Here’s my highly-opinionated view of gift-giving for writers. In case you’re wondering…and even if you’re not.
What Not to Give
Unless your writer friend mentions or asks for any of these things, stay away from:
- Pens, pencils and writing implements of any kind. The fact is, we either already have enough, or we’ve got a really expensive favorite which you won’t want to spring for.
- Notebooks, paper, diaries. For the same reasons.
- “Writer” t-shirts, hats, tote bags, plaques, signs, etc. A teacher acquaintance once referred to these types of gifts for teachers – which usually included depictions of apples – as “crapple,” and the phrase has stuck with me ever since. IMO, items like these are like “crapple” for writers… Don’t do it.
- The same goes for bookmarks, literary “action figures”, writing-related jewelry, bookends, etc. Um…yeah. Just don’t.
- Printer paper, ink cartridges, toner or miscellaneous office supplies, and even stamps. These are rudimentary business items required by many writers who actively submit their manuscripts to agents, magazines and publishers.
Giving these items is like giving a vacuum cleaner to your wife for her birthday. Don’t do it.
Think About Giving:
- Books. Really. You can’t give a writer too many books…but not just any books. Buy the latest books available in the genre your writer friend specializes in. Writers need to be widely read in their field in order to keep up with trends. It’s impossible to buy all the books published in a given year in a particular category. You can help.
- A Magazine or Journal Subscription. Ditto above. Get something in the writer’s field. I frankly don’t want a subscription to The New Yorker even though it’s highly respected. Give me Asimov’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog…
Does your writer friend write poetry or literary fiction? Then a sampling of several different literary magazines might be on target. (It gets expensive ordering copies of litmags just to see if you want to submit.)
Note: If your writer friend is anywhere beyond the beginning stages of writing, stay away from “how to” magazines such as Writer’s Digest, The Writer and Poets & Writers Magazine. (Unless they ask, of course.) Ditto how-to books.
- A gift certificate to a book store.
- An E-reader, like the Kindle, the Kindle Fire or Nook. (There are others… and as with all these suggestions, do your research before purchasing!)
- A portable hard drive to back up all their manuscripts.
- A small digital recorder he or she can carry to record story ideas and thoughts.
- The new Asus Transformer Prime (quad core) tablet with keyboard accessory, available December 19. (To be sure, a gift to be given by a really close friend or perhaps a Husband of Awesome™.)
Gifts that “Go Away”
I’m a big fan of gifts that get consumed (so the house remains uncluttered):
- Good coffee. (And don’t just go to Starbucks, not everyone — ahem — enjoys their over-roasted, burned up beans.)
- A nice bottle of wine or spirits.
- Chocolate. And do make certain it’s fine chocolate. You don’t have to buy a lot when you buy the good stuff: a little goes a long way.
- A gift certificate for a massage (to help relieve that deadline stress and endless hours sitting at a desk) or for a manicure (because typing is hard on the hands).
Inexpensive Gifts, or Gifts from the Self
Every writer I know can use a little more time in their day to get their writing stuff done. Since the time machine hasn’t been invented yet, you really can’t lengthen their day…but you can give gifts that will save your favorite writer some time.
Of everything mentioned on this list, these are my favorites:
- Coupons or gift certificates (that you can easily make yourself) for:
- running to the store to pick up a few things
- baby sitting or child care (especially useful on deadline days)
- researching their next project
- updating their web site (or building a new one)
- taking digital pictures they can use on their blog or Web site, (or)
- taking their portrait (every writer needs a good photo for their Web site and book jackets!)
- Read what they’ve written, and write a thoughtful, honest review at:
- library thing
- your own blog, or any other review sites you’re familiar with.
- Help with their marketing by:
- “friending” them on Facebook, Google and other similar sites
- following them on Twitter – and re-tweeting their clever and witty tweets
- “liking”, digging, stumbling upon, +1-ing and “whatever else-ing” their blog posts on all the appropriate social media channels (super mondo bonus points if you go through your writer friend’s entire blog and do this for every appropriate post)
- “tagging” all their books at amazon.com
- adding their blog to your ‘blogroll’
- linking to their Web site from your own
A Final Note
It’s nice that you think of your writer friends, and want to give a gift to highlight that fact, but, writers are people, too. Writing might suck up their entire life, but they’re not all about writing. They have interests outside the written word. (Would you buy your construction-worker friend a new pair of steel-toed boots for Christmas?)
In short: you don’t have to give a writer a gift related to writing.
And if you have no clue: ask! If you’re close enough to give a gift to someone, they’ll appreciate that you want to give them something they’ll like.
Which also means: if you don’t know them well enough to ask, maybe you shouldn’t be buying a gift. That would be like stalking. Ick.