The Writer, the Reader and the Words

This week signified the end of my writing class at the cafe.


Just 7 weeks ago I can honestly say I was not only a worse writer, but worse reader than I am now! The class opened my mind back up to those limitless possibilities and perspectives different from my own, reminding me of how much I enjoyed and valued writing classes previously and studying literature at University.
I have been writing creatively every week for this class, in a transformative state that left me joyously ecstatic and fulfilled. It is true my first great love in this world was of a book (‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’) and my greatest passion will always be for the written word.
As a reader though, I have a relationship with literature that confuses my relationship with books as a writer. Roland Barthes words will forever stay with me; "the death of the author is at the birth of the reader.”
In his essay he states that the modern writer, or "scriptor", can only mimic - "the writer can only imitate a gesture forever anterior, never original". Whereas the "Author-God" maintained with his work "the same relation of antecedence a father maintains with his child,". The scriptor "is born simultaneously with his text". For him, "there is no other time than that of the utterance, and every text is eternally written here and now". As Barthes puts it, in relation to Mallarm√©, "it is language which speaks, not the author".

The essay had interesting undercurrents considering Barthes father died right before this was written, and as a personal essay it is perhaps meant in part as a metaphor but nonetheless, presents interesting questions.
To begin with the reader. The ordinary reader will not be concerned with structure and syntax. What makes one fall in love with a book and read and re-read it simply has to do with whether the reader feels personally attached to the author, and to the characters. For the more bookish (like myself) it may also have to do with the history of the book, the colour and smell of the pages and the girth of the spine. The world of a book is a total one. And for a total world we are able to fall in love.
A book will speak to me not only like it is re-producing me. It is not simply a measure of mimicking my being but which re-defines my being. It is true the language speaks to me and lulls me into lust and it is true, I do not need to know anything about the author for this to happen. In fact, there are facts about some of my favourite authors I have known I wish I hadn’t, for it ruins the illusion.
Often also I cannot succinctly explain why I love a novel or story as much as I do. It just is. This is because true appreciation of art is mostly instinctive, visceral and subconscious. This makes it thrilling and scintillating. Sometimes even tiring when at 2am I wish I could go to sleep but simply cannot allow the book to leave my hands! And also tiring when I am constantly moving around the world lugging a suitcase of books, because there are some I cannot bear to part with! They are a part of my identity.
Love of literature is a powerful force, and a complex one. One that some people cannot understand, and one in which brings other people together.
*the wonderful women of the Sugerplum Writing Workshop
As for being a writer...
Mark Twain wrote ‘Write what you know.’ This is not to say that all writing is however memoir and the idea is actually meaningless anyway. Fiction is not a version of facts, but a story dressed up to be an entirely different way of seeing. When someone asks me the question ‘Is it based on real life experience?’ I always say no. It is fiction. Of course this is not true. And I agree with Barthes on both counts. It is imitation, it is a simultaneous birth. Reading re-defines me, but perhaps writing re-defines me more profoundly. But if a reader knows without a measure of a doubt that the story is even in part true it takes away from their own experience. It puts them hesitantly in the author’s shoes, which is not the intended experience of fiction. The writer has to know what has to be put away as though she/he has never known it, and re-produce it more concentrated than before. As the writer you have to consider the reader.
As a writer this consideration can be troublesome. It is difficult for example if the writer is serious and the reader is not. If the reader is reading with expectation in opposition to what the writer intended. This happens often in writing class... you write a piece, 10 people read it and 10 people have an opinion on what is ‘should’ be. With my work, it is often I should take out ‘big words’ and add some comedy. Where this is wonderful advice (and also can be wonderful fun), I am sometimes driven to write something than can never be substituted for anything else. To attempt something so pure and unique and complex it leaves one lingering,  it doesn’t get thrown into the pile of dirty laundry at the end of the day loved and worn as it may be, but hung on a hanger, having made someone feel inspired and special. In my own way. I don’t necessarily want to be in competition for the tabletop 3 for 2’s (although I wouldn’t dream of scoffing at this acheivment either because, oh what a dream to be published!) but my inspirations have not lead me to that way of thinking. At least not at this moment in my life.
My muse’s have contributed so much to language and storytelling. How I would love to nestle alongside them, cover to cover, one day.
This kind of work is never going to be greatly popular. And often through pomposity mistakes are made. But no artist is free from failure and in fact it is from mistakes we learn. The trick is not to become so afraid of failure we fail to let art open its mouth and sing operatic.
‘...each book consumes the writer and is the sum of his or her world.’
‘Art does not imitate life. Art anticipates life.’
‘Take it or leave it.’
The relationship between writer and reader continues to change, but for readers, as a writer and therefore I ask also myself, to have an open relationship with what you read. Open the door and walk straight in, even a world apart appreciate the newness of familiarity for what it is. As for the writer... "If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it."

[Inspired by Jeanette Winterson’s essays ‘Art Objects’ ... I try to forget she did a reading at Shakespeare and Co with ‘Pink’ playing in the background on request.]

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