I always think writers are the easiest people to shop for (one book store gift card and you're done) but my family assures me that we're not. I've collected complaints from the rest of the clan, and they cite the following:
1. You can't buy writers actual books because you don't know what we already own (true, but my shelves are not hidden, and neither is my LibraryThing account, which is searchable. Plus I always have a running shopping list on the bulletin board in the office.)
2. Reading or writing devices are tricky because we've either got them all and/or we're extremely picky about them (very true. I would go with a Levenger gift card here.)
3. There are very few writing-related humor gifts (also true, although Mom did find me a Careful, or you'll end up in my novel T-shirt for me one year.)
I still say the book store gift card is the best gift for writers, because we're forever in need of books. For the writer on your list who lives far away, you can do an online bookseller gift certificate by e-mail, which is just as good. But if you're still looking for a physical gift for your favorite writer, here are some last-minute ideas:
AlphaSmart Neo: Every writer I've given one of these to really loves it and says it helps them get a lot of writing done. I think they're great because the only thing you can do on them is write.
Books on Writing: If your writer enjoys writing how-tos, and you know what they already own, a new book on writing will likely be much appreciated. My favorite how-to released in 2009 is definitely Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen. Or check out online recommendations (Author Nancy Owens Barnes has an interesting site called Books4Writers where I found out about The Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, something I've been using every week since I bought it.)
Cleaning Kits: A printer cleaning kit is also something most writers can use; so are kits to clean up CDs, DVDs or CD drives.
Digital Camera: I have a little no-brainer Kodak point and shoot, and I love it because it is easy to use and takes some great shots. Over the last year I've used it almost every day for my online art project, and it's really changed the way I think about photography and how I look at the world.
Dragon Naturally Speaking: every seriously handicapped writer I've talked feels this is the best speech-to-text software out there; so do I. It's not for every writer, but if yours has been wanting the program, it can make a huge difference in their writing life.
Magazine subscription: if your writer doesn't subscribe to a trade mag, a year's subscription to P&W or The Writer are definitely worth the price.
Magnetic Poetry: Half of my books wouldn't have titles if it weren't for MagPo. I recommend one of their Essential Word Kits or (for the blocked writer) the Writer's Remedy Kit.
Office Supply Store Gift Card: We're always in need of office supplies; this will absolutely be used.
Printer ink cartridge: This sounds like an unlovely gift, I know, but we go through them like Kleenex so they'll definitely be used.
Windows 7 upgrade: for your writer who is still trying to figure out Vista (I am not a fan of Windows, but until Publishing switches over to Mac, I think we're stuck with it.)
If you'd rather make a gift, one thing you can put together is a Writer Relaxation Kit. In a pretty basket or book tote put a coffee mug, a hot beverage mix, some snacks (single-serving bags of microwave popcorn are great), some magazines, a soothing CD and/or a cool movie. If it's cold where your writer lives, add some fuzzy socks or a plush throw.
Another cool gift to make is a Writer's Pack. This can be a backpack, a book bag or big pretty binder filled with writing essentials: interesting pens and pencils, clips, packs of dividers, notepads, a book light, planners, CD holders, etc. You can put the little bits in a neat pencil case or supply box.
My personal favorite homemade gift is a Writer's Bubble Bath Kit. For this you put together everything your writer needs to take a long, hot soak in the tub: bath salts or bubble bath, soap, a pretty washcloth, scrunchie or bath mitt, scented candles, a CD with nature sounds, a bath pillow (I like the ones made to support the neck) and a big fluffy towel or a bath robe and slippers.
You writers out there, want to add any ideas for what you'd like to find in your stocking? Let us know in comments.