A version of this post first appeared on Broke Ass Stuart
Writers are hard to shop for. Our tools are simple but we can be hopelessly picky about them–I don’t know how many white legal pads I’ve re-gifted–we already have all the books, and the things we really want you might not be comfortable buying (cigarettes, absinth, laudnum.)
Money is best, but let’s face it, we probably owe you money.
If by some Christmas miracle a writer managed to make it on to your good list, here are a dozen gift ideas–some of which might actually make them more productive.
Microsoft Word is the Huffy bike from Wal-Mart of word processors; it’s a fine place to start, but you need to upgrade when you’re ready for long distance.
Scrivener is the real deal for real novelists, and an affordable alternative ($45) to Final Draft 9 for screenwriters.
Scrivener is for big projects and all the notes, outlines, character sketches and miscellany they entail. It uses ‘cork boards’ for outlining. There are daily word count targets based on your deadline It has space for illustrations and maps of your story world. There’s a template for multi-part novels. Anna Karenina could’ve fit neatly into Scrivener’s Russian doll of folders.
When you’re project is complete, Scrivener lets you compile your work into a variety of manuscript and ebook formats.
Single Serving Coffee Makers
Coffee is pretty much a performance enhancing drug for writers.For a writer on the road, or a digital nomad, the pour-over is the most practical and delicious way to brew up.
The AeroPress is another highly portable, if slightly ugly, option that lets you go full nerd and control every aspect of the brewing process for a custom cup. There’s actually international AeroPress competition, and you can find the winning recipes online.
Both of these methods brew a superior cup to traditional coffee makers. They also cut down on that bitter acid taste, which makes way for all those notes and flavors claimed by the coffee bean package.
For the luddite on your list, Leuchtturm is the last word in overpriced European notebooks. Smooth paper, solid construction, Leuchtturms come in three sizes and many colors. Ruled, dotted or plain. Get this, they have numbered pages and table of contents, perfect for organizing journals and projects.
Audiobooks are the actual best. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive AF. With an Audible membership, you get one free audiobook every month (or more depending on your plan) and a discount on any additional books you buy.
A Door that Locks
You can’t buy inspiration, the muse doesn’t honor gift certificates, but you can give the gift of a writing space that invites inspiration. Like leaving out cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer, there are things you can do to welcome the muse.
On no budget, that could just mean surprising your writer by cleaning her/his desk. Buy a plant or a new lamp.
Working with a little more cash? Have your local locksmith put a lock on the study door; maybe upgrade the desk or chair. You could even remodel the study, rent your writer an office, or build a writer’s shed like Roald Dahl or JK Rowling. For the obstinate procrastinator put a lock on the outside of that shed’s door like Dylan Thomas’ wife put on his.
Special thanks to my friend Cheyne Kohl– Producer behind Underground Tracks, in Busan, South Korea–for this suggestion.
The mStand by Rain Design inc is a robust metal stand that turns your laptop into a desktop.
It will literally save your neck by putting the screen at eye-level. Pair it with a wireless keyboard and mouse for an uncluttered minimalist work space.
I’ve reviewed a bunch, at prices ranging from $1.50 to $150. Whether someone actually writes with this or it’s just a symbol of the craft, you can’t go wrong giving a writer a nice pen.
Good old fashioned ballpoints and roller-balls are great stocking-stuffers. We especially like to get these from people who have a habit of stealing our pens.
The Christmas classic Love Actually closes on the Beach Boys tune ‘God only knows what I’d be without you…’ That’s the song I would dedicate to the Freedom app.
Freedom blocks apps, websites or the entire Internet on iPhones, iPads, Windows and Mac computers. Be more focused and productive – try for free today.
Freedom blocks your computer’s access to the internet. You set a timer, how many minutes or hours of ‘freedom’ you want, and you’re off the grid. Freedom can’t be switched off or overridden in any way before the timer runs out. In the words of Neil Gaiman, it ‘makes your computer something that’s never heard of the internet.’
There’s nothing like legos to get you creating and problem solving on a different wavelength. If you’re going to slack off, this is one of the most productive ways to to do it. In the documentary 6 Days to Air the South Park guys show off their legos, which they use as an outlet when they’re creatively stuck.
There are obviously less expensive sets, but the death star is just badass.
Made famous by A Christmas Story, this iconic plinker makes an epic desk toy. It’s not so powerful or loud that you can’t use it indoors. Set up a paper target, on the other side of the room, with a shoebox to catch the BBs and practice your marksmanship when the words aren’t coming. Just don’t shoot your eye out.
A Writer’s Retreat
Design a getaway for/ with the writer in your life, whether it’s for a week in the country, a year in Thailand, or just a day at home with your phones switched off.
Bonus: Hunter S. Thompson Burning a Christmas Tree