The best way for me to view my stories are as gifts. Though it can feel a bit presumptuous at first to assign value to something I have made, it remains the most humble relationship to my work. After all, I do not give gifts to draw attention to myself. In fact, it is my hope that if the one receiving the gift truly enjoys it he will become even more aware of himself in the same way I became more aware of myself when I first received it. But the only way to give a gift generously is without requirements. I cannot in my heart require anyone to love my stories; nor can I require how they must love my stories. This is not always so easy for me. I sometimes want proof that what I felt in writing my stories is real, and I mistakenly believe the evidence I am looking for can be found in the people with whom the stories are shared. This search for proof always ends in disappointment – in me, in my readers, and eventually in the whole world.

Of course that disappointment is merely the result of looking for something where it does not exist. If I search a desert for a fruit tree, I will always be disappointed and call the world incomplete, though the desert is missing nothing. Likewise, if I share a story with a reader and require him to love it in just this way and in just this moment, I have offered not an opportunity for that reader to know himself, but a bunk in my prison where other people hold the key to freedom.

Fortunately, whatever I received in writing a story cannot be lost or taken from me or disproved. It simply exists within me, growing steadily whether I acknowledge it or not. All my fear and distrust can do nothing to uproot it, the same as an imaginary axe cannot fell a real fruit tree. No matter how large and sharp I imagine this axe to be, the tree grows on and bears its fruit, more stories to share once I am done pretending the world can set me free.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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