Reflection on writing

One of the most difficult–and magical–things about writing is that nobody will ever read exactly what you write.

No matter how carefully you write, how much sweat and how many tears, you put into your writing, or how throughly you revise, how deeply you sink into the page to make your experiences and emotions are put on the page exactly the way you want them, the way you feel them, your reader will read something different.

No reader sees the same story or poem you wrote, nor have you ever read the same story or poem your favorite writers give to you.

When you write, you dive directly into the page, caressing each word and massaging each sentence. But when your readers read, they never stare into your page. Everything they read, they read reflected onto an image at the back of their own pinhole projector, reflected by their own experiences, their own knowledge, their own interests and understandings of each word’s multiple meanings.

This might sound discouraging. Why work so hard on something when even the reader who loves it most won’t read exactly what you wrote?

This is where writing meets math. Stories put the communal in communication. What each reader brings to your story adds to it and makes it bigger by giving it more meaning and making it something more than you could possibly ever create on your own.

What’s more, when a reader rereads a favorite book, they bring to it all the experiences they’ve gained since the last time, plus whatever mood they are in today, bringing a whole new reflection and creating a new story. This is why rereading is valuable.

Just don’t think that you don’t have to work as hard because you realize your readers won’t read the same story you write. You owe it to them and to yourself to do the best you can on your side of the equation, to give them an image that they can build upon in their own reflection.