In the run-up to Christmas, if you live in a country where it’s a key celebration, every lifestyle magazine that comes with your weekend newspaper features page upon page of ‘gift ideas’. It’s been going on for a couple of weeks now. In the current climate—both economically and meteorologically—some of these are a bit revolting, the gold-leafed champagne truffles, leather embossed hip flask, or (for some reason) bronze chess set. Sterling silver collar stiffeners anyone? Real example, yours for only £60 (about 70 Euro or $78US) from Aspinall and Sons.
I am not in the least immune from a bit of materialism, yet I increasingly find myself preferring the practical gift. It can still be beautiful, finely crafted perhaps, and not necessarily cheap, but ideally it would have a function. Fewer presents, but ones that are just right. Okay, and a bit of chocolate, too—just hold the gold leaf please. And I’ll have the champagne separately, thanks.
A lot of the above-mentioned gift-ideas lists are themed. It used to be ‘gifts for him’ / ‘gifts for her’, but now there’s a huge variety. Christmas gifts for the gardener; the golf lover; the cook; the curry fanatic; the runner. Teen-agers’ gifts for boyfriends; for the cycling enthusiast; for the keen angler, and so on.
Inevitably, then, there are the gifts for writers. Some of these are at the novelty end—the mugs, for example (‘Don’t annoy a writer; she may put you in a book!’); a set of ‘novel teas’ (geddit?), teabags that are ‘tagged with literary quotes’. Others are genuinely wantable. I have blogged before about my papyrophilia – a love of paper or, loosely applied, of all things stationery. So some of the beautiful notepads and pen sets (not that I use anything but a biro or the keyboard in real life) are deliciously desirable. Alongside books, stationery, truly, office supplies of any type, are high on the list.
But of course, as the cliché has it, there are things that money cannot buy. If you write, how would this translate into a gift? I’ll bet at least one of these would be on it:
- Time. Not too much, a little pressure can be good. The bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult noted, I believe, that “Writer’s block is having much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it.” Fine. But there’s never enough, is there? Especially at this time of year. So just a bit more please.
- Freedom, to explore and so succeed—or to fail, without too much judgement. Bearing in mind it’s ourselves that can be our worst critics.
- Respect, no matter what genre you write in. Never mind what ‘literary’ or ‘art’ means.
- Enjoyment. Okay, the writing bit, the creation, is enjoyable, but overcoming aversion to some elements of the end-to-end process would be helpful. Whether that’s getting started, editing or whatever. For me, it’s the knowledge that nothing at all is going to be bought without relentless promotion. Though admittedly here, a little cash would help with that one…
What would be on your ‘money cannot buy’ wish list?