There are so many gifts you can give, items you can buy, objects you can purchase. But what if this year, you give something different? What if you gift writing instead of things?
I love the Christmas season.
I love decorating the tree and baking cookies with my daughter. I love wrapping presents and hiding them from prying eyes.
But with every passing holiday season, I find myself loving something less and less each year: Rampant consumerism, and the impossible expectations that come with it.
If you’re anything like me, making room in the budget for pricy gifts is a challenge. The bombardment of commercials doesn’t make it any easier. It seems like every ad shows a happy family unwrapping televisions, expensive smartphones, and new car keys — without a single moment of financial stress or credit card debt!
We just can’t keep up with the Joneses.
A Priceless Gift for Your Loved Ones
Each Christmas, I’ve found a solution to consumerism: “gifting” my writing.
It’s taken many forms. And while it isn’t free, it scales wonderfully because I can usually duplicate or copy the same gift writing to each family “unit,” or group of loved ones.
If you’re like me, you may wonder if this qualifies as a gift. “Isn’t that just hawking my stuff?” you may ask.
Here’s the trick: write something new for the gift.
Even if it’s just one new short story, a single poem, or a new “bonus” chapter to a book, create something new that is just for your loved ones on this specific holiday.
Then, if you have any crafting or tech skills, you can spruce it up and make it look really creative and/or professional!
When we give the gift of our writing, we’re giving something that’s precious. We’re giving our:
- Heart and soul
- Time and attention
- High-value artistic creation
And when those closest to us receive something created specifically for them, it’s a gift that can’t be found anywhere else, exchanged at the mall, or shipped back to Amazon.
6 Ways to Gift Writing This Holiday Season
As I’ve gifted my writing over the years, I’ve attempted a variety of approaches with varying success. I’ve included strategies I used as a teenager, college student, and adult, so find an approach that works best for your timeline and budget.
Your gift can be whatever you want it to be. It can be wildly fictitious or true-to-life. It can be memoir. It can be something experimental that you’re trying out. It can be poetry, short story, flash fiction, novella, novel, serialized story, a collection of blog posts — nearly anything.
And don’t forget — you can do this in advance and plan for next year!
1. Write/Say What You Want
Before going any further, we have to address an important issue: writing for family can be tough.
Some of us might use writing as a form of escape from family. If that’s true, perhaps gifting your writing will work best for distant relatives or close friends, rather than family members.
It’s up to you what’s best. But whatever you do, do not to use this writing as therapy (though it can be therapeutic to tell stories in your own voice, and then share that with family, distant relatives, or friends and loved ones when the time is right).
It’s up to you whom you feel safe sharing your writing with, and what types of writing you feel safe sharing.
Either way, don’t make the mistake of discounting your voice and its priceless value as a gift.
2. Get Crafty
Back in high school, I printed pages of my short stories and glued them to construction paper and used string as the binding. I colored the cover with colored pencils and was very pleased with the result.
I highly recommend this for younger gift-givers when limited by budgets and time.
By raiding the arts and crafts drawers of your house, you may be surprised what tools are available to create some fun projects for your family.
3. Mimic Professional Printing
With access to a few more resources, you can construct a professional-looking book with printed pages and card stock. Using online tutorials, I figured how to format a double-sided, paginated booklet, and then used textured card stock for the cover. The textured card stock goes a long way to creating the “feel” of a professional piece of printing, even if the resulting book is rather slim.
With this approach, make sure you have access to a “long stapler,” so you can accurately staple the center spine of the booklet. Copy shops, or your workplace’s copy or mailroom, often have one of these that you can use.
4. Go Professional … but Plan Ahead!
If you decide to enlist a professional book printer, or print-on-demand service, you have to plan far in advance. I’m learning this the hard way this year, as some of my gifts won’t ship on time and I’ll have to send a “preview” before the actual book arrives.
This is a great option if you have a longer work that you want to gift to a large amount of people.
This year I’m gifting a book to fifteen family/friend units (grandparents, aunts/uncles, parents, friends, etc) for around $60 total. Out of the eleven stories in it, four have never been published outside of The Write Practice Pro, and three have never been published at all. They’re just for my loved ones.
But you have to plan ahead.
I recommend ordering your books by December 1, especially if you have to wrap and ship them to distant family units.
