25 Gifts For Writers

1. Books

This is about as obvious an answer as it gets (“What should I buy that starving child for Christmas?” “Um, food?” “Eh.”), but just the same I’m surprised at how rarely I receive books as gifts. The excuse is frequently, “Well, I don’t know your tastes.” Yeah, here are my tastes: I LIKE BOOKS. If it’s a book? I want it. I want it in my hands. I want to shove its information into my eyeholes and into the warm crawlspace around my brain. I want to lick all the stories. And yes, I have too many books shut up I don’t care. *snarls and swipes at you with a stapler*

2. Liquor

Listen, I know, not all writers have livers that look like ruptured kickballs. We’re not all taken with the spirit, as it were. Just the same, it remains an excellent present, and why? Because we can use them for barter! It’s like in jail how cigarettes are currency? For us, booze is currency. You want to get in good with that table of writers over there, bring ‘em a bottle of something fancy. Or maybe just some wood varnish, whatever, WE’RE THIRSTY GIVE IT HERE.

3. Pants

I joke a lot about not wearing pants and how pants are the dutiful oppressors trying to keep us creative types down. Pants, after all, are a symbol of a stable job and common sense, two things writers shall never possess. Just the same, there comes a time when a writer must clothe himself in the guise of a successful human, and so pants (or “trousers” for you lovely scone-munchers on the other side of the ocean) are an occasional necessity. I have encountered many an instance where I’m caught at the last moment searching for pants prior to some… event. (“Honey, do I have pants from this decade?” “We have to leave in five minutes for your uncle’s funeral. You’re asking me this now?”) Think of it as buying them a costume for a Halloween party!

4. A New Pen

I don’t really use pens. Most writers probably don’t. Just the same, it’s nice to have one hanging around. Maybe to write some notes. Maybe to chew on or clean the inside of our ears as we noodle a new story. Maybe to stab a pirate who’s boarded our ship in order to steal our intellectual property! “Have some ink poisoning, you scurvy interloper!” *stab stab stab*

5. Coffee And Other Stimulants

Infallible correlation: when I drink more coffee, I write more words. I do. I get about 2-3k on a single cup of coffee. I can get another 50% boost to the old “verbal dumpage quota” if I guzzle a second cup early enough in the day. I go through a gut-ton lot of coffee, which means I’m ever in need ofreplenishment. (Sidenote about coffee: the lighter-roasted coffee has more caffeine.) Or hell, maybe the writer in your life likes Five-Hour Energy, which reportedly kills people and tastes like the Humbaba’s crotch-sweat. Buy ‘em a case of that, instead. Just stay away from bath salts. I’ve eaten way too many human faces on that stuff. Last week I found an ear in my pocket. It had a bite taken out of it. So embarrassing.

6. A Helper Monkey

You know how often I could use the help of a charming little helper monkey? Uhh, like, always. “Hey, Admiral Monkeyshines, hand me my coffee. And my iPad. And can you scratch my back? No, not there. Over. Over. Left. Now up. Now down. Perfect. Can you brush the old taco meat out of my beard? Will you read me a book in your funny little monkey ooks and eeks? Ooh! No, no! Ride the dog around like you’re a a cowboy! HA HA HA I LOVE YOU, ADMIRAL MONKEYSHINES.” Of course, I’d never get anything written, but maybe I could make the helper monkey do that, too. It’d probably improve the quality of my work, to be honest.

7. Some Sort Of “Lard-Ass Alert”

They have these monitors for cribs that detect when an infant has stopped moving for 20 seconds so you can rush in and — well, I don’t know what happens then, but if you have our son you discover him climbing up your curtains with a pirate dagger in his teeth. Point is, writers need something like this. We need an alarm that reminds us that it’s time to get off our slugabed dumpers and push blood to limbs other than our typing fingers. “ALERT: YOU HAVE NOT MOVED YOUR BODY IN THREE HOURS. YOUR MUSCLES HAVE BEGUN TO ATROPHY. YOUR HEART IS WREATHED IN A SWEATER OF FAT. YOU WILL SOON DIE IF YOU DON’T GET UP AND TAKE A WALK YOU TORPID GRISTLY BLOB. I CAN SMELL YOUR HOAGIE SWEAT.”

