The Reader

Okay, so you’re sitting there, cranking out the words, lost in the flow.  It feels wonderful, like you can conquer worlds with your pen.  You don’t want to stop, it might interrupt the incoming tide of ideas and characters.  You keep catching wave after wave until it’s done.  Finished.  Complete.  Then you read it.  You gasp.  Oh my god it’s a piece of crap.  Wait, I can fix it here and there.  Before long there is a tweak every other line until you’ve rewritten it entirely.   You read it again.  Okay,its not so much a piece of crap you think, and it makes some sense now.  All you need to do is give that one guy in the second chapter something important to do so he’s not standing around picking his nose getting the the way of the other character’s prose.  Hmm, yeah you’ll make him a red herring. Of course, he can do this and this and this and that will lead to there.  Oh wow!  That’s damn brilliant!  You sit back,  feeling a shower of vanity wash away the earlier vestiges of self recrimination and doubt.  Of course, this lasts approximately ten minutes only, then you realize you forgot to explain why those characters are there in the first place.  Soon, you are overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the story and you are confused.  You get up, leave it there and drink enormous jugs of coffee, surf the internet, read a magazine you hate and basically fritter away the time. Knowing you can’t avoid it forever,  you return to the confusion of your story.  You are lazy.  You walk away again,  lying to yourself that you will finish it after supper.  You don’t.  Days pass until finally you have nothing else to do so you sit down and look at it.  You have a conversation with yourself determining your lack of talent and ability will hold you back.  You alternate this with past writing successes, just to get the balancing act down, but they dont stand a chance and  you talk yourself out of finishing it.  Another week passes and one evening as you practice your slacker routine in front of the television,  you catch a program about a new author who has just published a book in the same genre as your own beloved  piece of crap in the other room.   Apparently this new author has hit one out of the park and against the odds too.  Oh, you have dreamed of this sort of success.  Maybe you should take a look at your own story one last time.  You do.  You are surprised that it’s not quite the piece of crap you recall.  You are suddenly hit with the inexplicable desire to continue and create.  You sit there writing for the next two hours.  The very next day you once again suprise yourself and commence writing and for weeks you do this, hollowing out your insides and filling your free time.  Eventually, with two rewrites and three edits, it’s print ready.  For a week you immerse yourself in picking clean the bones of grammar, syntax, spelling and style until you hold in your hands a spotless manuscript worthy of reading.  You then  pass  it around to your friends who give you the dishonest critique they owe you, their bosom buddy.  They say they are being brutal and two of them even add an insult just to make certain you are convinced of their sincerety as unbiased readers.  You’re not.  You go ahead and print some copies in actual book form, just to get the feel of it.  You’ve self published yes, but hey, loads of famous authors have done that before making it big.  It’s  a rite of passage and a foot soaker for a newbie. All you need now is that one illusive brick to build the perfect house:  a reader you don’t know.  Someone who has nothing to tell you but what they really think.   For days you try to solve the riddle of finding an truthful appraisal of your book.  Then, Eureka!  You decide to leave a copy of it somewhere, a place that’s a second home to your type of reader, the one you covet.  You drive to your destination and in the car you leave a notation on the inside cover:  Anonymous reader:  I’ve written this and I need you.  Will you read this book,  then, on the last page write a brief but concise opinion of my story and place it back here two weeks from today?   Thanks….the writer.

Afterward you drive home and as you place your key in the lock to open the door, the full horror of what you’ve done almost knocks you off your feet.  Oh my god, what if they really hate it.  They’ll know my name and that I write crap.  you stew over this latest development for some time, until you give it all up to divine providence, only chewing on the meat of it a handful of times within the next few days.  Soon, the two weeks have elapsed and you make your way back to where you hope your book and it’s pure as the driven snow critique await.  You open the doors to the building and walk the aisle as if you’re walking the plank to your demise.  The shelf where you left your book is now within your view. You squint to focus and unbelievably, it’s there!  Wait!  That doesn’t mean anything you tell yourself, maybe no one even took it in the first place.  You inch ever closer…closer and you pull your book to you, feeling embarrassed.  Your breath is short and your heart is beating faster as you open it to the last page and there it is, the anonymous opinion.  Your eyes are wide and you can’t believe what this person has said about your story.  The greeting is simple and generic enough to disguise the weight of the words that follow…Dear The Writer, I’ve read your book and…

Haha!  I’ll let you know what they say when they tell me.  😉  It’s in the process fellow scribes, in the process.


