Monday, December 8, 2014

The Perfect Gift

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to find the perfect gift for a loved one. For me, it's one way I can show the other person how much they mean to me.

But what if your loved one is a writer? Writers are a completely different type of person with different needs and interests than many people. Below I've listed the top three gifts I would give a writer. These are gifts that would be most helpful for them.

  • Writing Conference. Especially for a novice writer, the information you can gain from writing conferences is invaluable. Usually the panelists or presenters provide practical, hands-on information. Some educational programs are really helpful and effective, but they can sometimes be more theoretical than practical. You can also pick-and-choose which topics are most interesting to you or those you need more information about because of your writing weaknesses. For the more experienced writer, writing conferences are a great place to network with other writers and professionals within the industry. Many of the connections necessary to be successful in the writing field are forged at writing conferences: agents, publishers, writers as critiquers, friendships of support, etc. Writing conferences can be genre-specific or generalized to all writing. I've attended some of both, and they are both beneficial. Paying for and providing the opportunity for a writer to attend a conference would be a great gift.
  • Writing Tools. By comparison to other careers or hobbies, writers need relatively few external tools, but the ones they need are important. Particularly in our digital age, a computer of some sort is necessary anymore. I prefer a laptop because it is portable for anywhere I may have the opportunity to write. It is also "mine," which means I don't have to share it with anyone else in the family. I am less likely for something to get deleted, get viruses, or otherwise have my writing lost. I like to back my writing up in multiple places. I usually save my work to my home computer, Google Drive, a flash drive, and Dropbox. Most of these resources are "free," but some may require an initial investment. I have many writer friends who swear by the program Scrivener. I have never used it, but I've heard a lot of great things about how it allows you to organize your writing in particular.  Tools for writing tend to be relatively inexpensive by comparison to other careers, but they are still a great gift to help your beloved writer be successful.
  • Time and Support. This is a little bit of an abstract gift, but perhaps the most important one. Writers think and work a little bit differently from other people. It is often a solitary job with constant negative criticism about how terrible your writing is, and it's difficult to not interpret that as that you are also a terrible person. Writing is also very time-consuming. Sometimes we can spend hours working on a story and get only a few pages down. It's really hard to stay positive as a writer. If the ones closest to us tell us we are wasting our time and effort, we'll probably give up. Instead, think outside the box for an appropriate gift. Perhaps give your loved one a coupon for free babysitting while they write. Arrange your schedule to allow your loved one a set amount of uninterrupted writing time each day or week. Give lots of feedback on what is good on their writing even if you want to suggest an improvement. (A good ratio is 2 or 3 positives to 1 negative.) Good and bad feedback are more impactful coming from someone we care about versus a stranger. Make sure your writer gets the physical and emotional support they need to be successful. There is really no better gift for them.
I hope that this holiday season is a beautiful one for you. Spend time with your loved ones, and perhaps this will give you some ideas if you are still seeking that "perfect" gift for the writer in your life.