8. Healthy Snacks

To go along with the Lard-Ass Alert, you could buy the writer some healthy snacks. If given half a chance you’ll find my desk littered with Haagen-Daaz containers, gnawed-up pork ribs, and empty sugar packets. But foods like that drag our brains down like high-fructose boat anchors — we need healthy snacks. Nuts! Or dried fruits. Or maybe just a desk drawer full of lettuce.

9. A Kind Review

I can’t speak for other writers, but fuck, that’s never stopped me before. So here, let me do it again! What we writers appreciate perhaps most in this world is a kind review of our work. Shimmy-shaking on over to your favorite review site (Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, your blog, Big Dave’s Discount Book Reviews, whatever) and leaving us a nice review will make our day brighter. Or, if you truly must leave a bad review, make it an entertaining one. Misspell a bunch of stuff. Write half the review in all caps. Insult us humorously and insert some random conspiracy theory in the middle. Maybe write the review in a series of poopy handprints.

10. A Major Award!

I don’t know how you would procure for us a major award, but I assume a hefty bribe will do it. Or you could always just make one, sell it on Etsy. I don’t think we’re particularly discerning. Carve our names into a wooden bar stool and swaddle it in Christmas tinsel and hand it over and tell us it’s an award from some blah blah newspaper or blah blah blog. We won’t check. We’ll just hug it to our chests and spin like we’re that girl in the Sound of Music. Don’t worry, we’ll hate ourselves again by morning. But for that one night, we’ll know: somebody really likes us. Even if that somebody is completely imaginary! That’s okay. Imaginary is our wheelhouse.

11. A Room Of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf was famous for — well, okay, she was famous for writing a bunch of really great stuff but she was also famous for that essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” in which she says, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” It’s an essay that all women and all writers should read, and while I am not a woman (though I do look smashing in a sundress!), I am a writer, so, y’know, it’s good stuff. I too believe that writers should have a space to call their own, and so a good gift for a writer is to ensure that they have this territorial bubble in which to operate. If you cannot accommodate an actual room, try buying them four cubicle walls, or a piano crate! Or give them a space next to the rusty boiler in the cellar.

12. A Plant

A plant on our desk serves a powerful purpose: it is a little thumbtack that punctures the creative territorial bubble in which we live, a creative bubble that tells us nobody else matters and nothing else exists but us, this desk, and this story. The plant suddenly becomes a thing outside one’s egosphere (or, perhaps, egosystem) that reminds you that there lurks a real world beyond the pale, a true place beyond the artifice of fiction. And then you accidentally kill the plant and realize that you are the DIVINE MASTER OF LIFE AND DEATH HAW HAW HAW.

13. Neil Gaiman’s Magic Gazebo

Speaking of one’s own rooms and territorial bubbles, you could just steal Neil Gaiman’s magic penmonkey gazebo. I like to believe that it is Gaiman’s creative womb — the light-side equivalent of that evil black lacquered egg that Darth Vader hibernates in. I suspect that, whenever he takes a journey into story-land, the gazebo literally leaves this earth and penetrates the dimensional fontanelle and takes Gaiman to magical far-off-lands.

14. Or Maybe Just Neil Gaiman

Or you could just abduct Neil Gaiman. He could be a writer’s authorial spirit animal! A long-limbed Muse-imp gamboling behind the writer as she writes, giving encouragement and drinking tea and saying otherwise smart things (like, say, any of this). How great would that be? Don’t tell him I told you to abduct him. He can’t read this, can he? I’m sure he’s very busy.

