With Christmas almost here, I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media about gift ideas for writers, packed with homewares with cute quotes on them, book-themed tote bags and coffee mugs, quirky pencil organisers and literary notebooks. All good ideas, but if you want to get the writer in your life something they’ll really love, here’s some fail-safe ideas.
1. A weekend alone
When you’re a writer, there’s never enough uninterrupted alone time. That is pretty much the holy grail of writing life. Pack up the family with a, ‘Honey, we’re going to visit [insert cool relative’s name] for two nights, the house is all yours’. Then go. Don’t make contact while you’re away, although a reminder a couple of times a day to eat can be helpful if they’re the sort who gets wrapped up in their writing so much they forget that feeling in their belly is hunger, not excitement at the latest plot twist.
Not for them, for you (and the kids, if applicable). If your writer is usually the one who cooks dinner, take on food duty for a few nights while you banish them to their writing room of choice. Nothing interrupts the flow like having to organise the family dinner. Ditto for housework/family chores.
3. An invitation to read their work
Nothing is more exciting than having someone ask to read your work. Even better if it’s accompanied by the question, ‘What would you like me to focus on for feedback?’ Their response will depend on what stage they’re at and how confident they are feeling about their writing. Not every writer is ready to handle a 10-page critique. Some might just want to know whether you found it engaging. If they look completely horrified at the idea of sharing, just smile and say, ‘When you’re ready to show me it, of course. No rush.’
4. Date night – to discuss their characters
Writers fall in love with their characters all the time. Even the terrible ones. A night away from the notebook/screen with a change of scenery (a nice little restaurant, a local bar, a picnic in the park) can do wonders for giving them a fresh perspective. Take them out for a night of conversation all about their characters and they’ll love you for it. If you get stuck (unlikely), you can always get them to describe what their characters would be like if they were out with you.
5. Send them away
So this one is for when you really want to splurge. Having a little cottage by the sea or in the countryside, or a city hotel room, all to themselves is the stuff of writerly dreams. If you have the funds (or have a friend who would do a home swap), this is the most luxurious gift you could give. It sends your writer a very clear message that you care about them having uninterrupted time to write.
This is different from uninterrupted writing time. It’s about understanding that when they disappear into their writing world, they’re not rejecting you. They’re just caught up in the flow and need to throw themselves into it with every spare moment. Letting them know you understand is a gift any writer will deeply appreciate.
Ultimately, writers are terrible friends/lovers, at least when they’re writing. They exist in two worlds (often more), part of their minds and hearts are always with their story. This can make them forgetful (‘Oh, it was your birthday last week?!’), messy (‘Who has time to clean up when character A is about to open THAT door?’), constantly distracted (‘Sorry, what were you saying? I was thinking about the opening scene’) and moody (‘Every word is rubbish, I can’t believe I let anyone read this stuff’), just to name a few. Forgive them, because they know they’re terrible friends/lovers while they’re writing and will adore you for putting up with them. They will also make it up to you in spades.
Got any other ideas for things writers would love to get or thoughts on the above? I’d love to hear them.
Originally posted on my creative writing blog at skyharrison.com