Hello, Happy Writers! Tomorrow is my birthday (Cue the confetti cannons and cart in the seven layer ice cream cake, thank you very much — what, you mean you didn’t get me a seven layer ice cream cake? Well, fine.) As I try to scrounge my brain to appease the relatives impatiently asking me what I want them to buy me for my birthday (bookstore gift cards, please and thanks), it got me thinking — it can be difficult to buy gifts for writers.
Writers tend to be reclusive, introverted, quiet little creatures who are happiest when left alone in our own worlds. So, what do you get a writer who has no immediate need for anything? What do writers want?
Here are some ideas:
1. All the Pens.
You know what I would sincerely love? A gift basket of every single brand of pen in the office supply store, so I can try them all out and conclusively decide which is my favorite. If the writer in your life is anything like me, they go through more pens more quickly than they would care to admit–and their preference for a certain writing utensil is as temperamental as their story’s antagonist.
Some days, I prefer the fast-flowing ink of a .07 mm gel pen, so my handwriting can keep up with my tumbling-over-themselves thoughts. But, the 0.5 mm fine tipped pens always keep my handwriting neat and legible, and I prefer to use them when I’m writing in a margins of a printed draft, trying to squeeze my thoughts between the double-spaced lines.
Give your writer a huge, varied selection of pens — cheap to expensive, ballpoint, rollerball, gel, fine tipped marker — and let them discover which is their favorite.
2. Notebooks — All the Notebooks
Now, this one is heavily reliant on personal preference, so if you don’t know your writer well, you’re best off getting a small selection. Every writer prefers a different medium. Some like composition books (or Decomposition books.) Some like cute journals, or classic moleskins. Some, like me, prefer cheap spiral-bound notebooks to collect our thoughts — so long as the paper isn’t too thin! But regardless of preference, it’s safe to say that a good notebook that isn’t too heavy (or too small) and isn’t liable to fall apart easily (we put them through a TON of abuse) is a GREAT gift for a writer, and one they’re sure to get TONS of use out of.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Mead Pastel Spiral-Bound Notebooks – This is what I’m using at the moment.
- Moleskins – A perennial classic
- Cognitive Surplus Notebooks – These come in several different sizes, with lined, graph, or blank pages (or a mix!) And the covers are AMAZING.
- Obvious State on Etsy makes great literary prints and paper goods. You can get a three-pack of journals with literary quotes on the cover. I especially like this Oscar Wilde design.
- Target always has a great selection of notebooks in their school supply aisles. Try Barnes & Noble, too!
3. Books About Writing — So That When We Procrastinate, We Can Do It Productively
There are TONS of great books out there chock-filled with writing advice. (See my post on the subject: 10 BOOKS EVERY WRITER SHOULD READ TO BOOST CREATIVITY AND FEEL TOTALLY AWESOME. (Excuse the caps. I was very passionate about the subject.)) Here are some standouts:
- The Emotion Thesaurus (And its sequels!) These books are fantastic. The Emotion Thesaurus has descriptive suggestions for every emotion your character could possibly hope to convey, and is a great resource to mine for ideas when fleshing out the description in scenes. I especially love the sequels The Rural Setting Thesaurus and Urban Setting Thesaurus; for dozens and dozens of possible locations, these books list potential smells, sights, and sounds, to help you better get into the headspace of the world you’re trying to describe. If you’re feeling stuck, this is the book to read!
- Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. A really beautifully put together book that walks the writer through the writing process from first thought to final edit, with some GORGEOUS artwork to boot.
- Stephen King’s On Writing. A perennial classic that every writer ought to have on their shelves.
- Save the Cat! Even if your writer isn’t writing screenplays, Save the Cat! has a plot breakdown and beat sheet that every writer working on tightening their story should study.
- Write Your Novel From the Middle. This is a tiny little book (would look adorable in a gift basket!) that is all about plotting your novel from the Midpoint Mirror Moment outwards. A great resource, especially for a writer deep in revisions.
