I found this list prior to the holidays, but declined to post it then because I didn’t want people to think I was fishing for gifts. I’m not. Really. But I found the article thought-provoking because the author was so sure she’d found a list of things any author would love and use…and I disagreed with most of them.
First, the original article:
And then my evaluation of the list:
1. A Cheesy New Bestseller
I have to admit, Chick-Lit is one of my guilty pleasures. But I’m picky about it; I won’t read just anything you put in front of me. So unless you know your author well enough to know what they would really like, don’t buy them a book. Buy them a gift card to your local indie bookstore, and then go with them to make sure they use it.
2. Good lipstick
Dear gawd, no. First off, not all writers are female. And second, even the ones who are don’t all like wearing makeup. (I just look stupid in lipstick.) Something more universal might be a bottle of good-smelling shower gel.
3. Foreign language learning software
Oh, yeah, right, like I need another time suck? Not that learning another language would be a bad thing, but I’m afraid the software would sit on a shelf, gathering dust and generating guilt for years to come.
Instead, find a craft or hobby your writer already enjoys and give them something related to it. If she knits, buy her a yarn tote; if he’s into photography, find out what kind of memory card his camera uses and get him a spare. That kind of thing.
4. A Bathrobe
“Even if she already has one, she probably hasn’t washed it in a long time, and could use another.”
Again, not a safe assumption. I have two already. Nor do I need slippers, or a Snuggie. (Though a heated throw to keep up by my desk might be nice….) Chances are that there’s something your writer might need or want. But don’t make assumptions. Take the time to find out.
5. A Manicure
Confession time: I bite my nails. I’m much better about it than I used to be, but my nails still aren’t going to win any prizes. So I’d probably just about die of embarrassment if a nail care professional even looked at my nails. Even the thought makes me squirm. I had a dream the other night that I was getting a manicure, and woke up feeling as though I’d been violated somehow. Honest. And polish just chips off and makes me crazy. Besides which, I keep my nails short on purpose–if they get to be more than about 1/16″ long, they interfere with my typing. So no manicures for me, please.
Instead, find some personal service or bit of pampering you know they’ll enjoy. Speaking for myself, I’d far rather have an hour in a tub at Ten Thousand Waves, or up at Hot Sulphur Springs, than a manicure.
6. “Freedom”, the internet-blocking software
Nice thought, but that’d be up there on the guilt shelf beside the foreign-language-learning software.
Instead, get them something that will help them with stress management. Angry Birds, for instance. Because sometime you just need to knock down walls and kill piggies. They have it for PCs, by the way, and it’s not even expensive! ($4.95? Really?) http://download.angrybirds.com/
7. Booze, coffee, and other stimulants
Finally, one I can agree with–again with the caveat that you need to know your writer’s likes and dislikes. (For example, I strongly dislike coffee, or anything coffee flavored. And caffeine give me migraines. But decaf and herbal teas usually work, as do alcohol and chocolate, in small amounts.)
8. Yoga Classes
Um, no. I’d find excuses, then feel guilty about not going. Instead, find out what sorts of exercise your writer practices and enjoys, then get them something that relates to it (like music to listen to while they work out, or a water bottle for their bike). Or just get out there and do it with them, if that applies. Offer to go swimming, or on a bike ride, or take a long walk with them.
9. A pet
At least she’s realistic on this one and advises the reader to check with the writer first. Much as I’d love to have a pet, I have a spouse with allergies. Better idea: Get the pet yourself, and let me come visit.
10. Freezable homemade foods: casseroles, soups, breads, and baked goods.
Okay, I can sort of agree with this one. Again, with the “know your writer” caveat: I’m on a fairly strict diet, so baking me a batch of my favorite homemade cookies isn’t going to be much of a treat for me. But some chicken soup that I can stick in the freezer and save for the next time I have a cold? I’d love that.
11. A hand-written letter
This is nice in that it says that you care enough to go out of your way to do something personal. But what I’d far rather have from my friends is more face-time with them. Because time spent with friends? That’s a present no money can buy.
12. The Gift, by Lewis Hyde
PLEASE, NO! Never, ever, ever, no matter how great you think a self-help/inspirational book is, give it to anyone as a gift. You can suggest it. You can lend them yours to see if they like it (and if they do, you could pick up a copy for them). But in my mind, handing someone a self-help book says that you think they need help. And it’s not all that different from handing someone a religious tract and expecting them to read it and change their life. So don’t. Just don’t.
(I can guarantee you that every self-help book anyone has ever tried to force on me is sitting packed away in a box somewhere, and when we finally get around to unpacking those boxes, those books are going straight to the thrift-store donation pile. I swear it.)
Instead, get them a calendar you know they’ll enjoy, or that will make them smile. I have one with teapots on it. Really gorgeous teapots. They inspire me to great things…or at least, to making fussy little sandwiches and sticking out my pinkie finger while I sip tea from a delicate china cup. That’s the sort of inspiration I want in my life.
So now you know what to really get for that writer in your life.
The one I want most of all? See my response to #11.