A version of this story appeared in Total Annarchy, my fortnightly newsletter that helps you be a better writer, storyteller, marketer. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.
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It’s easy to nod along to the narrative that 2020 is a raging dumpster fire, the worst year ever—what with the pandemic and the near-daily googling of “Do I have Covid or is this always what my throat feels like?”
See also: the wildfires in California and Australia. Social unrest. Racial tensions. Divisive US election. The Beirut explosion. International conflicts. Locusts. Genocide.
The existential freight of it all feels like we’re wearing a snowsuit stuffed with sawdust.
And we’re pedaling a bike.
And the bike is under water.
Which is why it’s so weird to think about holiday gifting right now. Or is it?
Because if there’s anything we need to close out 2020 (and stay out!), it’s the joy of giving to others.
So here is the 2020 Ridiculously Useful Holiday Gift Guide for marketers, writers, and other creative people like you: my picks for ridiculously helpful gifts to help us become better, more confident communicators now and in 2021.
This list is a little different, because I curated it Oprah-style, sharing only my top picks with you.
1. The best marketing education. An annual membership to MarketingProfs PRO membership delivers year-round community, inspiration, education—like our Storytelling Summit and our Marketing Master Classes. (The SEO Master Class is So. Freakin. Good).
It’s always affordable, but this price is ridiculous: Code ANNTACLAUS gets you $100 off an individual or team (3+) membership.
2. The best classes on anything you can imagine. Voice lessons with Christina Aguilera. Cooking with Gordon Ramsay. Leadership with Doris Kearns Goodwin. Makeup with Bobbi Brown. Writing classes with Malcolm Gladwell, R. L. Stine, Shonda Rhimes, David Mamet, Margaret Atwood, Dan Brown, Judy Blume, David Sedaris—all at once, if it’s your pleasure. Right now, MasterClass is running a holiday BOGO. Offer ends 12/28. (Hi, Logan!)
3. The best old-school writing tool for when you’re in a rut. Writing on an old-school typewriter will change your writing. Seriously. It’s distraction-free, it’s weirdly and wonderfully tactile, and it slows down your brain so writing feels… easier?
Plus it’s flat-out playful: And you know what deserves more of a joyful vibe? 2020. I shared my typewriter joy here.
The link above is to Etsy. But you can find them new in some office supply stores, or used around the interwebs. (Try Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Instagram, or here.)
4. The best substitute for an old-school writing tool. The Wireless Typewriter Keyboard is a Bluetooth-enabled typewriter keyboard that has an old-school vibe with modern functionality. Right now, it’s on sale for $289 (usually $399).
I keep mine with my laptop in my Tiny House Office, which—with its unfinished clubhouse walls and high-speed internet Ethernet connectivity also personifies an old-school vibe with modern functionality.
5. The best writing software for writing a book. You wouldn’t want to give any old software—say, a PowerPoint subscription LOL. But gifting book-writing software Scrivener is a whole nuther story: It’s a signal that I love you. I believe in you. And you are going to write that book next year.
6. The best writing robot editor. Grammarly has really stepped up its game this year. It’s added tone of voice functionality, for one thing.
I like how its new editor is so much more than just a grammar-checker: It’s also a personal writing buddy. Sometimes it’s annoying to have an assistant looking over your shoulder, but it’s also satisfying to trash their recommendations because every so often I really do want a run-on sentence just for effect because this paragraph belongs to me-me-me Grammarly so TAKE. THAT.
7. The best gift for communicators who cook. Book Blend Spices is a trifecta: books, food, puns. It’s all here in these glorious spice blends with names like Poppy Longstocking, The Joy Luck Rub, and (my personal fave) Shallot’s Web. Speaking of which…
8. The best book to make you a better marketer and writer. I keep a copy of this book behind me on my Tiny House Office shelf; my childhood edition is on the shelf of my family room. It’s the most important book you can read about the World’s Best Marketer because it’s never about her: It’s always about the one person she’s trying to save.
9. The best way to make sure your favorite content marketer gets a raise next year. Pick any 12 of these books for a DIY Book of the Month Content Club. I suggest including Everybody Writes. Because like the name says… everybody does. Especially marketers.
10. The best writing notebook. This year I ditched my go-to Moleskines in favor of this journal. Someone gifted me one with fan-see-pants gold letters, which makes it feel functional AND beautiful.
I like how it lies flat because of its smyth-sewn binding, which is a centuries-old book binding technique that allows the pages to stay put when you open the notebook. This notebook also empowers you to throw around words like “smyth-sewn.”
11. The best coffee mug. Help someone you love MANIFEST THAT ISHT.
13. The best grammar game for the judgmental. If someone you love is the kind of person silently correcting other people’s grammar, they’ll enjoy this snarky card game.
14. The best way to look good on camera. Lighting setups can feel overwhelming for casual use. But you need good lighting so you don’t look like you’re in a hostage situation during your weekly standup.
This package is both inexpensive and small. And we need to talk about the product copy: “This lighting will give you more charming eyes. You will find that your eyes are full of charm, like the eyes of an angel.”
I loitered over this listing for a long time, trying to call up the last time I gazed into the eyes of an angel… Are angel eyes actually charming? Or was I more attracted to the angel’s personality?
Anyway, my friend and colleague Kerry Gorgone, who does a lot of on-camera work, recommended this. Kerry knows what’s what. (Also: The link is to Amazon. Check your local camera stores.)
15. The best pens. Classic, simple, effective. It dries on the page instantly, which is important for left-handed people like me who otherwise end up with a smudgy marker mess everywhere.
16. The best 2020 work pants. This company’s marketing came on my radar when they were among the first to build a brand through influencer marketing. These joggers pair nicely with a suit jacket because that’s how we Dress for Success in 2020.
17. The best time-management tool. I’m a big fan of the Eisenhower Matrix, which helps me prioritize what to Do, Decide, Delegate, Delete. Kerry Gorgone also turned me on to this pad, which I love for its analog simplicity.
18. The best ornament that sums up 2020 [image above]. I love that the artist (and marketer!), Lori Magno, will customize the opposite side with a “silver lining” moment from the year. [Last I checked Lori had only 5 of these left; don’t send me angry letters if she sells out, ok?]
19. A gift card to a local restaurant. The restaurant industry is in crisis; this winter is going to be very hard. Please support your local favorites and make sure they survive. BUY DIRECT whenever you can. Third-party delivery apps take a massive bite of the already-thin margins. (No pun intended.)