Buy Right: Practical Ways to Gift Your Writer

In the U.S., winter holidays are just around the corner. That means the biggest season in the year for retail spending. Marathon shoppers know all about how to prepare for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all their associated merchant-inspired lead-ins to this most mercantile of all seasons.

Maybe you’re a mad shopper who loves trips to the mall over almost every other excursion. Maybe you’re more like me, and avoid at all costs even the idea of visiting a retail store during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Even if your winter holiday is less about what’s under some tree and more about what’s in your own heart, as well as those of your family members and loved ones, I’d still be willing to bet there are other occasions in the year where gifts are appropriate. And we all have that one person for whom gifting is excruciatingly difficult.

For example, what do you give someone who spends most of their waking hours in front of a laptop or iPad either typing madly, querying agents and/or magazines, or searching the maze that is Google for worldbuilding details and foundational setup?

Never fear. Your auntie Drema is here to help.

Above and beyond the obvious tech (a new computer or iPad or what-have-you) to make a writer’s life easier, here are twelve fabulous gift ideas (in no particular order) for the writer in your life.

1. Paid admission to a writing class (online or real-space). There are dozens online, and most major cities will offer plenty in real-space from which to choose. Even better, spring for a conference your writer would love to attend. If neither of you can afford airfare, hotels and meals, find one they can drive/walk to. Writing, whether fiction, non-fiction or poetry, is an ever-changing business. The need for education and honing one’s skill never ends.

2. An all-expenses paid weekend of isolation at a retreat or residency where your writer can work undisturbed. I’ve written about retreats and residencies before here (http://dremadeoraich.com/index.php/2018/03/26/sound-the-retreat/), and have included a few suggestions in my links pages to get you started. But don’t stop there. Search Google to find the dozens of others out there. Keep in mind that retreats can be pricey, while some residencies may even be free. But the important thing to remember is this: it doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to be focused time where they can concentrate on writing without other distractions and obligations. Even a weekend in a hotel across town (without the family) can serve in a pinch. Can’t afford that? Take on the household chores yourself (if you don’t already do so) at least one day each month, then round up the kids and take them (and yourself) out of the house for a whole day. Bring back take-out when you come home.

3. Books on the craft of writing. There are plenty to choose from. Read the reviews; see what others had to say about each book. If you are paying attention to your writer’s babbling (I know, we babble) about their current work-in-progress, chances are they’ve mentioned some aspect of this writing business where they’d like to improve their skill. Find a book on that. Find two. Buy them both. Also, buy newly released books in the genre in which they are writing. It’s good for them to stay up-to-speed on what’s selling and what isn’t. As far as agents and publishers are concerned, selections on what gets published are all about marketability. Knowing what’s already out there will help your writer be more spot-on. And besides, what writer doesn’t love reading?

4. Writing software. Personally, I use Scrivener. It’s inexpensive, super powerful, and designed with writers in mind, so there are all kinds of helpful tools built in that make my job easier. I’ve heard Mac users also have Pages software. I use a Mac, too, but have never played with this software. Microsoft Word is probably the biggie; in addition, in my experience, it’s what I’ve seen most often requested for formatting queries and submissions to magazines and agents. Don’t forget training in how to use the software most effectively.

5. Wrist braces and/or cold packs. This may seem simplistic, but as someone who deals with the symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrome, I’m telling you wrist braces and ice packs are my friends. Anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time writing a novel longhand or working on a keyboard will need these two essentials, doubly so if their day job also includes keyboard work.

6. Pens and notebooks that lie flat, or lots of paper. Some authors hand-write their early drafts (you heard me right). Find out what type of paper they prefer (lined? Three-ring and a binder? Bound lined books?), then buy then a good supply. And pens are crucial. No Bics, please. (No offense, Bic, but this is an extreme situation.) Splurge. Find a pen for people who write a lot. One with cushions for the fingers, one with ink that flows smoothly and doesn’t blotch or smear. One that will write at any angle. One that can be refilled (then include a couple of refills in the gift box). If your writer pens fantasy or sci-fi, maybe they’d also like a sketchbook where they can map their worlds; for this, they’ll need a pack of pencils, a sharpener, and a good Staedtler (or better) eraser, one that won’t just smear the pencil marks and leave a mess.

7. A large whiteboard or corkboard they can hang on the wall, where they can affix storyboard notes for plotting out their next novel.

8. Aqua Notes – a notepad that is waterproof and gives your writer a way to jot down notes even in the shower. This is not a joke; ask your writer how many times they’ve had great ideas in the shower, only to forget them by the time they were out and dried.

9. Subscription to Kindle Unlimited, or perhaps to your writer’s favorite magazines—the ones where they’d most like to be published.

10. A care package filled with healthy energy boosts, yummy teas, flavored coffees, healthy snacks they can pick up and eat without much thought, hand lotion, a back scratcher or other self-care niceties. I promise you, when your writer is lost in a make-believe world and does not have to break their train of thought to rummage through the kitchen for a bite to eat, they will thank you.

11. A break from the keyboard. Take your writer out to dinner. Maybe to a movie. Take them for a walk in a park or on the beach. Anything to give them a break—bonus points if you can match the dinner/movie/activity to the theme of their work-in-progress. Not only will their perspective and focus benefit, their eyes will too.

12. A massage. No kidding. Writing, whether by hand or by keyboard, knots the shoulders, arms, hands and back something fierce. A skilled massage therapist can help keep your writer relaxed and healthy. Heck, go all out. Arrange for the massage therapist to come to your house. Better yet, pay for a series of massages – two, three, six, a year’s worth (one per month). If you can’t afford to pay for a professional, do it yourself. A fifteen-minute shoulder rub will work wonders.

A quick Google search will turn up a plethora of other ideas not listed here. Think about where the writer in your life could most use a boost, and go from there.

The best gifts will come from ideas you get while listening to your writer. They will tell you, whether they know it or not, what they need most, and will certainly appreciate being heard.

What other gift ideas can you come up with for the writer in your life?

See you next week!

Holiday Lights photo by Marina Khrapova
Bookpile photo by Thought Catalog
Corkboard photo by G. Crescoli
Photos courtesy of Unsplash