15. An Autographed Book By One’s Favorite Author

It is at the end of the day the story that counts, not the author, but to an author, other authors represent a kind of perfect ideal. Our favorite authors are our personal totems, our creative guides hanging out in our minds, helping us realize who we want to be and to what we must aspire. So, an autographed book by a beloved author is a wonderful thing, indeed. I have signed first editions of Christopher Moore’s Lamb and Robert McCammon’s Swan Song, and sometimes I get naked and hold them tight to my pasty flesh while rocking back and forth.

16. A Truly Awful Book

You may think, “What a spectacularly awful gift,” and to that I say, Au contrare, grumpy bear. Buying a hideously rat-fucked book for your writer pal sends a very clear message to that writer: “Sometimes terrible books get published which means, by golly, you can get published too.”

17. A Car Battery And A Pair Of Steel-Toe Boots

The Muse does not simply walk into Mordor. Or something. Whatever. What I mean is, sometimes the Muse needs a short, sharp shock. A car battery hooked up to her fairy wings or a steel-toe boot driven hard up into his fairy nuts will get that Muse jabbering into a writer’s ear, posthaste. And when that fails, the writer can loan the battery and the boots to someone else and they can shock-kick him into finishing his shit.

18. A Giftcard To An Office Supply Store

If you’re anything like me, an office supply store is like a vista of efficiency-porn. Pens and papers and hole-punches! Desk calendars! Helper monkeys! Really nice pens! Laser printers. Dildos! Wait, I might be mixing up “office porn” and “real porn.” Anyway. Point is, a giftcard to an office supply store is a very happy thing, indeed. It gives us an excuse to frolic.

19. A Really Nice Keyboard

A worker is only as good as his tools. A soldier with his gun. A chef with her knife. A robot with its DOOM LASER and BUZZSAW HANDS. And so a writer must have the proper tools, too. A really great keyboard — er, the kind on which you type, not the kind that says ‘Casio’ on it — is an essential tool. Plus, our keys are probably stuck together with moistened Cheeto dust.

20. A Hollowed-Out Book

We need a place to keep our secret things. Keys to demonic doors. Syringes filled with milky muse-juice. Handguns with the serial numbers filed off. Weird Canadian weed. As such, I recommend a hollowed-out book safe, like these. Where else are you going to keep your powdered unicorn horn? You… do have powdered unicorn horn, right? (Amateur.)

21. A Weird Old Gigantic-Ass Dictionary

I have a dictionary that is almost a foot thick. This is a dictionary so big you could drop it on a rhino’s back and it would shatter its spine. You could use it to choke a blue whale. It is a book that requires many men to carry it, like the Ark of the Covenant. It is an artifact of language, an obelisk of wordography. Sometimes I love to just flip through it and find weird words I’ve never heard of before. Thus: crazy-big dictionary makes for great writerly present.

22. Any Random Reference Book

In my experience, penmonkeys love bizarre reference books. Any book referencing any subject (the gods of India, English language homophones, typewriters throughout the ages, a dictionary of slang spoken by Ukrainian lamp-makers) is like fucking gold for us and our writing. And when our next book features use of some weird Babylonian sex toy (“THE FIST OF HAMMURABI”), you’ll know that you were the one responsible for bringing it into our lives.

23. A Reason To Leave The House

Writers sit so long at our desks our ass-fat starts to merge with the pleather of our chairs. Give us an excuse to get up and go outside. Invite us for a walk. For dinner. For drinks. FOR A ROLLER DERBY GANG WAR IN THE MIDDLE OF CENTRAL PARK. Travel with us. Provide us with a reason to escape the gravity of our offices. You may need to force us out, but we’ll appreciate it.

24. Anything But A Blank Goddamn Notebook

Listen, I get it — you think, Ah, he’s a writer, and so he must write a lot inside little notebooks. It’s not entirely inaccurate. But you know how some gift-givers get caught on that one thing you theoretically like and give it to you every year (“You once said you liked ceramic wombats, so now every year I will buy you a new ceramic wombat”)? Yeah, lots of people seem to think writers need blank notebooks. We probably don’t. Not because we don’t use them or don’t like them. But we have computers. And smartphones. I have a small vault now of notebooks, and every once in a while I pull one out and scrawl a couple pages of notes and then marvel at just how improbably bad my handwriting is. I’m not saying that writers don’t need notebooks. We just don’t need hundreds of them from dozens of people. Authors should select one person who is allowed to give them notebooks. (Mine is Rob Donoghue, who has impeccable taste.)

