Alright, so maybe the writer in your life isn’t selfish. But it’s almost certain that they feel that way from time to time, so don’t feel too bad if the thought has also crossed your mind. Writing is an emotionally demanding task, and I mean truly demanding in the sense that it subjects you to a clamorous nagging of infinite possibilities and word choice, the churning of emotions that have to be relived and closely examined to be rendered on the page, constantly seeking a choice writing environment, solitude, and infinite time. It’s a sad reality that when we writers give our energy and spend our time with others, there isn’t always much left for writing, so when we dedicate ourselves to our craft we are effectively giving the people we love less attention. While we are empaths at heart, sometimes we put the inner lives of our characters before our own and the people we care most about. And it seems we always need more time, more space to work on our goals. We won’t text or call back for hours because we are lost in imaginary worlds. I know some writers who even embrace being selfish, celebrate it insidiously. Their IG handle is “Author. Blogger. Selfish BUT I’M OK WITH THAT AT THIS POINT IN MY WRITING CAREER SO NO NEGATIVE VIBES PLZ.” And sure, there are writers who castigate their selfishness, but sometimes they can’t help but still be selfish. It’s as if they’re compelled. I happen to think George Orwell said it best when he wrote,
“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
A writer’s craft is demanding of them, and at times maybe even demanding of you. It can feel like they’re wasting your time. On vacations, they insist on retreating in solitude to write. They always beg you to come to one reading after another. In all honesty, we probably just wrote you another poem for your birthday, but if you still want to get us a gift, here are seven failproof suggestions.
1. Time. We writers spend a large portion of our life inhabiting other worlds, asking for more “me time,” and we spend more time looking at our screens than a dozen millennials combined. That’s because so much of writing is not finishing the novel, just getting started on another new project, or simply not being able to dedicate more time to our craft because of work, school, kids, relationships, or numerous other real-world demands. In other words, so much of writing is just wishing you had more time to write.
Unfortunately, having a relationship, romantic or otherwise, with a writer can often feel very isolating. Maybe you don’t see them as much as you’d like, or when you are together they have their nose in a book or their fingers on the keyboard. Maybe you’ll be in the middle of a conversation and they suddenly open their notebook and start scribbling away because what you said would be perfect for the dialogue they’ve been working on in chapter five. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a (perhaps well deserved) side eye for delaying plans because “I’m just in the writing zone right now, please don’t be mad.” It’s almost inevitable that at some point in time the writer in your life is going to flake. And when they do, if you can, give them the gift of time. Get a couple of movie passes and go with someone else. When I’m writing, the sound of people I love breathing is like Taylor Swift’s nails on a chalkboard. There is nothing so sweet as those seven words, “I’ll let you get back to writing” followed by the sound of silence. It is a generous and darling gift, we know. Sorry if we are too selfish to say, thank you.
3. The gift of hype. Does the writer in your life have a blog, an upcoming show, a dope Instagram account? Share their accomplishments and general self on your social media. Post their writing and tag literary journals and art magazines that share similar work. If there is one thing every writer I know wants more of, it’s readership.
4. A website. A lot of websites have super cheap plans, and a lot of freelance web designers work for reasonable rates. If your writer has a blog or a podcast or has expressed interest in having one, pay for the first year of their website. It will help them advertise their reading schedule, organize their projects and promote their work. I feel so many writers are in a constant struggle for legitimacy, and a professional website will definitely help to establish their brand.
5. Art. Artists love art. It’s not rocket science. Does your writer follow an artist that sells prints of their work? Easy peasy. It’s a known fact that the more art a person has, the more they feel like a sophisticated sonnofabitch. Writers are arrogant, and so is art. Did you ever see a movie where the most arrogant bastard’s home wasn’t filled with expensive art? I didn’t think so. Whatever. Just buy art. Give art. Buy some more art. Repeat. Or turn into Donald Trump, whatever. It’s your life.
6. Music streaming. Buy your writer a subscription to their favorite music streaming site so they can write ad-free and can stay in the zone. Nothing breaks the flow of creativity like a Geico ad.
7. A robe. Ok this one is a little more universal as far as gifts go, but if you only knew how many writing days I have spent like a cavewoman- never getting out of the clothes that I slept in (I start writing as soon as the caffeine kicks in and try to stay as present as possible for as long as I can), never leaving my house, not brushing my hair, hell, or even my teeth. When you get into the writing groove you can start to feel a little un-evolved. Help the writer in your life look stylish during their cabin fever with the gift of a refined robe. Because nothing says “I’m a writer,” than waiting till evening to finally put on your clothes.
(Cover image by Camila Mormandi)