While this won’t help you with Christmas 2020, it’s a great option as you look ahead to 2021—and start planning your gift budget far in advance.
5. Think Outside the “Book” Box
So far, I’ve only described how to gift “books.” What about other media?
Here are some suggestions of other ways to share your writing, stories, and creative talents for the holidays:
- Record your stories or novel into an audiobook, and give CDs, flash drives, or printed “book covers” (with a download link) as gifts!
- Record YouTube videos and share the URL exclusively with the gift recipients. Perhaps print screenshots and wrap them up as a gift!
- Partner with an artist or illustrator (preferably with a spouse or another family member) to give paired gifts of art and word!
- Offer a creative writing lesson to friends or family members that have expressed an interest in storytelling. You can “wrap” this as a coupon or voucher!
The truth is that your stories can be given as a gift in many forms, and you’re the best person to come up with clever ways to share that with those who mean the most!
6. Personalize the Story
Finally, no matter what you do, find ways to personalize the writing or the packaging.
This year I’m dedicating my gift to a family member who is a fellow writer. He wants to thrive as a creative writer, but hasn’t due to the exhausting grind of work and family life.
I’m also including a “Foreword” in which I share how we sometimes forget the reason for Christmas, the story of the Man that I and many other people worship and love.
So what can you say, even in just a hundred words, to positively reach out to your family?
Of course, this isn’t the time to air long-standing grievances or call out specific persons, but it is a place you can personalize the story and share your heart, if you feel so inclined.
Consider signing each book, or project, to the recipients.
Let them know that you touched it and thought of them personally. Maybe leave notes to individual loved ones throughout the project. Tiny shout-outs make people feel remembered and special. That alone is a priceless, powerful gift.
Whatever you do, give it little personal touches that really accent the meaning behind the season and the gift you’re giving.
What to Write When Giving a Gift
Now that you’ve created your gift (go you!), it’s time to put your writing skills to work one more time before the big finale.
Surprisingly, a lot of gift givers—yes, even writers—fall short of words when it comes to writing that special message on the tag or in a card. You want to make it personal and meaningful, and doing this means avoiding those familiar cliches. (It’s beginning to look a lot like…)
To help kickstart your personalized holiday message, here are some ideas on what to write when giving a gift this pandemic year:
- Even if we can’t be together in person, I hope you know how much you mean to me this and every season.
- It’s been a tough year! I hope this gift will bring a smile to your face, and also give you comfort and joy as we head into the New Year. (Come on 2021!)
- This year wasn’t anything we expected. Here’s to hoping this surprise gives you some long awaited joy.
- Pouring all my warm wishes and love into your gift this year.
- Thinking of you with love and joy this holiday season, and hoping this gives you exactly that.
Still stuck on this? Check out a Christmas card store like Shutterfly or Hallmark for some general messages, and then put a twist on one or two of the words (or phrases) to make the message your own.
Give the Gift of Writing With Confidence
Finally, when the big moment comes and everyone is opening their gifts, sit tall and smile. Don’t cower or slouch your shoulders in shame.
And when they open the book and see what it is, let them enjoy it. If they compliment you, say, “You’re welcome!” or “I hope you enjoy it!” Don’t apologize that it’s not a new iPhone. Don’t explain yourself or your poverty or lack of creativity or anything else.
Give your gift with confidence!
What is more meaningful: A $20 Starbucks gift card that took five minutes to buy? Or a $5 book that took twenty hours to write, edit, print, personalize, and wrap?
Give with the confidence that you are a storyteller and you are giving to those you care about the most. Because if there’s anything we should be consuming more of each Christmas, it’s meaningful time with the people who mean most to us.
I hope this helps you do just that!
Have you ever given someone the gift of your writing? Do you have other creative gift writing ideas? Let us know in the comments.
Take fifteen minutes and start a new piece of writing that can be a gift to your loved ones this year. It can be a poem, short story, flash fiction, memoir, blog post — anything that comes from your story. Don’t worry about whom it’s for yet. Just take an idea or piece of inspiration and run with it, and write it with its possible “gift” role in mind.
When you’re done, share your potential gift writing in the comments. I’d love to read your gift “inklings” and encourage you onward as creative gift-givers! Happy writing and Happy Holidays!