25. Terribleminds Merch Oh My God I’m A Shameless Trollop

HOLY ATOMIC TITTY TWIRLERS — did I say “Terribleminds merchandise?” By the blessings of Sweet Saint Fuck, I sure did. Art Harder, Motherfucker? Certified Penmonkey? Oh my stars and garters! Ahem. Okay, fine, fine, you don’t actually have to buy that merch for the authors in your life — and yes, yes, I’m utterly shameless. (The shame centers of my brain were destroyed in the war. What war, you ask? The war on Christmas. How dare you judge a veteran!)

78 comments

  • I have to agree with you about blank notebooks, though for a slightly different reason… I have sixteen of the damn things under my bed. I’m fine with them, but the problem–the major damn problem with them? I can’t put them in my pocket. They’re these big ass notebooks that you can’t carry around with you easily.

    While they’re useful for when I’m sitting down, I barely ever make notes at a desk. I do them while standing up, in the middle of a grocery store, walking around. Not in a place where I am likely to be holding onto one. So I usually end up using my phone to just put it into evernote. Which works just as well, and I don’t need to get out my mental lexicon of vague lettery-looking symbols to figure out what the hell I wrote.

  • I’m going to print this out, highlight the ever-loving shit out of 24, perfume the paper, and send it to my mother-in-law. Every damn year, Xmas AND birthday (which are two freaking weeks apart) I get one of those overpriced but pretty journals. And every year they sit around in a pile until I give them to the local thrift store. If you have to get me a notebook, I really prefer the tried and true $.50 composition notebooks.

    Also, I want to live in Neil Gaiman’s gazebo.

  • I hope you realize that asking for books is an invitation for all of us to send you OUR OWN books. The question remains, though, whether we’re answer the call to gift #1 (books) or gift #16 (a truly awful book).

    As for coffee/stimulants, may I point you to Mio Energy. It’s kind of liquid coolaid thing that you squirt into ice water to make flavored drinks. I’m partial to the Black Cherry version (for energy) and the Lemon version (for non-energy).

    And keyboards, if you prefer the heavy-action keys of the old IBM-PC, search for keyboards with ALPS switches. They’re uncommon and expensive, but they let you punch that keyboard like you’re pounding out your words on an anvil, not moving Alphabits around in porridge.

  • Properly, a Weird Old Gigantic-Ass Dictionary should have it’s own lectern-stand-thingy, made of oak salvaged from a haunted shipwreck and carved with mystic runes. And maybe iron chains to keep the WOGAD from escaping and inflicting savage vocabularic wounds on the terrified populace. Plus it looks cool.

  • #1, there’s another reason books make great gifts – some of them are just pretty or interesting. “Hey, this book’s older than I am! Sweet. Hey, that book’s bound in leather! Awesome! Hey, this one’s signed by the author and addressed to one of the contributors! That’s so interesting!”

    And I totally want one of those gigantic dictionaries.

    And and, YES to the no blank notebook rule. I just have too many, and when I DO write by hand (which is typically just notes or outlines), I prefer a notebook that has some meaning to me. I pulled out my staff-signed Nano notebook the other day to write a new idea down, and my mom got offended that I wasn’t using one of the many she’d gotten me in the past. Uh, you mean those ones you got me in high school? How long ago do you think that was? If I still have them, they’ll be filled with projects I’d rather not be reminded of, anyway.

  • Nice job on the web site redo. Although, I truly loved what you had before.

