Forever Entwined

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The relationship between reader and writer is complex and forever entwined.

Sure, a writer can write without a reader, but if her words remain unread and unexplored, do the words mean anything? I suppose it depends on what we write — journals, novels — but I would imagine those words mean less if they linger in literary oblivion.

Different from speech, writing is a personal form of communication. While the writer should not preach or try to persuade ad nauseam, we are human; much of who we are comes through in a novel. And for $2.99 or some such, the reader steps inside the inner sanctum to explore at will.

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Before I started writing seriously, I viewed the writer as someone who worked for my pleasure. Now I know is for the pleasure of both, reader and writer. One cannot offer pleasure without feeling the same.  No matter how hard she tries. It would come across fake; the trust would be broken.

That is the opposite of what the writer is aiming for when constructing the novel.

What a reader takes from a novel may not be in accord with the writer’s intention. And that’s perfectly all right. A reader’s view is directed by his experiences, his interpretation of the words may be different to that of the writer or another reader who has had a different life experience. It’s what makes the whole process beautiful.

I once heard mystery writer Harlan Coben say he has no books until he has readers. I didn’t know what to make of it until my book was sent into the worlds of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and I started hearing back from readers.

Though I controlled the text as it took shape, I was no longer in control of how the reader might interpret it. And the more I heard back the more I delighted in the fact that readers cared enough to interpret away, to ask questions about my characters.

That is so much more than a writer can hope for. It really is what keeps me going back to writing, even on the occasional, devoid-of-inspiration day.

Whatever your creative passion, how does hearing back from your audience feel?

Images: wallpaperswide.com, genius.com

 

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19 responses to “Forever Entwined

  1. I would LOVE feedback on my stories. I want to know what my thoughts trigger in other people. Do these people agree or disagree with my thoughts? For me, receiving some form of intellectual conversation sparks my imagination otherwise I grow stagnate. I need to feed fuel to the flame otherwise I have to build the flame from kindling again.

    I just broke out Eva Shaw’s WRITERIFFIC to see if I can kick-start my imagination again. I agree that comments from your readers are valuable!

    • Writeriffic sounds like a great book. Yes, feedback is crucial, as hard as it is to receive it when the critic is of a different mindset. But even in such an instance, hearing back is immensely helpful. My critique group helped, but it wasn’t always easy opening those emails and reading what they had to say about my story. :) Thanks Gwynn.

  2. Interesting thought. Does a book exist without readers? Hmmm…

  3. Very valid point that the reader might take something different from a book than what the writer intends. Even the same person might interpret it in several ways. As a reader, I have felt differently about the same book when I’ve read it at different stages in my life – Rebecca and The French Lieutenant’s Woman are two examples which sprung to mind. Which one, if any, did the author mean me to feel? I don’t know! That’s the wonder of the whole process.

    • So true, Anabel. I see the same story in a different light years later, or depending on the mood. Reading triggers certain emotions, memories, thoughts, and those change as we move through life. Thank you for coming by.

  4. Hi Silvia – we all interpret things in different ways … at least I know I do. We are often left to finish the idea off – be it a book, or a film, or an article – if there’s not another side to what’s written – we’re souped.

    I love getting comments to my posts … and hope one day to get readers comment on my books – when I get my act into gear … it must be great … cheers Hilary

    • I used to work at the Museum of Contemporary Art here in L.A. many years ago. Certain pieces of art were never intended to send messages, as we know art functions at times. They were only presentations, the viewer invited to interpret them as he must. Certain patrons thought that silly, others loved it. It’s the same with novels, at least the well-written kind, where the writer didn’t spend a huge amount of time preaching. Sure, I like to learn from a book but not be forced to agree with the writer’s position. Like those paintings in the museum. :)
      Thank you, Hilary.

