Columns > Published on December 3rd, 2021

The 12 Days of Writersmas

Writers are not hard to shop for.

I don’t know how writers earned this reputation. Which other professions/hobbies come with this “hard to shop for” nonsense? It’s not like you hear people saying “Tailors are so hard to shop for…” It’s not like writing makes you immune to the charms of a personal hovercraft.

Let’s cut the legs off this rumor with a list of things you can get for a writer, or things you as a writer can get for yourself (surely some of you have repelled all of your friends and family because a bunch of you are jerks).

1. Review the Damn Books

The simplest, easiest, best gift you can give a writer is a 5-star review on Amazon or Goodreads, or barring that, on your blog, Instagram, BookTok, wherever you do stuff. Screenshot the review, throw it in an envelope, write “Merry Christmas, thanks for the great read!” across the top, and you’re done. Cheap, quick, simple, and actually helpful. If your writer friend is worth giving a gift, they’re worth a 5-star review. If you’re a writer, you can review your own book. Kind of masturbatory? Sure. But it's slightly less masturbatory than writing a book in the first place.

Here's a handy list of some books by LitReactor staff to help you get started!

2. Thermal Binder

This bad boy is the solution to all your supply chain woes. It’s really not that hard to use, and paired with a printer, you can make books that actuall look pretty good, at least on first glance, and would probably trick people into thinking your book was legit instead of being printed and bound by a guy with no pants. I don’t mean a guy who isn’t wearing pants at the time of binding, I mean a guy who no longer owns pants because he no longer needs them. He prints his own books in-house! That’s pants-burnin’ time, baby.

Get a thermal book binder at Amazon

3. 'Fun Home' by Alison Bechdel

This is a terrible book. It sucks. Unless you’re Alison Bechdel’s former English teacher, I can’t fathom why you’d be interested in how smart and well-read Alison Bechdel is, certainly not 232 pages interested. Why do I put this on the list, then? Because you give it to your writer friend, tell them to read it, and then on the back page you write, “See, this got published and gets a ton of praise, and your stuff is way better than this.” Just so you don’t think it’s a personal thing between me and Alison Bechdel (who, I assure you, has no idea who I am and has not wronged me in any way), On the Road also makes an excellent choice.

Get Fun Home at Bookshop or Amazon

4. Week of My Life Calendar 

For every week of your life that passes, you fill in a little box on this calendar. Sometimes we need a tactile reminder that our lives are slipping away while we waste them reading articles about stuff to buy. Other than this article, of course. This one is worth your while. There’s jokes! Wait, don’t leave—

Get a Week of My Life Calendar at Amazon

5. Tattoo Gift Card

Earlier in the year I got a good idea for a motivational tattoo for writers. You go into the tattoo shop and get a Porn-u-pine, a creature that’s like a porcupine, but instead of quills it’s covered in a bushy nest of dicks, right smack on your forearm. Make those dicks disgusting, whatever that means to you (if you’re not sure, this would be the appropriate time to seek out my Only Fans). Then you cover up one dick for each chapter of your manuscript you finish, each short story you submit, whatever your goal is. It’s not for everyone, but some of us have to get down in the hole before we can start digging ourselves out.

Get one here. If you happen to live in Memphis.

6. Smelling Salts

We’ve all been there, a day when you’ve only got 15 minutes to write and need to bang out a couple pages. Powerlifters swear by smelling salts for quick bursts of activity. Why not writers? I’ve heard of writers using caffeine, cocaine, adderall, all sorts of stimulants, but smelling salts are conspicuously absent. Is this because nobody’s thought of this brilliant idea, or is it because all the brilliant books were written while the writer was flying on smelling salts, and they’re guarding their secret? It’s definitely one of those two things, which makes this gift a win-win.

Get some here. 

Warning: LitReactor is not responsible for mishaps resulting from overuse of Cerebus Strength Hellfire Smelling Salts. —editor

7. Giant Map of Your Town

Walking is the best thing for writing. You’ll have more ideas while you walk than you will sitting on your ass. Walking is less wasteful than taking a long shower, and some of us don’t have a sensory deprivation tank at home, alright? To make your walking more useful, and to generate more ideas, get a giant map of your town, print it out in poster size, and try and hit every street where you live. You’ll see new things, think new thoughts, and get out of your rut. I’ve also heard it said that novelty makes your life seem longer, so if you want to have a longer life (because you’re a weirdo who hasn’t had enough already), a walk somewhere new might be the ticket.

To get one, look up "[your town name] GIS." Almost every city and town has a large-scale, high-quality street map available free to the public. 

8. Rock Tumbler

Polishing crap rocks into beautiful objects is the perfect metaphor for the writing process. Something about feeding rocks and sand into a canister, letting it run for a day, and seeing the results really shows you that it’s possible to accomplish a lot if you put in the time. Will you find it demeaning that people are willing to pay more for polished rocks than they will for your short stories? Probably. But I’ve got a secret for you: rock money and story money spend the same. Besides, it’s awesome to use a machine to do something that happens naturally and to do it faster and better. Suck on that, nature!

Get a rock tumbler at Amazon

9. LitReactor Shirt

Mutual appreciation of Litreactor is a path to making fast friends with other people who use this site and who like reading and writing. I’ve found this to be true, and trust me, there is no other way by which I make friends and influence people. If you wear this to a bookish event, you’ll be one of the cool kids.

Get one here. Or like 5 here. There are lots of great colors.

10. Coffee Roaster

Any writing gifts guide is going to have a coffee thing, so let’s get it over with. Roasting your own beans is kinda fun, and it pays for itself within a year or two (green, unroasted beans are cheaper, and they don’t really go stale like roasted beans do, so you can buy a shitload at a time). The real beauty is that it takes 20-30 minutes to do the whole process, and you have to monitor it a little. Seems like a good time to get some writing done. PLUS: Get you some little paper bags, roast up beans, and give them to people as gifts. Even if they suck, nobody will have the heart to tell you (and if someone does, see if you can get this person to read drafts of your shit, beacause they’re obviously into honest feedback).

Get a coffee roaster at Amazon

11. Record Player

I’m not one of these weirdos who romanticize the sound of vinyl. What’s great about getting a record player is you set a record on it, nice and low, you work, and the player interrupts you now and then to turn the record over. It’s better for writing than Spotify, plus you don’t have to hear about goddamn Home Depot again. We get it, Home Depot, you like orange, you sell lumber. Does this really require multiple reminders every hour?

Get a record player at Amazon

12. NYPL Desk Reference

Internet research kills books. I’m 100% convinced. It’s not that facts obtained through research kill works in progress, it’s that the research goes online, and that leads to something adjacent, and pretty soon you’re watching your third hour of Charles Barkley’s fucked-up golf swing. This handy reference book answers a lot of common questions without being as much of a rabbit hole. If the answer isn’t here, then it’s not all that important, and you can just throw some placeholder text in there and move on. This book will save your WIP.

Get The NYPL Desk Reference at Amazon

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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