To my mind, the best Christmas gifts for writers are ones they'll actually use and enjoy. If you find that coming up with the ideal gift for an artist can be a tough call, you may want to consider one of these creative solutions. (What works for Christmas also works for Hanukkah, and you might want to keep this list handy for birthdays as well!) These are not affiliate links, by the way – they're just ideas I hope you find helpful.
Best Christmas Gifts for Writers: Books
It’s common for people to want to offer books to writers — if they write them, they probably love to read them, right? While that may be true, buying books for someone else is always a risky gamble; either you know exactly what the person likes, or you may have a missed hit and leave them reaching for the gift receipt.
But I couldn’t share a list of the best Christmas gifts for writers without including some books, so here is a short list of book suggestions specifically targeted to the kind of writing your writer most enjoys writing.
For your writing friend who writes (or just enjoys) poetry, here’s a new book that explores how a poem has the impact it does: Canadian poet Adam Sol has been writing short essays on this topic on his blog and now you can buy the book. Highly ranked on GoodReads, How A Poem Moves is a collection of 35 short essays that walks readers through an array of contemporary poems and Sol demonstrates poetry’s range and pleasures through encounters with individual poems that span traditions, techniques, and ambitions.
I loved this book as a working poet but I also agree that this illuminating book is for readers who are afraid they “don’t get” poetry but who believe that, with a welcoming guide, they might conquer their fear and cultivate a new appreciation. Legitimately the book you can buy for everyone who loves the power of language!
Short Story Writers
Other than the latest hot short story collection (ahem! Karen Russell’s Orange World!), the best book on short story craft from my perspective is Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight. I suggest this one because it’s a classic and covers the basics to provide a good foundation. I wouldn’t suggest it for someone more experienced with the form, because it’s more of a Short Stories 101 book but it does a good job of reminding you of the fundamentals and there are some good exercises to try as well.
If you write non-fiction for magazines or other long-form outlets, or even just in-depth blog posts, then I think this book is a MUST-HAVE: Draft No. 4: On The Writing Process, by John McPhee. I stumbled across it in an airport bookshop last year (LaGuardia, I think) and it’s now my Bible for this kind of writing. McPhee teaches at Princeton and is a staff writer at The New Yorker so the man walks the talk. This incredibly articulate book is a selection of essays and reads like a Masterclass in the form. Put it at the top of your list for non-fiction writers.
If you’re a writer working on a memoir, or know someone who is (or whom you think should be!) then this book is an ideal gift. The Art of Memoir, by American author Mary Karr has lots of examples or excerpts from Karr’s own favourite memoirs and also has advice from her own writing process. She gets into all the sticky bits about memory and identity and if you’re working on your own memoir right now, don’t consider your book finished until you’ve read this one.
Creativity in General
Sooo many books I could recommend in this category (!) because I’m obsessed with the science of creativity and anything related to it, but here’s a new one from the founder of Creative Live, Chase Jarvis: Creative Calling. The sub-title is basically the summary: “Establish a daily practice, infuse your world with meaning, and succeed in work + life.” And who doesn’t want more of that? If you ever find yourself questioning the meaning of creativity and thinking about WHY we even bother, this is the book you need. (Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity, Big Magic, will love this one.)
BEST CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR WRITERS: BEYOND BOOKS
Creative writers tend to appreciate clever gifts that manage to blend what they love most with practicality. After all, writers are individuals that are constantly questioning the world around them, and how they can push its boundaries.
The following 6 gift ideas I put together do just that — they’re fun, creative, yet useful. While they’re not necessarily essential, they will definitely put a smile on any writer’s face.
Whether or not you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard the term writer’s block. This is a condition that has been around since the beginning of time. Every artist suffers it, at one point or another — myself included. Creative Block offers the perfect solution for these moments of uncertainty and self-doubt. It comes packed with over 100 cards with exercises to help any writer break through a lack of inspiration.
Conveniently, Creative Block was created by a writer has she faced writer’s block while writing her book. Laurie decided to put her frustration to use and researched thousands of different methods to overcome her condition.
Each card addresses a specific issue the writer may be facing — self-doubt, burning out, when to quit, or how to make it simpler. Packed with prompts and reassurance, no writer will have to suffer writer’s block any longer.
If you’re shopping for a fiction writer, Creative Block is definitely the ideal gift.
Speaking of blocks, there are several great options for writing prompts to use in your writing practice if you’re stuck for an idea. My personal favourite is from Sarah Selecky of the Sarah Selecky Writing School.
