What are people going to give a writer like you this Christmas, when you’ve already got a reading pile you’ll never get through and you’re up to your neck in lovely blank notebooks? Here are some gift ideas for you and any other significant writer in your life.
The Gift of Time
As writers, we all want time more than we want anything else. There’s never enough! And then just as you get going, reality comes to call and it’s time to stop. Finding and making good use of time are perennial challenges for creative types.
So how about a handmade voucher offering the writer a free hour, evening or day off the household jobs or childcare so he or she can get some quality time alone with the keyboard? You could design your own voucher, or there are lots of ready-made gift certificate templates in Microsoft Word that you could re-purpose to create something official looking.
The Gift of Space
Writers covet space almost as much as its quantum relative, time. Space here could mean the writer’s personal work area, or it could be about creating a whole new change of scenery.
So how about travel vouchers for a weekend away to help recharge his or her inspiration – perhaps to a favourite destination, or to somewhere he or she has always wanted to go, perhaps because it’s relevant to the book in progress?
If budgets are tighter, you could come up with something to improve the writer’s personal writing space – a new desk or bookcase, perhaps? An inspirational poster? Or, you could even offer a free home office clean (under careful supervision of course)!
The Gift of Productivity
As writers, we feel a constant background anxiety about where we are in our WIPs and how much further there is to go. As a result, we are always looking for ways to get more done.
So how about a tool or resource to help the writer in your life feel like he or she is progressing more efficiently? You could, for instance, get a copy of your favourite productivity bible, such as Getting Things Done, The One Thing (my current go-to), or a no-nonsense book about plotting such as Take Off Your Pants? (Don’t be fooled by the title – it’s about learning to be a plotter, rather than someone who writes by the seat of his or her pants.)
For a little more, you could treat your writer to software like Scrivener. Scrivener is designed to help writers get their work to first draft stage, and it cleverly allows them to dip in and out of their work at different levels – to add a teeny tweak to a sentence one moment, and to make a sweeping structural change the next. I’ve written three full-length novels on it and found it massively useful. Updates are free, too.
Going up a level on the equipment front, you could invest in some equipment to help a writer record his or her own audiobooks. These range enormously in price and sophistication, from simple sound shields right up to full-on acoustic booths.
The Gift of Inspiration
Some writers get inspiration from a change of scene, some from other people, others through what they read and watch. All of these provide ideas for gifts!
How about a great book to really get your writer’s creative juices flowing? There are millions out there, of course, but my favourites include Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, which takes a Zen perspective to the creative process and introduced me to the idea of “morning pages” – a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing exercise that sets you up for the day.
I also love Writing a Novel by Richard Skinner, which taught me a way to actually sit down and structure a novel, and Into the Woods by John Yorke, a fascinating and in-depth examination of the mechanics of storytelling by a seasoned scriptwriter and commissioner.
Other inspirational ideas could include a place on a writer’s retreat. There are many of these around, with lots of variety in price, locale and format.
At the other end of the budget spectrum, you could get your writer a subscription to a source of inspiring content via a streaming service like Netflix or an audiobook provider like Audible. Or, even just a custom mug with some encouraging words or a pic of his or her favourite writer?
The Gift of Posture
Bad backs and stiff shoulders are an occupational hazard for writers – a condition my daughter Poppy refers to as “author-itis!” To remedy the problem, you might offer your writer one of the many chairs and seats designed to improve and maintain posture. Along with the many state-of-the-art ergonomic office chairs, there are other more radical solutions to consider, such as kneeling chairs and even yoga balls. At my work, they’ve been experimenting with these stand-up sitting stools, with mixed reports so far.
Also on the posture front, you might gift the writer in your life a yoga DVD or a few taster sessions of Pilates – very good for working on your core, which is of course where a lot of the problems begin. A cute onesie or a foot warmer might add to his or her comfort at the desk, too.
The Gift of Business Support
As writers start to taste some success, they have the challenge of balancing their desire to keep creating with the growing need to fulfill all the other necessary obligations of the trade – publicity, proofreading, distribution, readings, interviews, social media, and all the rest of what’s sometimes called “litbiz.”
Your gift to your writer could be an offer to share the load of some of this work. Perhaps you could offer to update and revitalise his or her social media channels, send out some review copies, keep on top of reviews, comments and emails that need replies, or even do a spot of proofreading. All these tasks will help free up the writer in your life to do the thing he or she will thank you most enthusiastically for: more time and energy to write!