYC; Amazon
- Rohdia Notepads. Waterproof and recognizable at 20 yards, the bright orange Rhodia cover encases a compact notebook loaded with quality features. Let’s start with Rhodia’s famous paper. It’s crafted by Clairfontaine, the French papermaking company that sets the gold standard for fountain pen users—the world’s absolute pickiest hand writers. The paper is extolled as much for what it doesn’t do—“feather” and “ghost,” i.e., bleed through to opposite side of the paper—as for what it does do: slide your pen or pencil across the page as effortlessly as an Olympic figure skater on a freshly Zamboni-ed ice rink. For good-to-the-last-page durability, Rohdia notebooks are staple constructed, rather than glued. Other thoughtful features: A triple-groove cover that easily folds back and stays out of your way when writing. Scored pages that tear out cleanly. And paper choices that include plain, lined, grid or dot. Rohdia pads and notebooks come in a variety of unusual sizes—the N° 08 vertical 3 x 8” pad is perfect for to-do lists, the adorably tiny N° 08 2 X 3” #10 Rohdia (just $2.75!) fits in jeans pocket.
Where to buy: A. I. Friedman, NYC; Amazon
- Shinola Paper Journals. I first heard about Shinola when I wrote copy for the company’s handmade watches. Like the timepieces, Shinola notebooks also have a retro-cool vibe—you can imagine Dashiell Hammett pulling out one of the olive green books to jot down detailed descriptions for his next sleuth story, “The detective’s six foot rangy figure still carried the triangulation of a 17 year-old high school quarterback, etc…..” Made in Motown, the notebooks use beautiful, heavy 90 gsm paper sourced from sustainably managed U.S. forests. Hand manufactured by American craftsmen and women, the notebooks let you look good while you do good by supporting skilled, well-paid Motor City workers.
Where to buy: Shinola; A.I. Friedman, NYC
- Bigso Box of Sweden Notebooks. For the Williamsburg Rustic on your gift list, these tactile, homespun notebooks tick all the boxes. The book covers are crafted of bonded canvas-cardstock with the appealingly tactile roughness of 40-grit sandpaper. Notebook spines are chain stitched in contrast waxed thread that let volumes lie flat or fold back. Pages of pure white, heavy paper beg to be filled with Tim Ferris quotes, classic cocktail recipes and mindfulness metaphors for your next blog post.
Price: $8 for a 2-pack
Where to buy: A.I. Friedman
- Waxed Canvas Pencil Pouch. Now that you’ve bought into old-fashioned notation—and the flotsam and jetsam that goes with it—you need something to carry it all. This waxed canvas pencil pouch has that urban, throwaway-chic, I’m-vegan-but-collect-taxidermy feel. And yeah, it also carries your pencils. Crafted in Belgium, the small zip pouch is made of water-resistant canvas with a slightly stiff hand that protects your pencils, replacement erasers and sharpener. The pouch secures with an industrial brass zipper finished with a leather pull tab.
Where to buy: Tree Size Verse store at Etsy
- Pencil-pusher’s Dream Package. Want a memorable splurge gift guaranteed to give your writer friend hours of pleasure—plus par excellence writing tools of their own choosing? Give a $50 gift certificate to A.I. Friedman, the legendary NYC art supply store, plus lunch for two at nearby ABC Kitchen. One of the last Manhattan brick-and-mortar purveyors of oil paints and canvasses, A.I. Friedman’s Chelsea store also carries a huge range of notebooks, full line of Palomino pencils and erasers. Walk a block over to ABC Kitchen for lunch. Here’s my review of the Jean-Georges restaurant. Start your meal with a McKenzie Rye Manhattan and finish with ABC’s justly acclaimed Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae with Candied Peanuts and Popcorn. And a double espresso—if you intend to do any writing in the afternoon.
Got a favorite pencil or notebook? Please add it in comments!
The Dude photo courtesy of Robert Couse Baker
Uni Kuri Toga pencil photo courtesy of Amazon
Tree Size Verse pouch photo courtesy of Tree Size Verse
Dream photo courtesy of Wok and Apix