Gifts for Writers

What about a $35,000 fountain pen? No?

I will be the first to admit that I am not hugely excited by receiving gifts. Unless a gift is very useful or has a particular deep meaning for me, your basic gift shop tchotchke is just another goddamn thing I have to keep, use, display, maintain, clean, store, and eventually find a way to get rid of.

For a writer, though, what better gift to give than an experience? What could be more useful, more versatile, than experience? The standard advice is, after all, “write what you know,” so gift them with direct, experiential knowledge.

A writer can fit an experience into almost any setting. A mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, for example, can become a death-defying stunt, a pioneer’s journey westward, a holy pilgrimage, a death march, a wild flight across the Misty Mountains with goblins and Gollums in hot pursuit… The possibilities are infinite.

Travel is the archtypal broadening experience, but not everybody can afford to take a Grand Tour. Not that any writer I know would turn down a six-month tour of Europe… But there are also many experiences that can be found closer to home.

  • Salsa dancing lessons.
  • Season tickets to the opera or ballet.
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail.
  • A long bicycle trip along a converted railroad.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Swim with dolphins.
  • Witness a baby being born.
  • Travel across country by train.
  • Go to cooking school.
  • Learn to scuba dive or snorkel.
  • Climb a very, very tall tree.
  • Stay up all night for the winter solstice.
  • Capture a swarm of bees.
  • Fly a plane. Or a balloon. Or a kite.
  • Go to all the tourist traps in your hometown.
  • Go caroling.
  • Make a movie.
  • Forage wild foods and cook a meal from them.
  • Build or renovate a house.
  • Make an item of clothing.
  • Put on costumes and walk downtown to get dinner.
  • Go for a week without using money or buying anything.
  • Spelunking.
  • Slaughter, dress, and butcher an animal (carnivores only).

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