I love hearing from readers. I don’t know if you would call this a virtual classroom where I’m a teacher begging for a question or a virtual room of adult colleagues sorting through reading, learning, and writing as a group. I think the latter is probably the better analogy and what I had in mind initially, but I’m still feeling my way through the concept and probably always will be. Either way, though, when I hear from a reader I take it seriously. I try to respond to everyone. I don’t think I’ve missed anyone yet. If I have, please send me an email. Even the spammers get politely slam dunked.
Thank You for Your Feedback!
So, the first goal of this post is to thank everyone that has ever left a comment, sent me an email, responded to my call for guest posts or my offer to read a book. Please keep helping me work through these ideas. This is a beautiful collaboration with some really smart people. If my post is bullshit I expect I will be called out on it! That’s good for everyone involved. Hell, send me a guest post with a differing point of view and I’ll post it, too.
My Response to a Piece of Constructive Criticism
Second, I just wanted to respond to a particular piece of constructive criticism I got recently. The email was short and to the point, it read: “I need more on writing. I know why I read.” Now, my initial reaction was to think, that’s pretty fair criticism. We do spend more time talking about reading here than anything. Maybe the emphasis will evolve slightly over time, but I don’t think it’s going to change dramatically. When I picked the name of the site I didn’t put “read” first because of any alphabetical priority. I put “read” first because, to me, that’s where it all begins. Even writing. Fair warning to everyone out there thinking the same way as the critic.
As I thought about it a little longer, though, I started to second guess my initial reaction. Is it fair to say the information here is not of any use to a writer? That’s basically the complaint, right?
The way I see it is you can’t write unless you read. You shouldn’t write unless you understand why people want to read. You have absolutely no business writing if you’re not interested in how a reader thinks.
Now, maybe, I’m missing the point and the comment was really meant to insinuate what we talk about is far too elementary to be of any benefit to this particular reader. That’s certainly a possibility. In that case, I’m happy to accept the criticism, go on down the road, and come to terms with the fact I’m not writing for that particular individual who is already far better read than I am. I can deal with it. Lord knows there are plenty that fall into that category.
Here’s My Concern
What worries me is the comment seems to be insinuating there is no connection between talking about reading and talking about writing. I see the two as inseparably intertwined. How do you edit your writing if you don’t read it and even try to read it from a different perspective than it was written from? How do you sell books if you don’t persuade people to read? Wouldn’t it be important to understand why other people read, even if it’s not the reason you do?
Let me be clear, though. I’m not trying to convince this particular critic they’re wrong. More power to them for reading and having an opinion. I love opinions. I did, however, want to throw this out there for others thinking along the same lines. Consider it food for thought. That’s also why I’m responding as a blog post instead of just as an email.
For a writer, maybe engaging in some discussion on the benefits of reading with other people isn’t a bad thing at all, even if they are already convinced to read and know damn well why they do it. Maybe there is some benefit for a writer in a site that talks mainly about the art of reading. Maybe I’m completely off base, too. I don’t have all the answers, but I do like talking about this stuff with proponents of all positions. I think its an important debate to have.