Friday, 12 April 2019

Readers and Writers, Chickens and Eggs

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I should really be writing book reviews. But I’m thinking about other stuff.  So it’s another blog post! Something that I think a lot about is the relationship between the writer and the reader, and vice versa of course. Why do readers read? What makes a reader? And why do writers write? What makes a writer? And what is the relationship between the two? 

I think the motivation readers have can vary greatly. I can only speak for myself. I’ve read since I learnt to read. And I’ve loved books for longer than that!  I read for enjoyment. I read to escape. I read to vicariously experience aspects of life hitherto denied to me, I read to compare aspects of life that I have experienced and I am keen to understand other's views, I read to be propelled into thought patterns that might elude me otherwise. I read to be uplifted. I read to have all my emotions stirred; to laugh, to cry, to love, to loathe,  and I read in search of that incredible high that it is possible to get from a truly exceptional book that makes my heart and my head almost explode. I think some readers read with their heads and some readers read with their hearts and some, I include myself here, read with their heads and their hearts. But every reader is different in their own way because all responses are subjective. 

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But nothing is possible without the writers. Reading and writing are inextricably linked. It almost doesn’t need to be said. But what makes a writer? I write. I always have done. Ever since I was a little girl. I used to spend my pocket money on notebooks and fill them with stories. I wrote diaries. I wrote teen angst poetry. I’ve started more novels that I care to remember. i write 'things'. But it’s never been a conscious choice. It’s something I simply have to do, like eating and breathing. I’ll be walking along the road when a phrase or sentence or idea will pop into my head from nowhere  and I need to, I have to, I am compelled to, write it down. I’m always jotting things down, ideas and pieces. Writing is a reflex, almost. But apart from a magazine article or two I’m not a published writer. So am I a writer? If my writing isn’t being read that vital relationship is missing. Lately I am a blogger and people read what I blog for which I am humbly grateful. Does that make me a writer then?

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As with readers it must be different for every writer. Do some writers ‘simply’ see writing as their job. They write to earn money. Can it ever be that straightforward? Do writers write with the reader in mind, and do they write with a specific target audience shaping their work as they think the reader wants it rather than how they want it? Does the reader shape or influence how and what they write? Or is it a case of ‘this is what I’m writing, this is what I have to say and I hope there are readers who will enjoy it?’. Are there writers who actually do not consider the reader at all? The readers are incidental to the process as a whole? 

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I’m throwing these questions out there because they are things I’ve been thinking and wondering about. They maybe naive and impertinent but if anyone wants to offer any answers or opinions it would be immensely interesting. 

Getting published isn’t be easy. Earning a living from writing is perilous. How many writers out there remain unpublished? What jewels of fiction are out there waiting? The other question is about the ‘right’ reader finding the ‘right’ book. I read a lot but there are only a handful books that really do what I referred to earlier and make my head and heart explode.  What is it about that handful that consume me? Is it the style? The story? The characters? The philosophies? Or an undefinable, subconscious connection between writer and reader? It starts to be about personality. 

And so I’m also interested in the writer as a person and the writer as a writer. And where they converge or diverge. It seems obvious on the face of it that they are one and the same, but I don't think it's as black-and-white as that.  And I'm curious as to whether the writers who affect me the most are because the writer and the person converge. 

As a reader primarily I read a lot of books, with enjoyment. There are some writers, I'll read all of their books but I have no further interest in them as people, just their writing. That's possibly a divergence. But of course it's by no means finite because it's my subjectivity. There are some writers, though, who motivate me to find out more. I want to know about them, about their lives, about the person they are. And it's their writing that's elicited that response. That's maybe where the convergence takes place. The writer and the work are indivisible.
But by this stage my emotions are so fully engaged that the opportunity to take it further and visit places, graves, see artefacts, belongings etc. becomes almost urgent. I've not been able to cement any thoughts as to why it is. 

And then it starts me thinking about synchronicity, even past lives, past connections.
Interestingly I have just 'discovered' Sylvia Plath. I had read the Bell Jar and the 'famous' poems but for years I could never get beyond the tragedy of Sylvia Plath the person and access Sylvia Plath the writer. But now - I understand true convergence, I think. 

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Then I begin think about the convergence of writer and reader. I do not believe a single writer is not and has not been a reader first and foremost. Isn’t that where it starts? It’s still chicken and egg though! Something had to be written before it could be read and something had to be read to inspire the writer!

Perhaps there are no answers. Maybe there should be no questions. Every reader and  every writer is unique. And sometimes, just sometimes two 'uniquenesses' make a whole. 

Thank you for reading. Feel free to comment.

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