I am no spotlight hog. In fact, the spotlight is generally the last place I ever want to be. I much prefer to live my life like a prisoner about to make a run for the barbed-wire fence—hiding in the shadows until the light passes, then darting out when the way is clear and no one can see me breaking for freedom.
Which is why I have often wondered why I have such a deep, driving need for the words I’ve written to actually be read by someone. Whether it’s my blog, my short stories, my column or one of my suspense novels, I live in anticipation of hearing from or meeting someone who has read something I’ve written and is willing to share with me their thoughts on the experience.
At least, I have wondered about this driving need until recently, when I came across a quote in a book. The words hit me so profoundly that I literally had to put the book down and contemplate them for several minutes, letting the truth of them sink in.
The quote was by Max McLean, founder of the Fellowship for the Performing Arts, who said: “… I am amazed at the communicators who have never quite understood that a story is not a story until it has been received.”
Wham! The revelation struck me like an apple falling from a tree and bouncing off my head:
The stories I write are incomplete until someone reads them. It is in the reading that the connection is made, the process is completed, the circle is closed.
It’s the whole tree falling in the forest thing: If a writer creates a story and no one’s around to hear (or read) it, does it make an impact? Of course not. And making an impact, connecting with a reader on some level, “stirring the blood” as McLean describes it, rather than fame, money or attaining best-seller status, is the whole point of the story-telling process. If your words sit on your computer or in a manuscript stuck in a drawer somewhere, something, some key part of the process, remains unfinished. If, however, you muster up the courage to put your work out there, something incredible just might happen; your words could make someone laugh, cry, get angry, change their viewpoint, or contemplate an issue they haven’t taken the time to think about before. If they do that, then they have fulfilled their purpose.
This explains the undeniable thrill that ripples through society when an unpublished manuscript or a work of art or a previously unrecorded song created by a famous artist is unearthed in someone’s attic long after the artist has died. We never tire of making that connection with someone whose work we admire, of completing the creative circle that had, for so long, remained only half-closed.
Which is why I long to have my words read: to establish that connection with another human being. Whether the feedback is positive (which I love and appreciate), or negative (which I appreciate and see the value of, especially if it is kindly done or at least kindly meant), receiving it confirms that my words have been received, the blood has (hopefully) been stirred, even if just a little, and an impact, however tiny, has been made.
The story has just become a story.
Sara Davison has been a finalist for three national writing awards: Best New Canadian Christian Author; Best Column – Single; and Best Novel – Mystery or Suspense. Davison is a member of three different writers’ groups, two of which she helped to found. Her favourite way to spend the days (and nights) is drinking coffee – a running theme throughout her novels – and making stuff up.
Visit Sara’s website: Choose to Press On
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