Author: valo

I am a poet, writer and activist with a special interest in human rights for children and women as well as the elimination of poverty worldwide. If you read this today, feed someone locally for me will you? Drop off a non perishable food item at the food bank nearest you and consider yourself hugged. Thank you!

20 thoughts on “The Reader”

    1. Why thank you oh Lord of all that is dark! I appreciate your appreciation and I hope you revisit my little word hovel. 🙂

  1. ok, you say that ther are so many that are better than you, but I do not think no body can judge, the most fair judging experience seems to be te anonymouse one, therefore to say that there are many better than you, you need to proove it with the method you are electing now. (This is my scientific brain speaking)

    I agree that anonymous reader is not bias towards a person but it might be bias towards other kind of factors such as the subject the text talks about, for example I can write about fixing fridges and probably most of the anonymous readers will be biased against me, not because the quality of my writting neither because my creativity, simply because they do not like the subject. Or maybe I write a story that takes place in Estambul an a war is started there, I think people will be influenced by that. I doubt about being impartial possible in reality,

    I guess that the people that say they do not want a filet mignon in the end are lying, why do you do everyting that you do then? If you dont care just do nothing or do some kind of charity. I do not know why people like to pretends they dont care about the end results, well maybe it is because it hurts so much to fail that they want to belive it themselves.

    And yes some people are better than others, but the more you know how and who you are the more advantage you can take of what you habilities allow you to.
    Sorry for the rambling stuff, I wasnt syntetic enough.

    1. When I say better I mean technically better. The expressive part of art is core and individual and sort of sacred but the technical part is the delivery and that takes a long time to master. I think the drive to attain perfection is the engine that moves civilization forward in both science and art and therefore, at least to me not really possible and that is good because it ensures the move forward and innovation etc., As for me, I’ve been writing since I was little (8) and so it’s second nature to me. It’s probably like that for most writers and a couple of musician friends have told me that the instrument and music feels as if it’s always been there, like an arm or leg. I fully understand this. Why do I write? Hmmm…I have no idea, I just do. Why do singers sing? Why do dancers dance? Why do painters paint? We just do because that is our part in the wheel of humanity. Every part has value, but we can also be better at our part and it’s never good to think you are good enough because then you don’t grow and evolve, you stagnate. I really like our discourse mariana because you are deeply inquiring with a differing perspective that is refreshing. hugs

  2. So the story is kind of true I guess (probably distortionated due to literary reasons).
    You left your writings to someone who does not know you and you are waiting the reply now.
    Val, you really left me intrigued here, I am dying to know what happened.
    I really liked your story/text a lot, made me think of a few things:
    -Probably is more important to be a good judge/critic of our work than to be a good writer, because you can write millions of pages and as long as you choose the good ones you are going to be remembered.
    -We HUMANS HAVE THIS AWFUL MECHANISM called procrastination. We leave difficult things for later, and when later comes for later later, and so on, and each time it gets harder and harder to even get close to this thing we postponed.
    -There is also a part when you judge your text with useless and ridiculous harshness, I do not know if it is because of your high expectations of yourself or due to your lack of belief in your own (maybe they are both the same). That judging makes something that should be a pleasure to do became a nightmare cause by your mental distortion.

    1. Hi mariana, I wrote this as a projected scenario to illustrate how I and many writers would feel if they/we were actively doing this, pursuing a true critique/opinion. This was also meant to express that the only person a writer should rely on at the end of the day, is the reader they will never formally meet or know other than through the shared experience of their words. I’m going to do this. I find it an interesting extension of the art of writing and I’m exploring this idea in the spirit. As for myself, I know that after spending an inordinate amount of time on a story, it’s a natural extension of the familiarity to lose perspective about it’s worth and quality. All writers have emotion invested in their work and that in and of itself can cause a bit of the distortion you mentioned at the end of you comment. It’s very human and part of how we are which is why it’s important to get the old bugger objectivity out and about and let it have free reign. This notion of an anonymous reader seemed like the cleanest and simplest way to do it if you are self publishing. Traditional publishing is another animal altogether and the money driven aspect of it only makes it harder to be certain of this honesty because the cash factor has polluted the water. I also think many editors are so out of touch with the average reader, that they have flooded the market place with that thing I mentioned in this piece: crap. Basically, a formula novel with no originality is still a formula novel no matter how flashy the cover art or the name you use to promote it. In the end mariana, don’t we all want a filet mignon as opposed to ground beef when we sit down to dinner? I know I do. By the way, this writer is never going to be good enough and that will solidify that I may not write too much crap as long as I always remember there will always be others so much better than I. It’s the striving that makes it matter. 🙂

