Thursday, December 17, 2015

Holiday Gifts for Writers: 2015 Edition!

We tend to receive a lot of wanted and/or unwelcome advice this time of year, about what gifts to get for family and friends. Gifts for kids, for parents, for significant others, the mail carrier, the guy who cuts your grass or cleans out your gutters, your kid’s teachers, and so on and so forth.

Last year around this time, I posted a (hopefully) humorous and helpful list of holiday gifts for writers. Well, as it tends to do this time each year, the holiday season is once again upon us, so I figured this was a topic worth revisiting.

So, what to get the writer in your life? 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. Here are a handful of ideas, a few of which are carried over from last year's list. Most of them are know...real, though I couldn't resist a few "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 always students and 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 Get Off Your Butt 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tend to eat like crap, particularly if we’re neck deep in a story and all other considerations and priorities have been rescinded.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 crying out loud. 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. Since that’s unlikely to happen, you can probably just stick with that time-tested standby option, Chocolate.

Lounge Pants. Last year I advocated buying comfy sweatpants for that special writer in your life. Since then, I’ve 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.

Notebooks/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 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.

Story Cubes. How have these been around all this time and I didn’t know about them? 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 per set, and they even have one for Batman! 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.

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.

“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.

Writer’s Hut/Shed. We’ve all heard about these little sheds or shacks that we stick in our back yard or some other quiet space, loaded up with everything we need to get on with our writing, which we can then call our own while we wrestle with our muse.  The very mention of such an intimate refuge conjures images of George Bernard Shaw working in a quiet corner of the property surrounding his home. Granted, a gift on this scale is likely a budget-buster for most people, but if you’ve got a trust fund or just won the lottery, something like this would probably be one of the coolest gifts you could ever present to any writer:

Well, except me, I guess. I’m thinking I’d have better luck with something like this:

So, somebody get on that for me, okay?

All righty, then. What else makes a good gift for the writers on your shopping lists? If you’re a writer, what sort of gift would you most appreciate? Be you gift giver or hopeful recipient, do you have your own suggestions, sincere or otherwise?


Charles Gramlich said...

If I had to eat Kale I might have to give up writing. :)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jewel Amethyst said...

Cash would be great! :)

KeVin K. said...

I know for a fact some members of this group could set you up with that writing writing locale you asked for. (Of course, getting there and being able to eat and whatnot once you were there would be entirely up to you.) Don't hold your breath, though. I've been hinting around about something similar for going on a decade now and have only gotten responses like: "Yes, it is lovely here. I can't imagine why anyone would live in the States."

Really like the story cube idea. Tempted to buy several sets and roll a novel. And I am very much a notebook fan. Spiral bound at the top for easy flipping in confined areas and with an extra thick back so you don't need to find a level surface to set it on while working. The one full of notes by my laptop now (can't find a brand name on it) has numbered lines, which is very handy when referring one note back to another.

But I think that overall Jewel hit upon the perfect gift. Whether for writing supplies, sojourns on Caribbean islands, or paying the power bill, cash is always the perfect gift.

Dayton Ward said...

Hey, I like cash as much as he next guy. Count me in!

The Story Cubes are actually really fun. I'm thinking I'll roll them out (see what I did there?) for the kids to try on our next game night. My daughters will likely get a kick out of them.

I'm still not sold on kale, though.

Liane Spicer said...

So I had a comment all prepared, then I read the other comments and discarded it. I was going to endorse Dayton's list--with the possible exception of the kale--but then Jewel just hit it out of the park. I'll take the cash over everything here, even that writing shed I've been hankering after.

Err... Kevin Killiany, weren't you supposed to coordinate this Caribbean meet-up thing since 2007 or thereabouts? Watcha waiting for, man? :D

(Who says I've been playing Solitaire anyway? *looks over shoulder*)