Monday, July 06, 2009

In Praise of Readers

Too often, writers forget that they have a dual audience. While it is true that we must write the things that move us, it is also true that we owe our readers our best.

In the past, I have worked with clients who came perilously close to forgetting this tenet. Ah, but the public is not clueless. And the moment a writer begins to think of the readers with distain (about the same time that writer begins to describe him- or herself with superlatives), the pact a writer makes to the reader has been broken.

My favorite moment in any movie is when the screen goes completely black just before the film begins. It is fraught with promise and possibility. Likewise, my favorite moment in any new book is sitting down with it and opening the cover. I am full of anticipation, and I hope the story will move me. I want the words to affect me. I want the book to become an all-time favorite.

Don't delude yourself: words don't make great writers. Readers do. Consider the amazing event that occurs when a writer's words leap off the page, engage the mind, and force a reader to consider the bold new possibilities presented by a new arrangement of 26 innocuous letters and a few punctuation marks!

No wonder we become fans of people who can craft words that affect us! Being a writer is akin to a sacred trust. When writers begin to think that their thoughts are all that matters, those writers allow pride to blind them to their readers.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that writers should lower their standards and write schlock in an effort to be all things to all people. But every writer should consider the reader a beacon of light on the creative landscape. The reader should inform every word, every turn of phrase, and every edit -- and the thought of one's readers should constantly encourage the writer to push the limits to deliver his or her very best work.