Writing itself is not a luxury, but there might be little luxuries alongside your writing,
It’s suddenly wintry here in south-eastern Australia, with temperatures hovering just above freezing where I live (Narrm/Melbourne) and I’ve been having lots of conversations with people about ‘desk gloves’, the gloves you own so your fingers don’t fall off while working inside at your computer. My silk/merino/possum desk gloves are one of my favourite things about winter, and it got me to thinking about all the tiny little writing luxuries that make the work of wrangling a manuscript just that little bit softer or warmer or more sparkling.
I am a massive fan of writing luxuries. Somehow the beautiful pencil or the diffuser scent or the ideal snack makes an outsized difference to how excited I am to sit at my keyboard. Maybe it’s a bourgeois trick, and maybe it’s self-care, and maybe it works for me and anything that works is worth exploring.
I love reading about other people’s little luxuries, for example New Yorker journalist Rachel Syme’s regular MADCAP ON A BUDGET group threads on Twitter.
I’d have a different list if it were summer, if I were teaching etc. so please see this list as less of a set of instructions and more of a set of extremely seasonally-specific and idiosyncratic inspirations for you to find your own joys.
As I’m writing the first draft of this post, the leaves are autumn and gold and blazing red, and falling from the trees and vines that cover my garden. The air carries the raw edge of snow as it blasts up from the Antarctic. It’s weeks away from the winter solstice. I am juggling deadlines for two books and three articles. Here’s what luxuries are making my writing life joyful.
Desk gloves. I have these fingerless mittens of possum down, silk and merino wool. They are so so soft, and mine are a beautiful dark moss green. They keep my wrists and knuckles warm, and if I fold back the trim, then I can type unimpeded even with my short fingers. Nothing keeps my fingers warm, but this gets me most of the way there.
Cashmere writing socks. During my PhD, I survived through multiple Cambridge (UK) winters with these thick, soft, warm cashmere bed socks. They lasted for over a decade, so when I decided they really had become more hole than sock, I requested a new pair as a present.
Leaf-tea in a mini-teapot with a porcelain cup and saucer. Today I am drinking Professor Clara’s Clarity Tea in a T2 tea cup, brewed in a Muji pot (not online). The cup must be fine bone china, which means they do break if I drop them, but then I just have to source another pretty cup!
Yogi Balm for temples and jaw. If I feel I’ve been squinting or my neck is getting tight, then I rub a tiny amount of this Yogi Balm on my temples, my jaw, between my brows, or the back of my neck. It smells beautiful, and it works. (Tiger Balm red ointment is a good back up). I could also list here my lip gloss (always a tiny Vaseline tin, and sometimes something else fancy, currently this ridiculous luxury gloss) and my hand cream (mostly Norwegian Formula for being moisturising but not too slimy on the keys).
Writing Room Scents. Sometimes I want something health-giving like eucalypt oil in the diffuser to keep my airways clear, and sometimes something that claims it will help me to think. I also love the scent of incense burning in another room, so I currently have Study of Trees smouldering next door.
Midori pencils. Midori graphite pencils (HB, B or 2B depending on the paper), the pack also has the best pencil sharpener. A small Pentel high polymer eraser. A yellow Lamy fountain pen, medium nib, with blue ink. Post-it paper page markers to mark passages in books I’ll want to go back to; or sturdier plasticised tabs for high-use pages.
A music playlist. I am currently listening to Harry’s House on repeat, to place this blog post even more firmly in its place and time. A carefully curated writing playlist is always essential, but I find I wear out the music pretty fast, so need to replace it at least quarterly.
Jellycat. A pet is the ultimate writing luxury. Something soft and warm and happy to see you and who interrupts your serious thinking with demands for headboops and trying to lick up your crumbs and playing with your stationary.
What are your writing luxuries? I’d love to hear about them, over on @ResearchInsider