Assuming that you’re not reading this in advance for the 2016 holiday season or something like that, it’s too late to get these for Festivus, Hanukkah, Christmas, or any other winter holiday. Sorry. I didn’t get around to writing this up in time.
But fear not! The wonderful thing about the holidays finally being over is that it’s actually a prime time to pick up some gifts and such for friends and family, and that hopefully includes your authorial friend. I mean, sure, we can be a bit distant, and often a bit drunken, but we mean well… for the most part. Let’s not look at this relationship too closely, otherwise it might fall apart.
See, once you’re done with the holidays, there’s an amazing convergence of things going on. Everything that the stores couldn’t move in time goes on super-ultra-discount, and you also might well have some extra money because Great Aunt Ida still insists on giving you a hundred dollars every year, bless her heart.
So, with some holiday cheer in your wallet, what exactly can you do to make your author feel loved? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but these are five things I certainly wouldn’t say no to, if some kind soul inserted them into my writer’s nest.
Okay, if I’m being frank, this is the best thing you can do. Snag a copy of your author’s book, read it, review it, pass it on to someone else, hell, buy it as another friend’s post-holiday gift if you think they’d like it. It’s awesome, and it will make your author feel unbelievably wonderful. This is the top thing you can do, but I have it at the bottom. Why? Because all these sorts of lists have that as the number one thing, and I enjoy being contrary. Also because it’s more or less an anonymous gift, in a lot of ways, and giving feels good. I love being able to see someone receive my gift.
But mostly to be contrary, and to get it out of the way. Seriously, when it comes to spreading cheer to your author, this is the big one. But if you’re looking for something a little more material…
Liquor. Booze. Alcohol. Goofy juice. Whatever you want to call it, writers tend to like it. It’s not universal, so use your best judgment, but I’ve only met a handful of authors who don’t like a hearty nip every now and then. If you don’t know their drink of choice, you can always get them a basket of miniatures (My local liquor store will even arrange four mini-bottles of liquor into a bouquet with chocolates for an extra five dollars) to cover your bases. But, being the oddballs we authors are, something classic is always good. Something that makes us feel more like Hemingway. Whiskey, rum, scotch. Old school writerly drinks. Something off the wall will normally be welcome, too. If you find a weird flavor or a cool-looking bottle or something like that, you can bet a writer will crack it open with you. Or something that goes well with coffee, so we can ‘kickstart our muses’ in the morning.
Maybe you’re not quite comfortable with the booze, or you’re not old enough, or they’re not old enough, or you know they just plain don’t drink. Go straight for the heart of the matter. Coffee. Or tea or hot cocoa. Whatever their morning wake-up drink is. Personally, one of my favorite gifts I ever received was a collection of hot cocoas. Different flavors you just dump into hot water or milk. I’m simple like that. But I wouldn’t say no to a bag of coffee, either, and you can get decent deals on that, too, after the holidays are over. Especially the more specific flavored coffees like gingerbread and snickerdoodle and such. One of the best I found was for my sister, at a Ross of all places (White chocolate macadamia nut coffee. I didn’t even know this was a thing.), so keep your eyes peeled. Tea is also good, and especially nowadays, you can go nuts with it. Places like Steeped Tea, Dryad Tea, and FridayAfternoon Tea will ship bags of loose leaf tea to your doorstep. I’m down to one cup of my vanilla Earl Grey that I got for Christmas last year, and I’ve been nothing but happy with it. And if you want to get really fancy with it, there are coffee and tea subscription services, too. Or just a gift card to a local coffee joint works too.
During the whole run of the holiday season, CDs seem to be on sale (Believe it or not, CDs are still actually a thing.), with instrumental music being particularly easy to get a hold of. I find that there’s always a section in the back of Hastings or Wal-Mart with symphonic and orchestral music, and it’s always super cheap as it is (I got a five-CD collection of Tchaikovsky music for about 5 bucks), and post-holiday sales make it even easier to get your hands on it. And as a general rule, writers like instrumental music. I’m one of the weirdos who actually writes to music with lyrics, but even I like to use instrumentals. So if you see something lying around, give it a buy.
1: A Day Out
This isn’t exactly a physical gift, but it’s still one of the best things you can do for a writer. We’re terribly solitary, reclusive little creatures. I hear that if you put us out in the sun, we burst into flames. Okay, not really, but a lot of us do tend to burn something awful. We don’t leave our caves very willingly, because there’s always another book to be written, edited, or submitted. Or if not, there’s a short story. Or we need to do marketing. And if there’s a looming deadline, you’re lucky if we even sleep.
Your writer, like most, will likely be resistant to your insistence that they actually move. But force your way through the hemming and hawing and drag their ass out the door. It’s best if you somehow force it. Buy the movie tickets ahead of time or make lunch reservations. Make sure they know that there was legwork involved that would all fall apart if they didn’t leave. If your writer actually does have a looming deadline, they’ll stay in anyway, most likely, but otherwise, get them out. As much as they’ll hate it at first, they’ll end up having a good time. See, we might be good with words, but no so god at self-care. That’s why we need moderately normal people to remind us that there’s a world out there not made entirely of pixels on a screen. And even if they never say thank you, they’ll appreciate it.
But if they don’t say thank you, guilt them into it. Guilt works wonderfully well on writers. Pro tip.
So, hopefully you’re armed to gift something to your favorite author buddy. Happy holidays, everyone.