    I mad a similar list, but not as comprehensive as yours. http://www.casondrabrewster.com/?p=1031

    My wish-list for writers did include notebooks, but not just any notebook or certainly not one of those fu-fu journals. I want Moleskine. In every shape, color, lined and unlined (I sketch maps and what characters look like and recently lots of weird weaponry). Those old-school comp books work well, too. But I also freelance lots of articles and business commo — so I’m interviewing people and those work well for interviews or certain client projects.

    What I totally would add to my wish list from yours is some Terrible Minds Merch and one of those secret hollowed-out books.

  • I would like to point out that pens makes excellent gifts, at least for me. And not because I’m dolling out a violent burst of ink poisoning.

    Notebooks are verboten, but pens are great. And pretty stationary. Cotton stationary with swirly gold leafed scrolls. I hoard stationary. My preciouses.

  • Not a joke: A SLOW COOKER.

    Being able to set up meals ahead of time, in the morning or the night before, makes more time available for people who are writing after work or at intervals during the day. It also means that spouses, children, housemates, and others can just dip into dinner when they feel hungry, leaving the writer to enjoy it whenever she remembers, in front of the computer.

    Also not a joke: YOGA OR PILATES SESSIONS.

    My novels have destroyed my body. Seriously. (My second Master’s didn’t help, either.) Sitting at a desk all the time isn’t just a way to get big, it’s a way to kill all your core strength slowly and painfully, in a way that makes everyday tasks more of a chore than they should be. If you’re in a couple and you’re worried about the faux pas that is giving fitness training (and yes, it is a faux pas), make sure that you’re buying sessions or classes for the both of you, and re-assure him that you’ll be with him at every step (literally, if you buy a step class). Then the both of you can limber up together, and, I don’t know, replicate absurd fantasy novel cover poses. Or just live longer.

  • No kidding on the books one. I haven’t gotten a book that wasn’t on a specific list handed out to relatives since I was a kid. And I’ve never gotten NOTEBOOKS for a gift, but I’ve gotten JOURNALS. So many journals…

  • What Sabrina Said. Also, I’d like to add massages to the list. Entire spa days, actually. Because the muse also comes if your fingernails are sparkly. Truefact.

    Also, glad I’m not the only admitted story-licker. Story Lickers Unite!

  • Best writer-y gift I ever gave myself was a purple potion bottle.
    I keep my muse’s soul in there.
    I promised to let her have it back when I finally achieve fame and fortune and a have life changing scandal and a stint in rehab.
    If I need any gift it is yoga pants. Seriously, I live in those things. Yoga pants with a secret pocket so I can carry the potion bottle muse soul juice with me every where I go.
    Wouldn’t want that sneaky little hussy to try to steal it back while I’m out buying lettuce and fancy writing pens.

  • Buying a notebook for someone else is like buying them underwear. It might look pretty and serve it’s purpose but if it crawls up your arse, you are going to hate the person who gave it to you.

  • This is a somewhat off-topic comment, but about a year ago I bought a couple of your books (250 Things, 500 Ways) in pdf format and would like to buy your two Penmonkey books. I have left-clicked on them, I have right-clicked on them, and I have double-clicked on them. I’ve restarted my PC, had a power nap, even thought about writing a list entitled Reasons I Can’t Download Them. It may very well be that I’m doing something wrong and that I’m a complete idiot and while I can’t say I’d be happy with this – because I wouldn’t be – at least if I’m missing something obvious and am told what it is I can then rectify my mistake and buy the books. I’ve been to amazon.co.uk but don’t own a kindle, so . . .

  • Funny but needlessly vulgar language choice.
    I mean you are funny and you write well, so why not use the previously mentioned weird words from the Tome Dictionary… and I agree we all need one of those or two or three at least one of them on the special book stands where we have to stand to read it. :) thus the exorcise we need… some anyhow.

    I am thinking a great gift, would be a very nice oak “stand up desk” this way we keep our spine straight and our bellies smaller. But it needs to look and feel old, perhaps a regular desk with adapted legs to make it a stand up desk.

    Time is one of the things we could use more of but will never get as a gift…

    So if not more time my Christmas wish for you all is “enough time” to be to dream to become the person you want!

