My mother believed in iron-clad fairness when it came to gifts. My younger sister and I are one year apart, and we always got identical gifts on Christmas morning. When I grew up and had my own two boys, my mother gave them identical gifts as well: "Two of everything" was her motto.
But as a writer, I've learned that we all have gifts, but we don't all have the same gifts. Lately it's become hard not to notice that, well, some of my friends' gifts are better. These writers create more memorable characters and place them in more challenging and provocative situations; their prose shimmers on the page. They have the kind of gifts that earn their books not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE starred reviews.
As the writing year comes to an end, and their titles appear on "Best of 2015" lists, it's hard not to feel a teensy-weensy bit jealous. I find myself envying the prodigious gifts that led them to such abundant and well-deserved recognition.
Wrestling with this ugly emotion - envy is one of the seven deadly sins - I hit upon this way of valuing anew my own distinctive gift as a writer. For I do have one gift nobody else has, even though in some sense it's the one gift everybody else has.
I have the gift of being me.
Others may write better books, but nobody else can write my books. Nobody else can tell my stories, the ones that come from my memories, my struggles, my sense of humor, my hard-earned wisdom, my soul. If I don't write those stories, they will stay unwritten. And I do believe the world would be poorer for that. Some child somewhere will read one of my books and love it fiercely and it will change her life at least a little bit.
The gift-giving fairies gave that to me, and they gave that to you, and it's a gift worth keeping.