I have an earlier version of her prompt deck and carry it in my portable writing office, but she has a new version out now and I’ve shared it with my First Book Finish students this past year. You might get lucky and find she has a few packs left, though last time I checked she was down to her last few. However, if the physical decks are gone, you can always grab a subscription to her digital daily prompts and get one for every day of the year. Your writer friend can never again say “I don’t know what to write about!”
This gift can be both useful and funny, depending on your writer’s sense of humor! This beautiful chart includes clarification on some of the biggest misconceptions in the English language.
If you’re shopping for a grammar nerd, this might just what they need. Did you know nevermind is incorrect and should be spelled as never mind? How about irregardless, when should you use it? (Never, please!)
The chart also covers some words and expressions the majority of people tend to confuse. Ever wondered when to use who or whom? How about affect vs effect? The chart answers these questions and then some.
This ingenious gift was created by a New Yorker editor and a designer. The two sat down with several authors to discuss some of the worst crimes committed against the English language — the end result was the English Usage Chart.
The chart is printed in Brooklyn, New York, and comes rolled in a poster mailer tube to ensure nothing will harm it while it makes its way to its destination. You may even get one for yourself — at least, that way, you don’t need to wonder anymore what’s so wrong about saying today’s modern society.
It’s not a spellbook, I promise! Umbra Aquala turns every bathing session into a luxury experience, helping any book lover take full advantage of the moment. This is simply a bathtub tray with enough space to keep a book, a phone, and even a glass of wine or cup of tea.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a few moments in the past week (cough: 24 hours!) where I just wanted to unwind and relax for a bit — lay in my bathtub covered in warm water, feeling the tension in my body dissipate. What goes best with a writer wanting to relax? If you thought wine, you weren’t entirely wrong, but I was thinking of a book (I swear).
In all honesty, I’ve tried a few times to read a book in the bathtub. It’s a complex process and requires preparation: you need a handy towel to dry your hands if needed, and a nearby surface where you can leave your book and your phone; it’s not the most glamorous experience.
Umbra Aquala addresses all of that, and it even includes clever solutions to hold your glass wine, your bath sponge, or even your razor if you’re multi-tasking. (Caution: do not shave and read at the same time!) This bathtub tray comes with extendable chrome arms to ensure it will fit bathtubs of all sizes.
Don’t worry about getting it wet because its natural materials are waterproof, too. You can choose between bamboo, for a natural finish, or rubberwood, for a walnut color. Whichever you choose, be ready for your writer friend to be late to every appointment — baths will start taking twice as long as before.
This handmade necklace is the perfect gift for every Jane Austen fan out there, or for most active feminist advocates with its beautiful inscriptions. Spread across the four sides you will find the lines: In vain have I struggled. It will not do, my feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
The necklace is handcrafted in Dorset, England, and ships to all corners of the world. The platform allows you to select your country and postal code, which will automatically calculate the shipping costs for you.
This elegant pendant is made of solid brass and it is gold plated. And if it’s caught in the rain, there’s nothing to worry about, as the necklace is splash-resistant. Don’t let it soak in water, though, as it might be permanently damaged.
Since it’s handmade and available in limited quantity, this Pride and Prejudice necklace will be a unique gift that will certainly delight those who can still recall Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth.
I recommend keeping notebooks everywhere. And if you get this one in my shower, you’ll probably never leave and maybe spend more time jotting down ideas than actually doing any showering.
Even if you’re not a writer, you’ve probably had your fair share of ideas popping up during your washing routines. It’s as if our brains were teasing us and flooding us with all those amazing thoughts because they know we can’t write it down — and then it becomes a game of memory.
With Aqua Notes, no one needs to worry again about forgetting these. The Aqua Notes pad comes with 40 sheets and its own sucking cups, to secure it next on your shower walls. There’s an option to buy a package with 2 pads for those living more than one bathroom.
The pages are thin and may look fragile, but they actually incredibly sturdy and definitely waterproof. You can also rip off the pages and take them out of the shower. Any standard pencil will work with it so there’s no need to be concerned about buying any special ones.
You could even take it a step further and combine this waterproof pad with the previously mentioned bath tray. Why not pencil your next novel while taking a relaxing bubble bath? Sounds like a plan to me.
The great thing about these gifts — apart from the Jane Austen pendant — is that anyone can make use of them. The Creative Block can turn into a great party game, while the Aqua Notes can be used to notate a grocery list or to leave a special message to whoever comes next.
To be fair, the great majority of people would benefit from having an English Usage Chart in their lives, while the Umbra Aquala can convince even the most skeptical to enjoy a long, warm bath.
Take a chance this year, and surprise your writer friends with gifts they could never expect!