Like for every writer before or after me, writing is a solitary pursuit.
Writers write for all kinds of reasons. In her book, entitled “The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life” author Julia Cameron insists,
We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation … because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living … because writing is sensual, experiential, grounding … because writing is good for the soul … because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in. (1999)
I think most writers eventually choose to share their writing with others. Some choose the published word. Others carefully handpick which trusted soul will see their first efforts.
Sometimes writers claim to picture a particular reader as they toil over the keyboard. Other equally successful writers insist they write strictly for themselves. I probably straddle the fence doing some of each.
That’s why I am always surprised when I get reader feedback. Somehow, I forget that once the writing leaves my care and custody it’s ‘out there.’ Being read, being clipped and saved, and being shared. It’s truly humbling.
When people in my local community or beyond stop me and say how much they enjoy the column or a particular article — I’m pleased. When they get specific and say it made them laugh, cry or think — I’m touched. When readers take the time to write to my editors — I’m impressed.
It looks like a clipping service is responsible for the appreciative thank you card and pin I received this week from the Provincial Director of the Terry Fox Foundation in Calgary. She referenced the column I wrote about Terry last September on the 25th anniversary of his run. The column appeared in The Triangle newspaper.
It reminded me of those online readers of my column who wrote to Tamra after the pieces on Buddy’s death and the growing problem of rudeness and incivility. It reminded me of the long letter from a lonely, elderly reader in Edmonton who saw my article on clutter in a Saskatchewan farm paper. It reminded me that my story on the vet shortage resulted in some, shall we say, ‘animated’ phone calls between some local vets and the Provincial Registrar. It reminded me of a small gift that I received from a CEO in Calgary after an article referenced his company. It reminded me of the cowardly, unsigned letter attacking my credibility that I received when my column first debuted in a local paper.
It reminded me that readers read what I write and filter it through their own understanding, experience and judgment. It reminded me that I can’t (nor should I try to) please everyone. It reminded me that though there’s no one here at the keyboard but me, many are out there finding value in my efforts. That’s reason enough to go on, from where I sit.
Cameron, J. (1999). The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. Tarcher Press.
* Reprinted with permission.