"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, December 4, 2015

A writer's list for Santa

It's Friday night, and once again, I'm thinking I want to go out, but just can't seem to light a fire under my own tushie to make it happen. This means it will be popcorn and wine for dinner again. In the meantime, I was thinking about Christmas presents, and writing, and this came out:

For those of you with a writer in your house, first of all, thank you for being so supportive. We appreciate all the times you’ve ignored our mumbling about what our imaginary people are doing in their make-believe worlds. We love it when you don’t notice the household chores we haven’t quite completed because we just need to finish this one paragraph. Thank you.

You’re probably wondering what to get us for Christmas this year. Here are some helpful hints, ranging in price from expensive to free, but all priceless to a writer:

1. Books. I know, this sounds weird to you. We write books, why would we want to receive them as presents? The thing is, writers need to read other writers. We need to know what the market out there is doing, what people are buying, and there’s nothing like a well told story to bring us joy and inspire us to do our best. That’s why we write, after all. One caveat: writers like to read books about the craft of writing, but I recommend you let your writer buy those, so they don’t think you lack confidence in their ability. Perhaps you could put a gift card to a bookstore in their stocking.

2. Conferences. As much as we need to read, we need to be in the company of other writers. If you are serious about writing, you are always looking for ways to improve. Workshops about craft, talking about character and plot with other writers, finding a mentor, these are all ways that we get better. Are conferences expensive? They can be. They are also an investment in your writer’s writing. If you don’t know which conference your writer would like to attend, you can start by Googling “writer conference (insert your state here)”, then look at reviews and testimonials. I, of course, recommend the SouthernCalifornia Writers Conference for an example of great workshops, friendly writers, and exceptional mentors.

3. Writing tools. Does your writer need a new computer? A printer? Maybe your writer is old school, meaning journals with lots of blank pages to fill. Timers are good for writing sprints. Pens, pencils, and printer ink make great stocking stuffers. Even a new pair of drugstore reading glasses, or a mug for their favorite inspirational drink.

4. A retreat. This is admittedly a high-end present, but every writer dreams of that weekend spent away from real life, hunkered down and doing nothing but finishing that novel. Maybe it’s a cabin in the mountains, or a place on the beach. It might even be an RV in the desert. As long as there’s plenty of food and drink, and no phone or internet.

5. Uninterrupted time. This costs the least and means the most. Chances are, your writer has to smuggle their minutes of deep-writing time in between work and family. To understand that, and resist the temptation to interrupt their groove, is the meaning of true writerly love.

6. Interest in their work (even if it’s feigned). Another freebie, if done correctly. Interest in their work can include asking them about how the latest story is coming along, and telling them how lucky you are to know such a creative person. More listening than talking is involved. P.S. Asking them if they’re ever going to finish that novel, whether they’ve heard from an agent, or how their sales are going are all forbidden topics. It's like putting a lump of coal in their stockings.

Any one of these gifts will make your writer very happy this Christmas. I know they’d make me happy!

Writer friends, is there anything else you want to add to Santa’s list?

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