What brings you the most joy and satisfaction? What do you do that gives you the most pleasure? What is your heart moved to give? What are your hands compelled to produce?
I believe that everyone has a unique gift, but I don't mean it in the bestowed-from-on-high sense of the term "gift." God doesn't enter into what I'm writing about now.
I mean your gift -- I mean something that is deep within you that you are instinctively moved to share with the world. I mean your contribution. I mean that thing that you love doing that makes you feel good, and also makes others feel good. I also mean that thing that you occasionally hate doing, but know, deep down, you have to do. Some people call it a "fire," but I'm not crazy about the term -- sounds too destructive. Your gift is creative. Your gift is your legacy. Your gift is your life force made manifest in the world.
Whether you create a highway or a motorcycle, a symphony or a recipe, or you simply provide love and kindness to those who deserve it, your gift is important. Your gift is true; it doesn't lie to you, or anyone else. You know it, deep down. Your gift is selfish and unselfish at the same time. That's what makes it so unique. The world needs and wants your gift, as you need and want to give it.
You may very well disagree, but I know writing is my gift. Whether or not the you want to accept it, I know someone will. One person -- one reader -- is enough. Because I write as much for myself as I do for that lonely reader.
I sit at my computer to do this just about every day, and some days the words flow freely and I feel inspired and happy. Following writing on those days I feel energized like I have just taken a cold swim in the ocean on a clear and sunny afternoon, right after having made violent and passionate love with a beautiful woman. There is an electric spike up my spine and the skies open up to me. I then take a stiff drink, if the writing was good, because I know I've earned the pleasure.
Other days it feels like I am sitting on the toilet after having consumed an entire wheel of cheese: straining, painful, nothing coming out. I struggle and there is a slight, nagging tension behind my eyes when I look for the right words but come up short. I feel a tremendous burden -- I know the words are in there, somewhere -- but they won't avail themselves of my fingers as I type. I hate this sort of writer's frustration as one might hate a bully in school. I know he's always around the corner, waiting, just waiting to beat me down and convince me of my weakness.
The worst nights are the nights when I didn't even try to give my gift, and I know that I could and should have made the effort. The evening's entertainment is always less entertaining, the wine less sweet, and I take little pleasure in my company, however cheerful and interesting. I am uninspiring and often dour, and those around me are cheated of my best qualities.
I know writing is my gift because it's something I have to do, love doing, and occasionally hate doing very much. My gift is a constant effort -- it doesn't come for free. But it is in me and of me and, should I go more than a few days without doing it, I get cranky and awful, and I know it's time to sit down and get to work. And then I feel much, much better, and my evenings feel much more enjoyable and free.
Your gift might also be writing, or one of a million other possibilities. I can't tell you what it is. I can't see or imagine it. But I want it. I want that thing -- that thing that is yours to give -- very badly. I want it in all of its its imperfections and oddities and grace and beauty and complications. I want it all. Because I know it's yours, and it's valuable, and it's interesting, and it's different from my gift. If you're moved from your very soul to give it, I know I want it.
And everyone else wants it, too. The joyless and the depressed and the deliriously happy just the same. Because the world needs more men and women to give their gifts. The world needs more men and women who are unapologetic about giving their gifts. And the world needs you to give yours, right now.
Because there's no time. There is no tomorrow and there is no next Sunday or next month or next year. There is only now, this moment. There will never be a better time to give your gift because there will never be another time to give your gift. Now is it. So give.
Whatever that thing you have to do is, do it. Often. Every day. Even at the expense of your relationship or work commitments or children or whatever. Because everyone in your life will ultimately benefit from your giving -- and they want your gift too, even if they don't or won't recognize it.
Your time with them will be more joyous, more interesting, and more relaxing if you are giving your gift, in some way, every single day. That tension in the evening -- that "Shit, I should have accomplished more today" -- will start to fade away. Your life, and the lives of everyone you know and love will be far richer as a result.
Your gift is yours. I can't take it from you. No one can. It's yours, but you have to give it. And anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is living in misery as a result of not giving their own gift. So they try to beat you down and reject your gift because it reminds them of their own neglect and weakness. But you can't let them get away with it -- give anyway. They will either warm to your gift, and start to give their own, or they won't, and will live the rest of their lives never knowing real peace.
It's a lot of work. I must emphasize once more. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's a little like hell, but you must give regardless.
Give your gift with abandon because I want it, and everyone else wants it, and right now is the only time to give.