This is perhaps less a post for you, my writer friends, than for your friends and family. :) Over the last several years of birthday, wedding anniversary, and Christmas gift-giving, I've asked for a few things not writing related. (John won Husband of the Year for giving me a Tiffany key necklace for our 20th wedding anniversary.) But for me, most of the things I'd like are things I think will help me tell better stories, or tell stories better.
Here is a list of possibilities for you to consider putting on your wish list:
Books - The obvious first choice. But there are all kinds to choose from - research books or journals for the period being written about; nonfiction how to books on character, emotion, plot, etc.; fiction in the genre being written - or something different. (I asked for three or four Jim Butcher books I don't have because I love his work and because I write urban fantasy so it's kind of research.)
DVDs - Movies can be great quick forms (2-3 hours instead of days or weeks) of studying story pieces like plot and structure and character and emotion. Of course, they're also simply fun! (I asked for the first two seasons of the TV show Castle to study how to have a serious topic - in Castle's case, murder - with a great deal of humor.)
Amazon or iTunes gift cards - Another obvious choice. Nice thing about both is that there are several choices in both of these online stores - music, books, ebooks, and more. Many writers like classical music, soundtracks, or certain kinds of bands based on the "sound" of their current book. (I asked for Creative Mind 2.0 a couple years ago. It's supposed to help your brainwaves cycle at the most creative level. I have no proof that it works, but I think I write much better/faster when it's playing.)
Office supplies - Most writers are a sucker for office supplies, and most have specific favorite pens and notebooks. Pocket or purse size notebooks are always good. Be careful not to overload a writer with too many cool journals - there's a point at which you get so many you can't use them all. Gift cards to the local office supply store are always useful. (I bought some more expensive but especially pretty notebooks with a matching bag to take to university when I started my master's degree. John bought me a beautiful pen for my birthday simply because it was beautiful.)
Software - My two favorites this year are Scrivener and Freedom. Both are available for Windows and Mac. Scrivener ($45 USD) helps you organize your work. Freedom ($10 USD) turns off your Internet connection for a user-determined number of minutes so you can focus on your writing.
Online Classes - There are dozens of great classes available for as little as $20. Make up your own little "coupon" and give the writer in your life an extra boost. (I'm teaching an online class on goal setting and time management in January. I love Margie Lawson's classes, and you can also purchase just the lecture packets.)
Speakers - There are so many kinds of speakers a writer might be interested in. I went to a presentation once given by a medical examiner. Among other crazy things I learned but don't know if I'll ever use is the temperature at which the human head explodes. You could buy a ticket now or you could create a homemade coupon for a specific event or a dollar amount. (John sent me to listen to Joss Whedon, and we went to Kevin Smith together at the Sydney Opera House - about $75 each. I know a couple of my friends want to go a weekend conference by Michael Hauge or Robert McKee - $200-700.)
Writer's conferences and retreats - Conferences can be as short as one day up to a week or more, so prices can range from $50 to several thousand. Another option is giving a writer an opportunity to get away on a little retreat to focus on writing. It might be with a friend at a hotel or timeshare, renting a house together with a group of writers, or just going away alone for a day, a weekend, or a week. (I've rented a room at a TraveLodge for a few days because that chain includes free Internet and a continental breakfast, and has an in-room fridge and microwave. John and I decided that a great amount of gifting to me next year is going to be the cost of going to the RWA National Conference in New York City.)
Musical items - Music is supposed to be connected with math and the logical side of your brain, and it's supposed to help the creative side of your brain work better. I don't know the details of why, but it's a good excuse to keep music on my to do list. (John gave me an electronic keyboard for an anniversary present, and guitar lessons for my birthday one year.)
Brain teasers and video games - Anything that works the muscle of my brain or relaxes me enough to refresh my creativity is a good thing, if you ask me. Ideas include word search and crossword puzzle books, jigsaw puzzles, those metal loop puzzles, Wii or Xbox games, Nintendo DS with Brain Age, and so much more. (John gave me Mystery Case Files: Huntsville for Christmas one year, and Bejeweled 2 during my semester break this year. I just have to discipline myself not to play them too often!)
Bubble bath, favorite wines and other relaxants - Even if you have a $10 limit on your Secret Santa, there is always something you can find. Some of my writer friends love the soaps and bubble bath products at a store called LUSH (and they have a $10 Secret Santa package). Last year a friend gave us a bottle of our favorite dessert wine. I'd be happy to be given a bar of Green & Black's extra dark chocolate - less than $5.
This list has probably given you a few ideas that aren't listed here. Feel free to share them with everyone in the comments section. What are some of your favorite gifts?
P.S. If you're wondering about the photo, I couldn't find a picture of a Christmas gift. I was at a friend's wedding this weekend, so it was the latest gift I bought (a gift set of various teas), and I know I'll never find another good reason to use this beautiful, romantic photograph! LOL!
Kitty Bucholtz is a writer and speaker, and a member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of Australia. She co-founded Routines for Writers http://www.routinesforwriters.com/a web site dedicated to helping writers write more. In 2011, Kitty will receive her Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from University of Technology, Sydney.