Columns > Published on December 19th, 2018

5 Gifts NOT To Get That Special Writer In Your Life: A Guide

It’s that time of year again. The stores already have their Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras or Fourth of July displays out, but that doesn’t mean you’ve crumpled your holiday shopping list and kicked back with the eggnog yet. If you’re human like the rest of us, you’ve still got a ways to go and a pile of presents to buy. In the haze of last minute shopping—when the pillaged racks of gift cards and the bins of cellophane-wrapped holiday baskets are starting to look good—you might be tempted to pick up one of these go-to gifts for your writer friends.


Go for the hot sauce basket or the hot cocoa snowman tin. Go for the honey baked ham. Hell, make that special writer in your life really happy and stick a bow on a pint of whiskey. Nothing says I care about you and am here to help you drown your wordsmithing woes like a festive fifth of Maker’s.

If, however, you won’t bring yourself to give a writer what he or she really wants (coffee, alcohol, a month-long retreat on a private island) or can’t (a seven-figure publishing contract, you know…), then for heaven’s sake, at least don’t resort to one of these:

1. Notebooks 

Seriously. This is probably at the top of every “writer gift-giving guide” you’ve ever read, but honestly, just don’t. Writers, in case you hadn’t noticed, are difficult, often obsessive, and very particular. They usually have only one type of notebook—THE notebook—and unless you know exactly what brand, color, rule-size, page count, thickness, binding and paper-type this notebook is, it’s better to just avoid it altogether. That super cute notebook with the sparkly unicorn embossed on the cover is just going to be tossed on the shelf in the back of the closet with all the others the writer’s been accumulating since her high school graduation. At best, it will be re-gifted or used for scrawling out grocery lists. Worst? Well, the kitchen table has been a little wobbly. Trust me, save your money. Go for the whiskey.

2. Pens

See "Notebooks." Pencils also.

3. ""How to Write a Bestseller in 15 Days!''

or any book that promises to teach the writer X number of tricks to write a literary masterpiece and gain fame and fortune all while using X method developed by X, a self-published guru cheesing in a glamour portrait from the glossy back cover. This is the most wonderful—as in anxiety-plagued—time of the year already. Don’t make the writers any more neurotic than they already are.

4. "Writing for Dummies' or some variation thereof 

Same reason. In fact, just avoid any kind of writing books altogether. The last thing writers need is to feel like writing is easy and everybody can do it and be successful, including their neighbor’s dog and their Aunt Effie’s parakeet, which means that there’s something wrong with them because they haven’t yet hit J.K. Rowling’s stardom. Buy the coffee table book on maps of the world or hot chicks on cars. Fun facts about random stuff. Any book but a book on how to write.

5. Anything plastered with an inspirational quote about writing

Coffee mugs. Tea towels. Useless decorative paperweights. Writers are already busy either beating themselves up for not finding the time to write or busy finding other things to do instead of writing, such as cleaning the baseboards or picking out a new vanity license plate at the DMV. The last thing they need is an inanimate object trying to motive them to sit down and get to work.

I should probably have prefaced this embittered anti-gift giving guide by saying that it pertains only to those of us who have been at this for a while. Those of us who write for a living—or at least put in enough hours each week that it might as well be a full-time job—or maybe just those of us who are natural writer curmudgeons. For kids, go on and get the glittery journal and the color-changing pens. For the writer just starting out, the Jane Austen socks are fine. But skip the How-To manuals and the Instant Success tomes. Nobody, not even the last name on your naughty list, deserves that kind of shit. Happy Holidays!

About the author

Steph Post is the author of the novels Lightwood and A Tree Born Crooked and her short fiction has most recently appeared in Haunted Waters: From the Depths, Nonbinary Review and the anthology Stephen King’s Contemporary Classics. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a Rhysling Award and was a semi-finalist for The Big Moose Prize. She is currently the writing coach at Howard W. Blake High School in Tampa, Florida.

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