Oh boy, oh boy! I’ll warn you right now, if holiday talk drives you nuts, especially when it’s pre-December, you’ll want to run away, because I love the holidays, and Christmas, and the holiday talk is going to commence shortly.
Still here? Yes! Then let’s get crackin’. It’s almost Black Friday, and I’ve got fifteen holiday gift ideas for writers that will knock your socks off. And if you’re a writer wondering what to give your friends and family, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with some of these ideas, too.
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Books, incredible books ...
1. The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One (Margaret Lobenstine) *
When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I’ve struggled for years with feeling disloyal, like I wasn’t passionate enough, if I felt as strongly about anything else as I did about writing. It’s so hard to be creative when you’re denying who you really are, but I wasn’t sure how to address the balance, or at least I wasn’t until I read this book! While The Renaissance Soul wasn’t written specifically for writers, it could have been. If you’ve ever wondered how to balance your writing with another passion, like art or gaming or swimming, you need to read this book. If you’ve struggled to blend your writing into a life filled with family and work, you need to read this book. If you’re a writer who feels guilty about the time you spend writing, you need to read this book. It’s one of the most practical, affirming, and genuine books I’ve ever read about people who have creative souls, and it’s at the top of my list of recommendations for just about every writer I meet.
2. A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life (Judy Reeves) *
This is the most comprehensive, useful book of writing prompts I’ve ever encountered. Judy Reeves offers up a different prompt for each day of the year, suited for a variety of genres, blocks, and writing styles. She also includes short essays and advice on different aspects of the life of a writer, such as healing through writing and being vulnerable on the page. Some of her pieces, such as the one on wordplay, come with even more suggestions and prompts! You could work through this book for a year and never once get bored or feel like you’re just doing the same old, same old.
3. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (Jeff VanderMeer) *
Wonderbook is the most stunningly beautiful writing book I’ve ever encountered. You can look at the pictures and illustrations for ages, and your imagination will run wild. It’s not just visually beautiful, however: it’s packed full of advice on everything from worldbuilding to revision, both from the author and writers like Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. Le Guin. While there is some content within aimed especially at writers of fantasy and science fiction, there’s more than enough about creativity and fiction writing in general that it would be worth the price for any fiction writer. If you’re easily overwhelmed, I’d recommend taking it one page at a time, in small doses over a series of days. Read it straight through from beginning to end, which is how the author suggests experiencing it at first - and yes, this book is an experience, one you won’t soon forget.
4. The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder (Erin Blakemore) *
I stumbled on this book by accident, and oh, am I ever glad I did. It doesn’t just revisit epic moments from incredible female characters; it delves into the stories behind their creation (and creators) and serves as a guidebook to living a vivid, authentic life. Readers and writers alike will adore this exploration of some of the greatest female writers, like L.M. Montgomery and Harper Lee, especially because it doesn’t just skim the surface. You really get a sense of these authors, their lives, and how it affected their writing process and the books they produced.
5. Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer's Resistance (Rosanne Bane) *
If you’ve ever wanted a scientific explanation to satisfy your nosy neighbor about why you’re struggling with writer’s block, this is the book for you. It’s immensely practical and has one of the clearest, most useful approaches to writer’s block I’ve ever encountered. Rosanne Bane makes it feel like something tangible that can be overcome rather than something ethereal and insurmountable, which is no mean feat. It’s also fascinating reading for anyone interested in the inner workings of the mind and the construction of habits, which describes many writers I know, myself included. If you’re one of us, definitely check this one out!
6. The Novel Planner
While I haven’t personally had the pleasure of using Kristen’s planner, it’s on my list to purchase in the new year, because I swear she’s thought of everything a writer could possibly need in a planner. It has spaces for character sketches, writing goals, marketing strategies, and copious other features, along with the scheduling pages you’d have in an average planner. I haven’t seen anything else like it, not unless you’re willing to heavily adapt a different system.
Thinking a little outside the box ...
7. Fingerless gloves
Whether we’re writing by hand or by machine, chances are there will come a time when the wind’s whistling and the heater can’t quite keep up with the chill. It’s hard to concentrate on writing when your trembling hands struggle to keep up. Fingerless gloves alleviate a great deal of that discomfort, letting you write on for hours more (or until your three year old toddles in)! I tend to knit or crochet my own, so if you want to buy a pair of fingerless gloves for yourself or a writer friend, I’d suggest looking at Etsy. Alternatively, if you’re up to making some, check out the Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts pattern on Ravelry. You’ll have to make a free account, if you don’t have one already, but if you knit or crochet, you’ll absolutely LOVE being a Ravelry member!
