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Saturday, January 18, 2014

A WRITER'S DILEMMA: FOR WHOM DO YOU WRITE?

Margaret Atwood, in her book, Negotiating With The Dead: A Writer on Writing, asks the question, “For whom does the writer write?” She then goes on to say: “A common writerly dilemma: Who’s going to read what you write, now or ever? Who do you want to read it?”
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So, how will you answer these questions? Have they ever crossed your mind? Are you in a quandary because, like many other writers, you are so blindsided by the urge to put onto paper the thoughts that are screaming to be released from your consciousness that you've never considered these questions to be relevant?
 “I write for anyone who will buy my book,” is a reply I’ve heard many times over. But this is a stock answer and not one with much thought behind it. 
I have come to answer these questions by paraphrasing the poem-filching postman from the film, Il Postino that Atwood mentions in her book. “My writing belongs to those who need it.” This is my answer and it came to me as an experience that I can only describe as a writerly gift. Let me tell you a true story that took place after I published my book, The Deal Master.
One day, I was visited by a woman who owned an employment agency that catered to people with disabilities. She told me she read my book and enjoyed it so much she recommended it to one of her clients - a woman who used to be an avid reader, but after an accident many years prior, the poor woman hadn’t read a book since. So now, this woman began reading my book. She became engrossed and couldn’t put it down. She read it from cover to cover. After that, she became the avid reader she was before her accident. This woman eventually did seek me out to thank me personally for putting her on the road to reading again. This heartwarming experience was one that I never expected when I was frantically tapping away at the computer those many days and nights to finish my book.

So there you have it. You never know how your writing will affect someone. Now, when they ask, “Whom do you write for?” you may want to reply: “I write for those who need my writing, even if the reason is as simple as someone wanting to spend a few hours escaping the banality of day-to-day living.