The silly season is rapidly approaching. If you’re like me, you try to start doing a little bit of Christmas shopping as early as possible, to spread the cost out rather than do the last minute huge expense panic.
In honor of that, here is a list of ideas for the writers in your life (WIYL). Or a list of ideas that a writer may forward to you in hopes of receiving something on this list.
1) Gift certificates (GCs) for an office supply store or computer/electronics store.
Let’s face it; computers are expensive (not as much as they used to be, but still not cheap). I’m always amazed at the idea that people buy computers as gifts at Christmas. It’s certainly not in my budget! My mother bought me an iPod one year, and I was floored…I hadn’t expected anything that expensive for Christmas. Find out if the WIYL is drooling over a computer at a specific store, and get them a gift certificate for that store. It doesn’t hurt to check and see if others are doing the same, and make sure they’re getting GCs for the SAME store so that it can all go toward the one big purchase.
Laser printers are also not nearly as expensive as they used to be. I got mine two years ago for about $100.00 on sale; I think prices are now about what I spent without sales. Still, a bit high for some budgets. A GC toward this purchase is also a good idea.
I am also one of those weird people who can geek out at Staples or Office Depot, or any other office supply store. I suspect that a lot of other writers can as well. What expenses might a writer have there? Paper, ink cartridges, mailing supplies, pens, envelopes, flash drives, and external hard drives all cost money. So does a filing system to keep track of submissions. Yes, it’s potentially tax deductible, but it’s not necessarily cheap.
I would very much be shocked if the WIYL does not have a book wish list somewhere. If they do not already have a list of books they like on Goodreads, they may have a wish list on Amazon. If they don’t, encourage them to do so. It makes book buying for them easier for you if you can take their Goodreads list to the bookstore, show the clerk, and ask for a recommendation, or take the Amazon list and buy something from the list.
If you want to get them a book on writing…stay tuned…I’m planning a post down the road where I’ll list writing books I would recommend.
3) Empty notebooks, with cool covers. Even the moleskin ones.
It’s like catnip to writers. Even if they end up not using them, many of us cannot resist them. Find out what the WIYL thinks about them.
4) iTunes GCs or CDs.
I have a tendency to listen to certain bands when I’m working on a piece. On my first (now trunked) novel, I listened to a lot of Celtic rock; Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, a local band called Homeland that I love. On the novel I’m working on now, I’ve listened to a lot of K.T. Tunstall, Pink, Stevie Nicks, and some oldies rock. It does help keep the brain in a specific place. Find out what inspires them, or get them a way to download more of the same to keep them cranking.
5) Cash for conference tuition, travel and expenses.
I ran into a woman at a conference who told me that she attends one specific conference every year. She asks for the tuition for the conference for her Christmas gift from her husband every year. He makes her happy without having to guess what she wants. She comes up with the travel expenses herself, and he makes sure the kids and house are taken care of while she’s gone. She gets what she wants for Christmas; he doesn’t have to guess, and they really like the way it’s set up.
Not a bad idea if you want to go to the same place every year. I tend to bounce around a bit more, so it wouldn’t necessarily work for me. On the other hand, there are a couple of conferences I’d dearly love to go to that are just out of reach every year…whether it’s expensive to fly or the hotel is expensive or the conference tuition is just slightly out of my budget comfort zone. There’s one in particular that I’d love to go to that requires an application; I haven’t applied because if I got in, I’d be worried about covering the cost.
What conference plans does the WIYL have for the next year? Can you contribute? Even a gas card for a full tank of gas for the one they’re driving to is a help!
6) Don’t have money? Unable to afford much? There are still options!
Give them a coupon book of services you can help with through the year.
- Babysitting for an hour for uninterrupted writing time
- Coupon for an afternoon of coffee and brainstorming time with you; you can even provide the back porch and the coffee yourself.
- Housesitting while they go to a conference (this includes picking up mail and newspapers, by the way!)
- Petsitting while they go to a conference
- Offer to be a “beta reader”…give them your thoughts and feedback; be prepared to give them an honest read. Being nice does not help them get better, being mean will ruin a friendship. Be willing to give them the good and the bad in a constructive manner. For example, I asked my mother to read my novel. I did not want her to feel like she had to tell me it was wonderful if she thought it sucked. Instead, I asked Mom (a retired teacher) to help seek out grammar mistakes. She’s found two so far that all my writer critique groups and beta readers and my editing have missed. And she’s asked me when she gets to read the rest of it. That’s priceless, because I’m going a little blind on it.
- Don’t know anything about writing, but know something about computers? Offer a coupon for unspecified “tech support” for when their computer goes boom. It happens. I’ve crashed my own hard drive on this computer three times in the nearly five years I’ve had it, due to finding a virus, finding spyware I couldn’t get rid of otherwise, and reconfiguring my setup when I got the netbook. I’m no where near being a computer expert. I’ve had a couple of times that I’ve had to call friends for advice on a computer related snafu. In my old job, I had people who came to me for computer advice. My friends who have jobs in IT and computer support think that’s funny since I call them for help. I joke that I have enough computer know-how to be dangerous. My point is that if you know that the WIYL is computer knowledge-deficient, or that you have more expertise than they do, this is invaluable support.
- A coupon to mow their lawn and/or weed their flowerbeds when they’re on deadline, or when the story’s cooking.
- A coupon for dinner (at your house) to get them to take a break, get dinner, and not have to cook when they’re digging hard at getting it done.
- Hold a book swap event at your house…where all your friends, including the WIYL, show up with books they would donate or give away, and swap them for free “new” reading material.
- Find out what music is inspiring them and see if you own something similar. Make a compilation CD for them.
A good friend of mine bought me a calendar a couple of years ago that was filled with writing quotes and inspirations sayings related to writing, and a blank page book that matched it. I loved it. This gift would not work now, because now I keep one calendar with all my work, personal, and writing stuff all in one place, but it was a well-thought out gift with some real consideration behind it. Remember that it’s not about how much you spend; it’s about the thought you put in it.
Writer friends…what have I missed? Can anyone think of other ideas?