Writers and Readers

I’ve had a feeling today that I sometimes get when I’m tired, as though part of me were missing. It’s a Herbert the Alligator feeling, I suppose. As though I were incomplete.

What it makes me think of, since my mind tends in this direction, is the relationship between writers and readers. Writers sometimes think that the story is what they write, what’s on the page. But of course it’s not. The story is a collaboration between the writer and reader. It exists in the reader’s head, but is created by both: the words of the writer and the imagination of the reader.

Good writers realize that they’re collaborators, and they write out of that knowledge. Beginning writers will often describe everything. But that leaves nothing for the imagination of the reader to do. Good writers are aware of the reader. They know the reader is there to complete the story, will imagine the characters from pieces of information. So they work on providing the right pieces.

Here I was, trying to provide the right pieces yesterday, writing:

And writing:

And writing:

I think writing is partly a way to deal with that feeling of being incomplete. At least it is for me, right now. When I feel that way, I write. But honestly, I don’t think I can write today. I don’t know what it is. Nothing is coming out right.  I can’t seem to make the connection.

Maybe it’s just tiredness, I don’t know. Maybe it’s working on a writing project that’s taking up a great deal of my time. Maybe it’s that tonight, I feel as though part of me were missing, and I don’t have whatever it takes to write through that, despite that.

This is a short blog post, isn’t it? Well, so be it.

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6 thoughts on “Writers and Readers

  1. Thanks you for your posts, I am really enjoying them. This one touches me deeply – I know that feeling you describe. I think it is important to be able to say ‘I can’t today.’ The creative genius is here right now, isn’t available. You make a great point about new writers and developing an awareness of the reader – of understanding the importance of leaving some things for the readers imagination.

  2. I think you’re right, that feeling of incompletion, as though part of you is missing, drives most writing–certainly the best writing. It’s a reaching out to others, a collaboration, in your words. My experience is that when I’m working on that feeling at an unconscious level, writing feels like I’m channeling something larger than I am, a muse. At other times, when I’m trying to write through that sense of incompletion at a conscious level, it feels like pulling teeth. But I’ve found that after the fact, the prose itself reads the same; only the subjective experience is different. That doesn’t necessarily help, of course, but it can provide some consolation, and some fuel to keep up the struggle.

  3. Thanks, all!

    And thank you, Michael. That does help, actually. I think part of the problem is that this week I’m working on something that was initially going to be a collaboration, but didn’t work out that way, so I’m feeling concretely what we often feel more abstractly about writing: the feeling of something missing. But I worked on the story late last night, and it’s going well. You’re right, the words are good words, however we feel as we write them. And I did get that sense of channeling something larger than I am, as though the words were putting themselves down on the page in the right order, telling a story that was coming through me as much as from me. I do love it when that happens. (It’s kind of a relief, too, when it does happen . . .)

    We’ll see how the story goes, but I hope it turns out to be a good one! Worthy of its inspiration . . .

  4. No doubt your erstwhile collaborator feels the loss as sharply as you do. But, given the source, I bet the story will be worthy of its inspiration and more!

  5. Thanks! I’ll do my very best . . .

    At least, now that my errands are done, I get to spend the rest of the day in an imaginary fishing village in Cornwall. (I would so love to go to a real fishing village in Cornwall someday . . .) :)

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