Seth Godin writes, “Free doesn’t make something a gift. Free might be a marketing strategy, free might make a generous present, but free doesn’t automatically make something a gift. Gil Scott Heron’s album isn’t free, but it’s a gift. He’s exposing himself. Taking a risk. You listen to the album and you feel differently when you’re done…”
When I wrote my memoir Thin Places, I felt the deepest fear, the most profound worry I had about any book I’ve ever released. I felt naked when it published. I felt exposed when folks email their own stories of tragedy. I’ve risked and wondered if that risk was necessary. But then I realize that my story–my painful, redeemed story–is a gift to readers. It’s a risky gift, one that I wrote so that others wouldn’t feel alone anymore.
Seth Godin continues:
“The way I understand gifts is that the giver must make a sacrifice, create an uneven exchange, bring himself closer to the recipient, create change and do it all with the right spirit. To do anything less might be smart commerce, but it doesn’t rise to the magical level of the gift.”
So my question to you is this: How are you sacrificing in your craft? How are you creating an uneven exchange? What aspect of your artistry involves risk? How is your endeavor creating change in you, and in those who experience your work?
This has long been a point of frustration for me, particularly in the book realm. So few books are new. So few wow me. So few show this risk. Like recent movie releases, the industry tends toward looking back and capitalizing on someone else’s risk that panned out years ago that garnered commercial success. We rehash other’s genius, fearing our own risk. We like the safety of sequels.
It’s time we step out of the shadows of fear as writers.
It’s time we view our art not only as art, but as a risky gift. Something that costs us. Something that worries us at night, makes us tremble in the day. Breaking the mold and innovating involves that kind of sacrifice.
The question is, are you willing?