    1. Hi Maxine, I think it is too. I’ll let you all know how it goes when/if I do get a reader critique. That person in the book store or library is my goal anyway. I want to entertain them, not an editor or publisher. I know we all really feel that way and if the reader likes it, we’ve succeeded in sharing our creative vision. 🙂

  3. Well you can certainly write suspense! Good grief, you had me biting my fingernails!

    I must tell you that I read your book today and I LOVE IT. Yep, that’s right–I LOVE IT. I love the characters, the plot, the use of metaphor and imagery–all of it. You are a wonderful storyteller, and reading this book brought me back to my childhood days. When I finished it I was sad, because I want to go on more adventures. This is definitely a series:)
    I will be posting a review on lulu when I have half a brain to think with–at the moment I am typing with one eye open;)

    1. Okay, I’m fully ecstatic now! You liked Granny and CeeCee! Thank you so much Danielle for buying it and reading it. The fact that you love it is going to make me dance all day. The end of September I put the second story out there and it is going to be longer than the first and hopefully better. A review on lulu!! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou from the bottom of my heart! HUGSHUGSHUGSHUGS. 🙂

    1. Oh yes Amy, it’s soon to be a done deal. I’m taking it with me on vacation. Then I’m doing it here, closer to home. Then I’ll somehow get it other places as well. It’s the sort of scary thing that keeps my blood flowing. Hey, what’s life without a heart thudding now and then? 😉 I like that you like my story. I’ve put up another on this blog, some time ago and I’m going to post some more that are kicking around my laptop getting musty. You’ve inspired me, perhaps I’ll post something I did a couple of years ago. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for short stories and writing them is good exercise for longer more involved work. I think if you can capture attention, develop characters and condense a story to fit this format, you can write a successful full length novel.

    1. We shall see, we shall see. I will savour the responses, look at them with fascination and then carry on to write more.

  4. You can’t do that, can you?
    And would someone else, with nothing at stake,
    and with no reward offered, would they help you?
    Anonymously? Really? You’ve done this before?

    It’s a great idea. I know how friends and family
    can be. Perhaps, real critics are necessary after
    all, if for no other reason than that we can
    hate them later, and not feel guilty about doing so.

    You did have me laughing out loud, Val. No fib.
    Really! Writing a whole book must take forever.
    I can’t imagine. Your work ethic is commendable, too!

    1. Of course you can do that. Anyone can. I’m in the process of doing it, but it will be somewhere I don’t live and I like to think of it as my little artistic experiment. I’ve another reason for doing it that I won’t divulge for a while. Will they give an honest critique? Half will and half won’t. I’ll do this a few times and if it catches on I’ll learn some things about my writing, and myself which is what art is partially meant to do. Yep, written a book, and the second is on it’s way in September. Work ethic yes, but when it’s something you love to do, it isn’t really work. Thanks Tree for laughing out loud and perhaps seeing yourself in there.

    1. I’m glad you also saw yourself in this and enjoyed the humour of it all. I’m sure all writers will relate. Dear god but we are gluttons for it aren’t we? From what I can gather, even those who make it are still full of the ‘I just don’t knows’. Perhaps this is what keeps us going, that one illusive book that will somehow transform us from quivering lumps of insecure jelly into one solid mass of confidence. I think I’ll always be jelly. 😉

    1. I can think of no other way to get at the truth of the matter. After a few of these a writer should more or less know where they stand in relation to the traditional stuff on the shelves. Thanks Lorraine for the good wishes. hugs 🙂

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