Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Writing: Best Gifts for Writers (No Gimmicks)

Wondering what to give the writer who has everything? Pondering a holiday purchase for yourself that enhances your writer’s life? Here are some ideas. (Note: None of them are self-filling fountain pens, journals made from virgin cows, smartphone aps, or bobble heads.)
A good book on the craft: Most of us have read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” but as a craft book it makes a great memoir (and it is a great memoir). Elmore Leonard’s “10 Rules of Writing” is a great read, too, and certainly more craft-focused, but you can get his central ideas easily from one of the many Internet-side boil downs.  Here are a few of the chewier reads I’ve come across:
Inspiration:  Magazine subscriptions are always good. Writer’s Digest or Publishers Weekly are obvious, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve thumbed through Popular Science and been hit with the fundaments of a SF story. Or pick up a couple of coffee-table photography books (the ones on the discount rack are good).  Random reference books can be helpful, too. You never know when you are going to need a character to build a log cabin.
Looking for something a bit more mystical? Try Story Cubes,  or “The Writer’s I-Ching: Wisdom for the Creative Life.” (Really, it’s all just free association and using your subconscious to make connections. No magic here.)
Help: There are professional editing and critiquing services galore. Do some research and find a credible one. A good polish might be just what your writer needs to level up. Get your writer a subscription to Writer’s Market, or make a donation to Duotrope so your writer won’t feel so guilty about using it.
A good writing shirt or sweater. This has got to be loose, easy to slip on and off, and not itchy. When the writing space is warm, the sweater stays on the back of the chair. When it gets cold, your writer can slip it on and keep right on typing.
Space:  This might be the greatest gift of all. Leave your writer alone for awhile; let them write interrupted. It’s not that your writer doesn’t love you; she/he probably likes you just fine. However, your writer needs time to commune with the page. This gift can be as inexpensive as not-knocking-on-the-door for a couple of hours or as pricey as a writer’s retreat. If you don’t have the cash for the proverbial cabin in the woods, give your writer a box of snacks and put him or her up in a cheap hotel for a weekend and see what they check out with. No other gifts better says, “I take your writing goals seriously.”
Any other ideas?


  1. This site is cool for writers & readers alike.

    Oh. And red pens. I'm always losing mine and when someone buys me a box, it's just the best thing ever.

  2. I'll take the cabin in the woods, please. :)

    How about writing conference admissions? AWP in February comes to mind. Hotel along with it?

  3. Unbreakable telephones. When I was alone writing and the phone rang ... if it wasn't answered by ring #3, it used to take flight (a really quick one). My wife tells me I have a condition called I.E.D. (Intermittent Explosive Disorder).

    To combat my condition, I've learned to pick the phone up, hang up on whoever called, and set the phone on the porch out back.

    I'd much rather fling it at a wall ...

  4. two hours' of babysitting service so I can write in peace :)

  5. I'd definitely put the red pens and the babysitting on my list. These are little things I might not get myself, but would make my writing life better.

  6. How about a really good chair? Can't beat a nice place to plant your ass when you've got writing to do.