The Art Of The Gift

The books and stories and poems we write are gifts in a way. This may sound a bit presumptuous, but bear with me. We create these things and then look for ways to share them with the world. When we share them, our ambitions are many-fold: money, exposure, expansion, plus all the secret, tawdry egoistic goals we hope but know in the end will never be met. These are all the things that we as writers get, so to speak, out of the publication process, the tangible, personal receipts that come naturally though in varying quantities to every author. Far less tangible, yet just as important, is what the reader gets out of the work, and this is where the gifting comes in. The gift of art is different from a traditional gift that you have picked out specifically for one person, but the requirement of the giver remains the same: no expectations.

I have known people prone to giving false gifts. “Here,” they say, “I think you’d really like this shirt,” or, “this wine,” or, “this book.” There’s nothing wrong with this, except with these people, if I do not accept the shirt, wine, or book I will have in some way offended them. In fact, sometimes I must not merely accept it, but like it as much as they do. This is not a gift. This is a requirement. Something given is only a gift if there are absolutely no expectations upon the recipient whatsoever.

The same is true with what we write. Though in theory we require someone beyond ourselves to enjoy what we’ve written if we are to ever make a living, we cannot expect it. That is, once we are satisfied that what we have written is ready to share we must offer it to the world as a true gift, from a position of surrendered expectations. Whoever chooses to pick up our work must and will do so out of their own sovereign choice—we must not be involved in this choice in any way.

Moreover, we will be happier. To expect something of other people is a nightmare of guaranteed disappointment and powerlessness. However, to expect that there are people like you out there somewhere who are a part of your intellectual and emotional family is not only reasonable but essential. You just don’t get to choose who they are. But when you find one another, the gifts will flow both ways, never required, but always received.

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