The Three Things Every Writer Needs

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Credit: Travis Modisette

For this article, I scanned flyers, blogs, Kickstarter, bookstores and office supply warehouses.  The elves of online shopping outlets were happily pulling my finger tips to the keyboard and I was ready to start to linking delightful little gifts, everything from boot slippers to writer’s magazine subscriptions.

But here’s the thing:

Writers don’t need the cutest pens to write prize-winning essays.  We don’t need stylish terrariums with air purifying plants to spark inspiration.  We don’t need the latest writing software to create dynamic and compelling characters.

Don’t get me wrong:  these things are amaaaaaazing.  And most writer’s like stuff!  (I would personally be thrilled to receive a pair of boot slippers, as cold feet are the bane of my existence, and a major distraction when writing.)

There are several top 7, 10, 35 and 40 essential items for writer lists scattered across the internet.  There are even lists saying what not to get writers. You can get a wordsmith almost anything from anyone of these lists, but above all else, writer’s can always use these three things:

1.  Support  

It may sound cheesy, but it’s true…

Does the writer in your life know that you’re on their side?  That you respect their passion for writing?  That you don’t really mind their idiosyncratic tendencies such as shouting out possible character names or drawing timelines on napkins in the middle of dinner?  Do those writers near and dear to your heart know that you’ve got their back, and they can come to you with their problems, both real and fictional?

If you’re supportive and you know it, and you really want to show it, here’s a few ways to do so:

  • The basics.  You know, listening, smiling, asking questions, respecting their boundaries, empathizing when they don’t know how to kill off a character… those kind of things.
  • Supply the equipment.  This is where you can get to shopping!  It can be inspirational wall art, notebooks, an external hard drive, writing fuel (that’s red wine and honey roasted peanuts for me, but it varies), the list goes on.  Ask your lovely author what they need.  They will tell you.

2.  Time

Most writers don’t have lazy afternoons to spend filling moleskin notebooks with imagery, or write their time travel mysteries at Starbucks waiting for a certain barista to ask about them about it.  Most writers have day jobs, families, errands, housework, and they’re left to sacrifice a few hours sleep for the opportunity to scribble some dialog and plot points down.   How can you help?  You give the gift of time.  Let’s repeat that:

You can give the gift of time. 

So how do you do that?  Here are a few examples:

  • Babysitting.  This one only works if they have kids, keep in mind, but if they do, you’re in luck!  Take them to the movies, to the park, or to the library!  Free that writer for an afternoon from those cute little sticky-handed distractions.
  • House Cleaning.  If you live with this lovely literary type, by taking the lion’s share of the chores, you leave a lot of time left over for writing.
  • A no-date date.  The idea is that you set the mood for a great night of writing… just your writer and their date: their Lenovo IdeaPad (or non-Franzen endorsed computer) a note book, and preferably, a cool pen.  A beverage of choice, a prepared meal and a few word games can be a dreamy evening for any aspiring author.  Just pour that drink and give your writer a little privacy…

3.  Readers

Writer’s are naturally going to be very protective of their books (or blogs).  After what may feel like ages, they will present their finished, or finished-for-now products to you, hoping that you will vomit praise and rainbows all over it.  Gross, but true.  They will also want constructive feedback, questions about the story, a discussion about publishing and what they will do when their writing has made them internationally famous.

How do you do help here?

  • Read their work.  If a writer comes to you with their blood, sweat and tear-soaked manuscript, one of the  greatest gifts you can offer is to just read it.
  • Talk about it.  Ask the author questions, talk about what you like, and talk about what you didn’t like, or didn’t understand.  Give them a forum to discuss their ideas and intentions with the book, and offer your own original feed back.
  • Tell others to read it. Of course, this is only if their product is finished, and they want you to share it.  If so, recommending it to friends, family, colleagues, grocery store clerks, Good Reads, anybody and everybody is sure to put a smile on their face.

So, friends of writers:  Are you encouraging, time gifting, or reading for the authors in your life?  Great!  Still need to wrap something to go under the tree?  Fine.  Take a look-see at these lists:

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