    Merry Christmas!

  • Okay, I’ve just managed to find a ‘Buy Now’ on Confessions . . . I’ve paid for it, but have managed to fail to download it. I’m having something of a bad day.

  • Apologies if I seem to be spamming you, but I have just actually read the procedure for the receipt of the pdfs. I’m an idiot. I still want the other one, though. Apologies again.

  • OK, I’m weird, I like notebooks. I’d rather pick them out myself, though. And pens. I love pens, I can’t walk past a display of pens without trying every single one and obsessing over them and buying one. Or two. Or more. Actually another good gift is printer ink. And flash drives. And when did I start getting practical? Damn it. Loved your list. :)

  • Book Darts. They’re the best things ever for finding something in a book you own (or, for that matter, don’t own and will eventually have to give back unmangled). Also, lights/lamps for desks. Also, wrist rests and other items to help avoid the writer’s enemy, carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • I would suggest a language book that teaches you how to say inappropriate things in a foreign language.
    Talk dirty in Japanese?
    Curse at a Russian soldier (and get your ass kicked)?
    Insult a Tibetan monk?
    You never know when a writer will need this knowledge.
    Hopefully not while trying to pick up a Russian monk in a Japanese karaoke bar.

  • Books – obvious choice.

    Random reference books – something I have not thought about…but now…*rushes off to update Amazon wishlist*

    And on the subject of plants – I am fairly certain I can trace my lineage back to the Plant Reaper himself. My family is so bad with plants, Round-Up has bought the rights to study our DNA.

    But Book safes sound AWESOME! I always liked those when I saw them in old movies and stuff. That would be something I would genuinely geek out over. Of course, I’d have nothing to hide in them, so I would just stick old gum wrappers, half-eaten muffins, and the occasional severed toe. You know, whatever I have laying about.

  • I agree about the notebooks only I tend to buy them for myself thinking, “ohh, I will write magical words in this lovely book.” Nope. Nada. I like pens but fountain pens, those old fashioned one you dip into ink that spills all over your notes. Giftcards to Starbucks or Panera Bread works for me. Hardcovers of books from authors I adore. And I seriously need the car battery and steel-toed boots for my muse who seems to give me ideas UNTIL I WRITE THEM DOWN then disappears into the aether laughing at my frantic antics (alliteration anyone?) to bring her back.
    Thanks for an entertaining laff. And, the kid climbing the curtains with the pirate knife clenched between his teeth? Yeah, I got one of those too.

  • Would it NOT count as a “don’t” if the notebook is handmade, with a practical size. Cause I gave one to my poet friend and now I feel real bad.

  • Yes, you are shameless. Shamelessly teasing us with the fact that the merchandise do not ship to Europe! But I still love you. I just purchased Double Dead for my zombie-loving friend; real dead trees and all!

  • Stacia gave my one of your Art Harder Motherfucker cups. It’s my favorite cup of all time. Inspirational on the outside, large enough on the inside to hold a full cup of coffee and 1/2 cup of vodka at the same time. It’s a great cup. How about a 25 gifts for your agent post?

  • #’ 21 reminds me of one Christmas when upon my giving my Christmas wish list to my husband, his face morphed into the I-just-sucked-on-a sour-lemon experssion and in the most scathing voice he could muster, promptly stated, “Oxford’s Dictionary? I’m not getting you a dictionary for Christmas? Who asks for a dictionary for Christmas?” Needless to say, his comment didn’t fly very well and yes, I got my dictionary under the tree.

  • I don’t have powdered Unicorn horn, but I do have IBM Fairy Dust. It was given to me by a parting manager who said, “If anyone here is weird enough to know how care for this stuff, it’s you.”

  • This is mostly (as usual) hilarious and delightful, but “spirit animal” is appropriative of some Native religions (a thing much abused by non natives) and probably not the best wording.

  • I love this. Though I disagree with you on the notebook front. I LOVE receiving notebooks. One day, I will actually fill them with words.

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