What to get the writer in your life? Or, maybe you’re the writer in the lives of those around you, and you’re hoping they might see fit to give you something useful or desired as you chase your muse.
Since everybody else seems to be doing one of these lists, I figured, “Hey! Why not stall working on my actual writing shit, and do this instead?” See? I’m setting aside my own needs, and thinking of you. It’s what I do. I’m a giver.
For a couple of my Novel Spaces columns, I did a list like this each December. The list below is basically a compilation of my favorite ideas from those previous columns. Most of these suggestions are…you know…real, though I couldn’t resist a one or two “unreal” ones, as well:
Books! Every writer loves books, right? We all need to let our mind recharge after a long day at the office or a weekend spent pushing through to meet a grueling deadline. Leisure reading is still a preferred method of relaxation for many people, especially writers. One suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere is giving a book that has a special meaning to you. A cherished title—perhaps something you’ve loved since childhood—offers insight into your own reading tastes. Meanwhile, an autographed copy from the recipient’s favorite author is usually a guaranteed home run.
Books About Writing. These are always appreciated by serious writers, who are in fact students of a sort, and who never stop learning how to improve their craft. However, serious writers also tend to hate those plodding, pretentious tomes that spend too much time whining about how writing is art and it has to grow and suffer and be nurtured, blah blah blah. Writers want to know how to get on with the writing and finish what they’ve started so they can get on with writing something else, while figuring out how to repeat those first two steps as often as possible. They want books with titles like Sit Your Ass Down and Write Right Now, which may not be the title of a book anywhere in the known universe except my head. Still, I figure there’s something out there following a similar theme.
Food. Face it: Writers tend to eat like shit, particularly if we’re neck deep in a story and all other considerations and priorities have been rescinded. If we’re not skipping meals, then we’re eating junky snacks. Feed us, for fuck’s sake. We’re writers, so we’re poor. Take us out to lunch once in a while. This has the added benefit of exposing us to social interaction with other members of our species, which works out for everybody.
Kale. Speaking of food, kale apparently falls into this category, and we’re all supposed to be eating it. I don’t know why. I don’t think anybody knows why. It’s healthy, or something. So, give some to your writer friends and perhaps nudge them just a bit off the Road to Death that is littered with empty potato chip bags and candy wrappers. I’m willing to give it a go. Maybe if I eat enough, my consciousness will see fit to escape the meat sack that is my body, leaving my intellect and soul to soar among the cosmos unencumbered by physical form. Hey, if it means never again having to wait in line at the DMV, I’m game.
Chocolate. Yeah, this is more like it. In fact, fuck that kale shit. In the face.
Notebooks/writing journals/writing pads. There’s something about good, old-fashioned pen and paper that almost always gets my creative juices flowing. Many a story has begun as a series of hastily scribbled notes on a legal pad or one of those Mead composition books like we used in elementary school. I still use them today. Something a bit fancier, though, makes for a simple yet elegant gift. Oh, and they’re also handy for making lists, such as things to buy at the grocery store, or household chores you hate doing but suddenly find compelling when faced with getting some actual writing done. Tell me I’m wrong.
Shock Collar. You know the ones I mean: They link with a wire that’s run around the perimeter of your yard, and if you put the collar on your dog it gets a little jolt if it wanders too close to the “invisible fence.” I think something like this is marvelous for writers who are always finding excuses not to write. You can zap them when their fingers stray too far from their keyboards. I have friends who tell me these things can also be used recreationally, but that’s none of my business.
Story Cubes. These things are great! I found them at a small toy store here in town. Each set of Story Cubes contains nine dice, with each side depicting a little image. You roll all nine dice, and then attempt to tell a story using the nine images that are face up. It’s not really meant to be a competitive game, but more of a casual or party pastime. These sets are small and relatively inexpensive gift options, averaging under $10 apiece, and they even have one for Batman! And Doctor Who! While all of the sets look to be appropriate for all ages, I must confess that I did wonder how the results might be enhanced by the inclusion of alcohol or other illicit substances. I know, I’m horrible.
Lounge Pants. I’ve recently discovered the unfettered joy that is hanging around Ward Manor in lounge pants. These things are glorious. They exist in that odd realm between pajamas, sweat pants, and yoga pants, which is good because while I think I make yoga pants look awesome, my opinion is almost certainly shared by precisely no one else on this planet who has functioning eyeballs or otherwise inhales oxygen. However, with the right pair of lounge pants, I’m only a tattered, stained T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops away from a run to Walmart. Of course, all of this is contingent upon you having not yet mastered the art of writing without pants of any kind.
Tea, Coffee, or other Favorite Beverage. Whether it’s black coffee, herbal tea, and/or hot cocoa, we all have our fuel; the special elixir that helps get the words moving. I’m partial to vodka, served intravenously, with the occasional diversion toward Monster Energy Drink if I’m really in the zone and want to keep typing until my fingers bleed. Whatever the nectar of choice, just start it flowing. We’ll tell you when to stop.
Water bottle. Carrying on from the previous idea, I’m not talking about those designer bottles with the formed handgrips or the retractable straws or the ones with a compass, survival matches, emergency poncho, lightsaber, and ninja stars packed into the lid. Instead, I mean one of those jobs like they use in hamster cages, with the tube extending from its bottom and the little ball on the end. These should hold a gallon of water (or, again, preferred beverage), and be mounted above the writer’s desk or other workspace. Be sure to follow the instructions for proper cleaning.
“Writer At Work” Sign. For those days when you’re taking up space at a coffee shop or bookstore cafe. Lean this up against your laptop and leave no doubt that you’re gracing the rest of the hipsters with your presence to push words in a totally forthright and professional manner, and that you’re absolutely not playing Solitaire or Minecraft. At all. Honest.
Massage. I have to admit, I saw this one on another list and thought it was a great idea. There’s nothing better for working the kinks out of shoulder and lower back muscles after you’ve spent a month or more pounding your keyboard to finish that novel. I happen to be a big fan of Thai massage, which lets the therapist bend and twist me in all sorts of innovative ways while allowing me to retain my clothing (see “Lounge Pants”) and therefore some small shred of dignity. Your mileage may vary.
Okay, that’s my list. Be you gift giver or hopeful recipient, do you have your own suggestions, sincere or otherwise?