After recently conducting an exhaustive and meticulously researched scientific survey online (Thank you Facebook friends!), it has come to my attention that there is a vast difference between what writers want for Christmas, and what non-writers think they want. For a start, we definitely don’t want a set of motivational fridge magnets - or even more embarrassing –shopping bags, featuring slogans such as “Keep Calm, and Carry on Writing.” or “Words don’t bleed, so cut them.” Yuck – as my son would say. No thanks, Father Christmas.
Nor, do we want, despite popular misconceptions to the contrary, a publishing deal. I mean, yes of course we want a publishing deal – der! But we’d rather earn one through sheer talent and hard work than receive it gift-wrapped on a silver platter (Would we? – Ed) One fellow writer suggested a cleaner, which is a good idea, but perhaps beyond the budgets of most writers’ friends and relations, and somebody else came up with “magic pen/pencil” but was vague as to how it/they would work, so for patent-pending reasons I haven’t included it in the list below.
But now without further ado, let me introduce my own Top 9 Christmas Gift ideas for writers in no real order at all- and please feel free to add your own suggestions underneath.
1) A Hangman Pencil Topper - £2.08p
Now these are great! For a little more than £2 you get a handsome blue or red pencil with a gorgeous little pewter model of a man dangling from a gibbet imbedded at the non-writing end – the perfect metaphor for the role of editor, first reader or workshop compatriot. Not to mention a poignant reminder that all writing is really about staving off death. At least that was what I was thinking a few years ago when I presented one to my creative writing teacher as an end of term ‘thank you’. I’m still not sure if she ‘got it’, but she kept her office door wedged open during our one-to-one tutorial the following day, so perhaps not. Find one at a variety of suitably themed museum shops or here.
2) Paperchase Notebooks – From £3.50
Show me a writer and I’ll show you a stationary addict. Which is a bit of an oxymoron considering that so many writers use laptops and other gadgets to ferry their words into the world. But some of us do still like to carry a notebook or seven to jot down ideas. And most writers can never have enough – there’s the one you keep by the bed for writing your dreams in, the one in the car for driving-inspired ideas, the one by the loo for …. Perhaps I won’t go on, but you get the idea. Personally, my notebooks have to be small and light enough to fit into my handbag or coat pocket, and they need to contain lined pages because otherwise my writing runs downhill. Otherwise I’m not fussy – Except that actually I am - very fussy – My notebooks MUST be A6 size, spiral bound and from Paperchase or I can’t write (mewls pitifully)– but that’s just me. The Moleskin variety are also popular, but take my word for it; no writer will thank you for something in which the paper is arguably more interesting that the ideas going onto it – so avoid that awful handmade stuff made of leaves and raw wood pulp. Nobody wants a fossilized ear of corn interrupting the flow of ‘A Great Idea’.
3) Writing pyjamas £34.50
A lot of writers I know believe in the 3 Ps rule of literary creativity – Pens, Paper, Pyjamas – and the cafepress website has the perfect selection for those of us who like to write in the middle of the night, early morning, or who quite frankly may be the kind of people to wear pyjamas all day long. Okay so I said no motivational slogans, but these lovelies just about get away with it.
4) An Agatha Christie Apron £17.50
One good way to please the writer in your life is to pay homage to their favourite author as a way of obliquely flattering them by implying that you hold their own work in similar esteem to the famous author’s. With this in mind I would be delighted to receive an Agatha Christie Apron on christmas morning. How much more fun serving canape’s and drinks to suspicious in-laws when wearing one of these!
“A smell of Pear drops about the smoked salmon blinis, Mrs R? I think your imagination is getting the better of you.... Here, have a stirrup cup of strychnine, I mean Eggnog.”
5) A year’s subscription to Mslexia (From £20.75) or Other Interesting Journal
Okay chaps, so I know Mslexia is billed as ‘the magazine for women who write,’ but it’s stuffed full of great articles, updates on writing competitions, useful tips, and insightful comments from publishing professionals etc. It’s a great read whatever your sex. But if you really think the Writing Man in Your Life might balk, try thinking outside of the box and buy a subscription to another magazine or periodical that could inspire them creatively or offer writing opportunities that would appeal to their interests.
Look here for other subscription ideas.
6) Books about How to Write (Various)
This one will very much depend on whether you think The Writer In Your Life might find it either patronizing or scary to receive a ‘How to Be A Good Writer’ kind of book. But for anyone just starting out, perhaps thinking of applying for a creative writing course in 2013, a handbook full of helpful writing exercises and good advice might be a useful introduction. Similarly, if The Writer in Your Life has completed a first draft, or is half way through one but needs a bit of an enthusiasm injection, the right book could work wonders. I’d heartily recommend our own Julia Bell’s The Creative Writing Coursebook and Scarlett Thomas’s Monkeys With Typewriters, which came out this year. If The Writer in Your Life hasn’t yet read On Writing by Steven King, then they are in for a treat and you will have Christmas all sewn up. On Writing is a brilliant account of King’s life as a writer, interwoven with sage advice on how to work at your writing and make it better. You don’t have to be a fan of King’s fiction to appreciate - this book is brilliant for all. However don’t take my word for it, Google it and you’ll find many a great writer or publisher extolling its virtues.
7) Walking Boots (£120)
Very few of a writer’s best ideas come while he or she is sat at a desk, slogan pyjamas or not. Quite often we writers need to set forth and walk, walk, walk our way into a plot, a character or even a line of prose. Long, solitary walks are scientifically proven to aid creativity – Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens certainly believed so, but unfortunately for them they didn’t have a pair of these beauties. Durable, cushioning and built with a waterproof membrane – they’ll take the Writer in Your Life up a lot of big hills, and back, and right into the heart of their imagination.
8) Residential Writing Courses and Retreats (Anything from £55 for a day upwards to £700+ for week-long residential courses depending where you go.)
Upping the anti here a bit, price-wise, but something to get any writer drooling with longing – a dedicated time-period to immerse themselves in their writing interests and possibly meet like-minded souls on the way. Arvon is a brand leader in providing interesting and inspiring courses for Writers on a number of different themes. Check out their website for details. But you could also consider something shorter – a Day’s workshop perhaps, or an interactive event with authors and agents at a 2013 book festival. Or simply offer your services as babysitter for a day, or your own home as a ‘weekend retreat’. Time to write could be the most valuable gift you give the Writer in Your Life this year. Try these websites for inspiration: Arvon Creative Writing Courses and Mslexia Courses & Retreats.
9) A Room of One’s Own (Priceless)
Whilst recently sweating over an article for a magazine that was long overdue, I happened to remark to my husband that what I really needed was an extension – he must have misunderstood because he assured me that the Editor would probably let me have a couple of extra days to finish, if I asked nicely. “Not that kind of extension!” I called after him, but he was already out of earshot, and I was still sharing desk and head space with a crayoning fiend singing Baa Baa Black-sheep over and over, and the shopping still waiting to be put away. Okay, so an extension might well be out of the question, but what about one of these gorgeous pods – cheap at half the price, I’d say!
And there you have it. Those are my choices for The Writer in Your Life, and if you are still reading this then may I say they are a very lucky writer indeed to have such a dedicated friend as you. And if you’re a writer yourself, well, there’s always the January sales. Happy Christmas!