With the back to school season winding down, it won’t be long before the Christmas trees go on sale, and the tacky Santas start popping up everywhere. If you’ve got a writer on your list, or just need a gift for that writerly pal or “special someone,” you may be stumped.
You could go with the cliché journal or Barnes and Noble gift card. While we writers always appreciate those and can put them to good use, we secretly wish you would be more creative. After all, people have been giving us those since we were ten. Instead, try some of these gift ideas compiled by surveying a group of professional writers.
This writing software from Literature and Latte is a buzz among writers. Created specifically with the needs of novel writers in mind, Scrivener can do things that put boring MS Word to shame.
My favorite feature is the “snapshot.” If you are working on a passage, and decide you want to do major surgery on it, but aren’t sure if you will shred it to ribbons, you can take a snapshot. This allows you to save the current version, and then go to work on the passage. If you’ve found you’ve chopped it to death, no worries. With a click, you can revert to the original, saved right there on the sidebar. And you can have as many versions of the same passage as you want going.
That feature alone sold me on Scrivener, and it’s just one of the many things it does. The whole thing costs a whopping $40. Compare that to the upwards of $120 price tag of MS Word, who, in the quest to be everything to be everyone, tends to be weighted down with useless features.
With the proliferation of tablet computers, and the blurring lines between computers and smartphones, it may seem useless to buy a Kindle. A Kindle app is available on any device. But, what makes Kindles and e-readers unique is that they are designed to look and feel like a book. One way they do this is with the backlighting. You know that zoned out, disgusting feeling with a mild headache, you get if you stare at a computer for eight to ten hours straight? Kindles are specifically lit so that you don’t experience that. Even if your writer is an iPad/iPhone snob, they will still enjoy the book feeling of having a Kindle.
Many writers find that music really helps the creative process. If they write in places where their music might disturb others, then they may appreciate good headphones. Headphones have gotten pretty sophisticated in recent years, so you can have a lot of fun choosing a great set. In that vein, iTunes gift cards are also a good bet.
Blast from the Past
There’s a revivalist charm to typewriters among writers, particularly the ones too young to have ever used one. A nice typewriter on display, or especially a collection of antique ones, can add a vintage element to any writer’s office. You can find basic ones at thrift stores for dirt cheap. But if you want a true antique, you can scour online ads where they go for just under $100.
It’s a new trend to have fountain pens, a nod to the writers that have gone before. Barnes and Noble sells them occasionally, but if you can find them online or at a novelty gift shop, even better.
A Moment on the Lips
Teas, tea sets and coffees
Writers spend a lot of time sipping beverages and pondering our latest pieces. We are known for loving beverages of all kinds. Of the adult variety, we try to stay away from them on deadline. During work hours, we love exotic teas and coffees. Stores like Teavana sell chic teapots, teas and tea sets. Your writer may love a nice kettle, tea set, or flavored tea. Further, we enjoy experimenting with new coffee flavors. We probably have most of the stuff you get in the grocery aisle, but we may like to try specialty blends from coffee stores.
When we are not drinking tea, we are drinking coffee. We love our mugs, and can become quite attached to the right cup. After all, coffee is just not the same if it’s not in a good cup. My favorite right now is a purple contoured mug I found at Ikea for 99 cents. It’s dainty, feminine, and fits my hand perfectly. And nothing beats a great travel mug. I found one at Macy’s that I fell in love with, and it followed me everywhere, like Little Bo Beep’s sheep. It was the perfect size, and incredibly spillproof.
Cushions or Chair Massage Pads
We spend hours upon hours sitting in our desk chairs. We don’t usually notice because we are so wrapped up in what we are putting on the screen. But, at some point, we can’t ignore the feeling of pure bone piercing into our spines. That cliffhanger scene where we reveal that the heir to the fortune was actually the uncle’s secret love child, must wait. We need a break. A good cushion for our chair or better, a chair massage pad, would be very helpful. As would also, a massage certificate from a local spa.
Inspirational paperweights, candles, snarky quotes from Andy Warhol, and other novelty desk toys are always appreciated.
We not only like coffee and tea, but we also enjoy cold beverages while we work. There are a number of personal refrigerators you can get online. They can keep a couple of cold beverages waiting at your desk for you. Some can even run from your USB port. Other USB goodies include a coaster-size beverage warmer/cooler, and a laptop vacuum. Just read the reviews to make sure these work first!
Nervous habit toys for the over-caffeinated are also helpful. Silly putty, stress balls, finger puppets of famous writers/philosophers, and other random accessories are great to fidget with when you are trying to be creative. As a matter of fact, check out the entire site at philosophersguild.com. They have a lot of fun snarky stuff.
While it’s true we do our real writing on the computer, we still love great pens. We love the way they feel in our hands, and as they glide across the page, and we love the way the ink from a good pen looks on paper. We also love to play with them as we think. A really nice pen, or a collection of novelty pens, would be a great gift.
For the Big Spender
A Stay at a Writer’s Cabin or Retreat
This is the ultimate writer’s dream—a chance to get away from everything and zone in on a project. A week, or even a weekend, of no distractions and perhaps bouncing off other writers, would be the best gift ever to give a writer. There are a number of writers retreats and writers cabins online, but even if you don’t do a “writer’s retreat,” per se, even a few days alone at a peaceful resort to work on that project would render you forever appreciated.
Most writers write in a specific genre—historical fiction, fantasy, music, whatever. A reference book on that topic would be a thoughtful gift, especially if there’s a groundbreaking new bestseller.
Not a dictionary or thesaurus, we already have these in print and online. But, writers love great quotes. We love to use them, ponder them, and tweet them. A good book of quotes, literary or otherwise would be fun. Also, every writer’s library must include classics such as, “The Elements of Style,” by Strunk and White. “On Writing,” by Stephen King, and “Zen and the Art of Writing,” by Ray Bradbury.
Apart from being a writer, your writer is of course, a dynamic person with diverse interests and needs. So, while this advice focuses on their professional/artistic leanings, trust your instincts, and be creative. After all, it’s the thought that counts. And if all else fails, you can never go wrong with a good journal and a gift card. Happy shopping!