If you know any specifics about their works-in-progress, you could get them even more specialized books, like:
- The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference – This is a great resource for someone building a fantasy world. It has information on creating a fantasy religion, finding unique jobs for villagers, building a magic system, and so much more.
- Peterson’s Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs – Maybe your writer is working on a story about someone abandoned in the woods, living off the land; or creating a fantasy world where the witches brew potions from plants plucked from the forest. This could be a great source of research for a writer.
- Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins – If your writer loves using Latin or Greek to create their magic spells, or fantasy town names, or anything else like that, this dictionary will be sure to help them out.
- Writing Fight Scenes – Maybe your writer is working on an action packed thriller with lots of bare-knuckle brawls!
- Body Trauma: A Writer’s Guide to Wound and Injuries – Because we all torture our characters, don’t we? If we’re going to put our protagonist through intense physical trauma, we might as well do it realistically.
These are all thoughtful gifts that’ll show you’re paying attention to something that means the world to them.
4. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
So we can block out all other distractions. (Mainly other people.)
Cute earmuffs work too!
5. Alternatively, story-specific playlists and ambient sounds soundtracks so we can write with the perfect background accompaniment.
Create a playlist of songs on YouTube or iTunes based on their project! Or, you can use a site like ambient-mixer.com to create ambient noise soundtracks for background music.
If you know they’re writing a fantasy story set in a magical library, for instance, you could create a soundtrack of shuffling pages, wind rattling windowpanes, the flicker of candlelight … Or, maybe their story is a thriller set in a forest. Create a playlist of hooting owls, and snapping sticks, and the crackle of a campfire!
6. Writerly Mugs to facilitate copious caffeine consumption
There are so many cute, writer-y mugs online that’ll appeal to the scribe’s most scribbly heart. For instance:
Look up key terms like “writer mug” “literary mug” “books mug” and the like to find some really cool designs. Also, be sure to try Society6 and RedBubble! (And, if you want to be really awesome, try out the Happy Writer Society6 store!)
7. A Fancy Do Not Disturb Sign
Tell the writer in your life that you’re going to respect their privacy and process by buying or making them a Do Not Disturb sign to hang on the door of their writing room!
This is a great DIY project, as well, if you’d like to make something by hand!
8. Build Them Their Own Writer’s Retreat
Professional writer’s retreats can be amazing, but expensive. You have to apply to the program, arrange air travel, take off work; it’s a lot. Consider putting together a mini writer’s retreat for the writer in your life. Maybe you get them a one night stay at a local hotel, or offer to babysit their kid for the day so they can have an uninterrupted 24 hours to focus on writing. Or you could you go nuts and construct a Dylan Thomas/Roald Dahl-style Writing Shed in their back garden — the sky’s the limit!
9. Gifts Specific To Their Work
Maybe the writer in your life is working on a zombie novel — you could buy them a plush stuffed zombie and a pack of The Walking Dead DVDs. (For research!) My WIP features a mysterious, moving Door, so any artwork, jewelry, or figurines of a door mean EVERYTHING to me.
If you’ve been lucky enough to read your writer’s work, mine it for little details you might use in a gift. Maybe there’s a dessert repeatedly mentioned, or an article of clothing that a character wears. Consider taking a line from their work and getting it printed on a mug or t-shirt through a site like RedBubble or CafePress. If you can sneak away with the description of a character, you could find an artist on Tumblr or elsewhere taking commissions and pay them for a work of original fanart! (Though, be forewarned that such a gift might send your writer into a fit of hysterical happy tears.)
Again, this idea is for people that are really, really familiar with their giftee’s work, so don’t fret if you don’t know enough to get something quite so personal. Writers are nervous little creatures, after all; it takes a lot for us to share our work!! But, if you do know something about the story your giftee is writing, a detailed present like this will definitely strike a very emotional cord.
10. The Best Gift of All: Patience, Support, and A Promise Never to Ask Why We Aren’t Done With Our Book Yet.
Got anything to add to the list? What’s the best writing-related present you’ve ever gotten? Leave a comment below, let’s talk!