Several years ago, a writer friend told me what she asked her husband to give her for the holidays. "I said I'd really love him to leave, with our son, for a long weekend."
This is a woman with a great marriage and a terrific relationship with her son. But she wanted what every writer wants: time alone to think and write. If you have a writer in your life, here are a few gift ideas that will guarantee your place in future acknowledgments.
1. Take a page out of Roald Dahl's book. Every writer dreams of having a backyard cottage, similar to Dahl's "writing hut." English cottages and charming huts might seem out of reach, but a good carpenter could build a modest cottage on the cheap. Maybe give your favorite writer a copy of Michael Pollan's A Place Of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams, in which the author recounts the story of how he built a small writing studio in the woods near his home. The book could serve as a placeholder for the cottage you or a hired carpenter will build in 2016.
2. Rent a cottage. This is the obvious and easier alternative to building a cottage. Rent a place--house, apartment, condo, or cottage--on VRBO or Airbnb for your writer for a week or two. Ideally this would be given as a gift certificate so your author can tell you the best dates and location. I like to take writing retreats within a day's drive of home. Less travel time means more time for writing, which is the name of the game here.
3. Book a hotel room. Again, make this a gift certificate so the writer can choose the best dates. Any hotel will do, but some places might prove especially inspiring. Consider the Algonquin Hotel in New York, home of the famous Round Table. Or, check out my new favorite literary hotel, the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. This is where Margaret Mitchell spent her honeymoon and where F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed when visiting Zelda. The hotel is near lots of terrific hiking trails. (I've written before about the benefits of combining hiking and writing.)
4. Investigate the public library. Many libraries offer private study rooms for free. Reservations are sometimes required. Check out the possibilities of booking a private library room for several hours a week for your writer. A donation to the Friends of the Library would be appreciated.
5. Convert a spare room. If there's a spare bedroom in your house, why not turn it into a writing studio? Make sure the room has a desk, good lighting, and a door that can be closed. Also make sure you're committed to not interrupting the writer while he or she is working.
6. Find a neighbor with extra space. What writer hasn't fantasized about meeting an elderly neighbor with an empty carriage house, attic apartment, or cupola suitable for writing? In the fictionalized version, the elderly neighbor would die and leave the carriage house--or better yet, the entire house--to the struggling writer. It sounds like a Diane Lane movie, but it's worth exploring. Is there someone in the neighborhood who might lend a spare room to your writer in exchange for snow shoveling services or lawn mowing?
7. Just leave. That sounds harsh, I know, but the writer in your life would love you to go away for a long weekend. Better yet, leave every Sunday afternoon for six months. Or a year. Or--dare I say it?--every Sunday until the book is finished. You'll return home each week to find a writer grateful for the gift of time.
During the holiday season, it's easy to forget that sometimes the best gift of all is simply the gift of time. I can't think of anything a writer would appreciate more than being given time and space to work. Who knows? Maybe in the process you'll decide to write your own book. Just please don't finish it before the writer who started first.
Kate Klise is an award-winning author of 30 books. When she's not busy writing, Kate leads workshops around the country for aspiring authors of all ages. Learn more about Kate Klise here.