One thing you can be sure of with a writer is that we read. Copiously. (And then we use words like “copiously” because we saw it in a book once.) And some of us are a wee bit particular about marking the spot in the book where we stop for the night. Some don’t mind dog-earing the pages, while to others that’s a sin worse than eating all the chocolate in the house. Find some bookmarks that (a) are cute/have a wonderful quote/look like David Tennant, (b) stay in place, and (c) don’t ruffle the pages, and we’ll be your friend for life. Or at least until the next book comes along, demanding our attention.
9. Tea Sampler
Writers spend a lot of time curled up in one spot, poring over pages of a manuscript or scribbling away in a notebook. In the colder months, we tend to be accompanied by a pot of tea, and while we can be creatures of habit, it’s fun to try something new once in a while. It could even jumpstart our creativity! Check out your local tea store to pick up a sampler in person, or have one delivered from some place like DavidsTea (Canada), Teavana (United States), or T2 Tea (Australia).
10. Create a Book Cover
One of the things that can help keep us going along a lengthy, twisty road (like the path we follow to write a novel!) is visualizing the little things we’re looking forward to. For those of us pursuing publication, one of those things would be seeing our book’s cover for the first time. Why not bring that joy to one of your fellow writers by having a cover designed (framed, even) for their work-in-progress? Who says a book has to be finished before it can have a cover? Design it yourself, if you possess the skillset, or shell out to have a graphic designer make something brilliant. Don’t forget to include the author’s name as well as the current title of their WIP!
Gifts of time ...
11. Gift Certificates
Every writer struggles sometimes to fit writing time in amongst the chaos of everyday life. This year, ease that burden a little by writing out some handmade gift certificates for things like babysitting, dog walking, drycleaning, whatever is feasible for you to do on occasion that would free up a block of their time. If this is a writing friend who lives at a distance, take the second-best option and get them some gift certificates to local services that can serve the same purpose.
12. “You Have All of Me” Date/Outing
Writing can be all encompassing, if we let it. That’s part of the fun, really. Anything we do or encounter is potential fodder for our stories. It also means, though, that we can get so engrossed it in, we fail to be fully present for the people we’re with. It’s hard to carry on a conversation when you’re brainstorming an idea in your head, filing away phrases for dialogue passages, or detangling a character snarl. This holiday season, give your significant other or your best friend the gift of your presence: one date or outing with as little writing talk as possible, focusing instead on what you’re doing together and things that interest you both.
13. Memorialize an important event
Who’s had a momentous, joyful event in their life this year? Maybe a birth, or a completed marathon, or taking their business full-time? Commemorate it in writing, be it a short story, a poem, or creative nonfiction. If you were there, perfect: you can draw from your own memory. If you weren’t, gather information from friends and family who were, and memorialize this event for the person to look back on in future.
14. Create a writing or work-in-progress soundtrack
Remember all that time you spent on YouTube, scouring videos for the perfect background music to write by? Save yourself, or a fellow writer, some time in future by putting together a soundtrack for them. Create a playlist (or several) suited to particular types of writing, with different pieces for tragic scenes, battle scenes, romantic scenes (you get the idea!), or a specific work-in-progress, choosing songs the characters might listen to or that particularly evoke a certain section. Keep in mind preferences for instrumental music versus music with vocals, especially if this is a gift for someone else: some writers get hopelessly distracted by vocals in songs, while others prefer it. Once you’re ready, you can either burn the writing soundtrack to a CD-R, if it will be played in a CD-ROM player or a computer, or a USB flash drive.
15. Empower a loved one with your writing
What’s one thing your loved has been wanting to do but not quite scrounged up the courage for? Write a story about them turning this goal into a reality. Put your imagination to work as you depict how they might go about it and how it could make them feel, in as vivid detail as you can muster. As writers, we know full well how self-doubt can hinder the road to our dreams, and how much it helps when someone believes in us. Don’t just tell them: show them with this most precious of gifts that you believe they’re capable of hiking the Camino or orchestrating a groundbreaking event for their nonprofit organization.
While the holidays are about far more than what we get under the tree or in our stockings, there's something precious about watching someone's face light up when you give them a gift that comes from the heart. What's on your shopping/crafting list this year?