  5. Since I am not published, I can only offer my view as reader and as blog writer receiving comments. I could no live without books. They are as essential to me as air. Every night, usually to my husband’s annoyance, I read for no less than an hour. It calms me, relieving daily stresses as I enter another world. Sometimes I wonder how much of the author I know by reading their words. For example, there is an author whose books I love, but whom I don’t particularly care for as a person. She just seems arrogant (my filter, my life experience.) Other authors like Anne LaMott, I know their work is them (totally different as she writes essays and the other fiction, but still.) These days i am so appreciative of a good book since my method of selection is going to the library and picking randomly from new releases, but thanks to goodreads this might change.

    As a blogger, I am so appreciative of comments. They fill me up, esp. responses to really honest posts. I have bared my soul, someone listened and gave feedback. It’s validating, and wonderful. I love that our ability to connect is not limited by geography. We can form really deep bonds through our computers, maybe never meeting these friends, but still receiving all of the benefits of a really good friendship.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    • I’ve read you, Elizabeth, and love the depth of your writing, the emotional aspect you share with your reader. I very much appreciate beautiful writing, and you have it.

      You make such an interesting point in the first part of your comment. In fact, I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post on that very point. Can we enjoy a book — or a movie for that matter — if we don’t like its creator? I don’t agree much with some writers’ viewpoints on issues, yet I enjoy their writings tremendously. Norman Mailer, for one, was a jerk from what’s been written about him, but he was also a fantastic writer. How about Woody Allen and all the scandals plaguing him, people refusing to watch his movies, great movies at that. Can we divorce the art from its creator? I don’t know. I try, not sure I always succeed. And I don’t think any less of those who can’t separate the two. It’s such a personal decision.
      Interesting, isn’t it?
      Thank you so much for reading and the comment.

  6. Feedback from our blogging readership is very high quality fir which I’m grateful. As a blogger and reader, I see two primary responses – in depth reactions/questions about my specific topic/technique or reactions/memories from the reader’s life that my writing stimulated. Both are informative, engaging interaction. I think I need to write a post on this! Thank you Silvia!!!

  7. Many times I’ve seen the question asked of writers: if no one read your work, would you continue writing. The answers are always a resounding Yes! For me, I write my stories for others to read. I love the writing, researching, revising, the entire process. But I don’t think I would have continued forever if I hadn’t (finally!) been published. Maybe a journal, something like that, yes. But my fiction is written for myself AND my readers!

  8. Joerubin27425@gmail.com

    Feedback can be enjoyable and useful. When I write comments in a blogging situation, all sorts of valuable effects on me are possible depending on the response, sometimes also when another commentator supports or adds to my comments.
    When I have written a manuscript, not yet shared in publication, using Google provides essential feedback to me such as how much there is on the “www,” or others’ concerns with the same details as I am focusing on. It can be an emotional matter for a writer.

    As to feedback from a book or review I have published, it is a complex thing partly because the mechanism of how many others know or stumble upon my publication. Of course, honest endorsements of what I write are always valuable for practical reasons, also my noticing the emotional and academic aspects of the feedback.

  9. Too right, Silvia… The process of writing is one thing, personal and intimate, but once that “baby” is set out into the world, I think there’s nothing quite as fabulous as hearing from a reader. Like you said, you have no control on how this person will interpret what you’ve written, whether they’ll “see” your characters, your setting, even your storyline, the way you saw it yourself—and it’s magic to get another’s perspective on it. On this thing that’s been so yours for so long, and now isn’t. It’s… a fantastic feeling indeed. And it has little to do with whether the feedback is positive or not; the point really is that someone else read your stuff, this world you constructed, and in doing so gave it life. Wow… yeah.
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

  10. In terms of blogging, I never used to mind when I didn’t get comments. I was writing for me and I didn’t really mind. But then once people started commenting on my blog, it was like I started craving the attention and feedback. I think that changed my writing style because I wasn’t just writing for me any more, I was writing for the people who were reading my blog posts.

    So yes, I think they are intrinsically linked. You can be a writer without a reader, but you can’t really be a reader without a writer. The two feed from one another because the reader motivates the writer to continue, and the writer motivates the reader to keep reading.

I welcome your thoughts.

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