Thursday, December 29, 2016

What to Get Your Writer: REAL Gifts Writers Will LOVE

Once you start to get known as a writer, you'll get on a bunch of lists, willy-nilly.  At this time of year, ALL of those mailing lists and every ad on your social media will send you suggestions of Things To Get Your Writer.

Almost all of these are wasted on me.  I don't need a costume.  I don't wear T-shirts.  I HAVE ballpoint pens.  I don't use notebooks, especially not cutesy touchy feely fill in the blank ones.  Sticky "inspirational" notes for my computer?  Just, no.  Pins for my jacket?  I don't think so.  Gift cards for Starbucks?  I don't like coffee and I couldn't possibly write there.  Where's my huge desktop computer?  My comfortable chair?  My lake view?

Here's what you can give your writer that she or he will appreciate and use.  They're all based on one simple notion:  what a writer needs most is TIME TO WRITE.  Among other things, we Buddhists clean our houses for New Year's, symbolizing and giving a fresh start.  This means REALLY clean, not just the regular weekly routine.  I'd feel wrong if I didn't do it or have it done, and this year there is nobody but me to do it.  Yet, I'm writing well and fast right now in first-draft (the hardest) mode and I don't want a single second away from my computer and research materials.  I need to plan it out, then write it down.  What do I need?  I need TIME.  Give your writer some TIME.  Here are some ways to do that, and only a couple of them cost money.

1.  Housekeeping service.  Hire somebody to dig out your writer's den every other week -- they don't come weekly anymore -- for a period of time.  Forever would be good.  While the cleaner is there, the writer can research, run to the library or bookstore, or (if there's a closing door) actually write while the rest of the house and the laundry get spiffed, and move to another room when it's time for the Writing Room to get cleaned.  Or you set a regular time when YOU do it.  That costs you nothing.  Regular times are important.  Just trust me on this.  It's no help at all if your writer can't count on things getting done as if by magic.

2.  Do the dishes and fluff the house every single night.  If YOU do the dinner-dishes thing every night and a little house fluffing, your writer can dive into the computer and get that scene down.  This is a great gift for a writer with a day job.

3.  Take care of the children.  This is also great if your writer has a day job.  Make regular plans for YOU to do the homework-bath-story-bed routine every night.  Couple that with the dishes and fluff routine and your writer now has two or three hours every single night to devote to her or his craft, and still enough time to kiss the kids goodnight and spend some quality time with you.

4.  Yard and garden.  Yep, if you take care of those, or pay someone else to do it, your writer can do something else, like write.

5.  Run the errands.  Pick up the children, take them to practices and games, get the things on the list from the grocery store or hardware store or cleaners.  Great for non-custodial parents, grandparents and others who live nearby and want to nurture their relationships with the kids.  No kids? Running errands and shopping for your writer when you do your own is a fantastic gift.

6.  Set aside regular times to amuse yourself (and children, if any).  In return, ask your writer to set aside time for you and the family (if any) to go do fun things.  Some times the writer will be on a roll and won't have a spare second.  When a draft is resting or in publishing production, or a writer is between books, she or he will want to do other things and have more time to do them.  Recognize the patterns of a working writer and go with them.  This is a mutual gift.  Scheduling quality time makes it happen.

7.  A couple of the "List" ideas are good, but cost.  A gift card to an on-line or physical bookstore or a specialty library membership allows your writer to get exactly what she or he wants and needs.  An all-expense paid trip to a conference relevant to the writer would be great.  A class your writer wants to attend would be appreciated.  All of these depend on what your writer wants.  Ask your writer before buying books, booking conferences or enrolling them in classes.  A "Write Your Memoir" class at the local Senior Center or Community College might be perfect for someone who wants to get started on a memoir, giving motivation and structure.  The Romance in the Moors Conference would be fabulous for someone who writes historical romances.  Those wouldn't work at all for somebody three books into a dark dystopian future series.  Ask your writer first.

8.  If your writer doesn't have a dedicated writing area, give her or him one.  Spend a little time selecting a location, setting it up and keeping it sacrosanct.  Space in the physical sense is also an excellent gift.

9.  If your writer is published, BUY THE BOOKS.  Give them to people.  Donate them to toy drives, schools and libraries, as appropriate.  WRITE THOSE REVIEWS.  They mean a lot, and few people, even those who love the books, actually do it.

Your writer will love you, and I promise she or he will show it.

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