What do you read and why?
I posted that question on my Facebook page recently. A similar question had been posed to me by Jeffrey Davis during one of the weeks of ArtMark , in response to my frustration at trying to articulate what “elixir” I have to offer people as a writer. Offering-articulation seemed to me to be more obvious and easy to determine for those providing a service, like creativity and life coaches, workshop facilitators, even writers of trade nonfiction that give specific answers and solutions to many of life’s questions and problems. I mean, I could “get” what needs I might serve in writing personalized ceremonies or conducting writing workshops. But as a fiction writer? That’s just writing stories, not answering a need (except my own need to write), right?
Jeffrey responded with a simple, palm-slap-to-forehead question that nearly made me laugh out loud it was so obvious (but so often that’s how it works, me making something more complicated than it needs to be):
“Why do you read fiction?”
Oh, for what a myriad of reasons do I read fiction!…I love language, a good story, the imagery and emotions that can be evoked by the arranging of words. Twenty-six letters in an infinite number of combinations that can at any given time make one laugh, cry, feel anger, humility, awe, wonder, connection.
I like stories that transport me out of my day-to-day life into the lives of others, not as a voyeur, but as a witness; alternately, I like stories that hold up a mirror to my own life and life’s questions with characters who feel to me like real people; people I might like to know and spend time witha, who deal with some of the same struggles that I have known. I learn more about myself as I watch them navigate their lives, or allow me, gratefully, to simply say, yeah, me too….
And it’s not just about fiction, really: I look for similar things in every genre I read. With non-fiction, I am often looking to learn something new or understand something that has otherwise eluded me. Sometimes I simply want to be inspired when the world seems too heavy and burdened beyond repair.
When I posted this question on Facebook I received similar answers – many of them so eloquent and heartfelt, I was blown away. There is a whole legion of readers out there! And the responses were not only about fiction, but also about memoir and creative non-fiction. The common thread? The telling of a good story with supreme expressiveness of language; something that could reach off the page and touch the reader at his or her core.
That’s why I read.
That’s why I write.
Maybe there are readers who will want to read what I have written, who will hopefully be touched across the markings on the page.
Okay. I get it now.
And you? What do you read and why?
I would love to know.