Saturday, May 7, 2011

The only thing that writers write for themselves are shopping lists

"I do not belong to that gang of bad writers who say that they only write for themselves. The only thing that writers write for themselves are shopping lists . . . All the rest, including laundry lists, are messages addressed to somebody else. They are not monologues; they are dialogues."

- Umberto Eco, Confessions of a Young Novelist. (emphasis mine)

When I first read those words they spoke to my heart; it so aptly describes me that I'm surprised I didn't write it myself. I certainly wish I had.

I can say with absolute certainty that I have never strung together more than a dozen words without first considering an audience. Never mind that my 'audience' was usually composed of exactly no one, and the words were destined for the trashbin. They were 'important'.

This practice even predates my ability to print letters. I still have a copy of a story I dictated to my Grandparents when I was four years old. It always irks me when I stumble across someone who professes to be a 'writer', yet refuses to submit their work. At four I knew the only point to spewing words on paper is to share the noise in your head. Why don't they?

Of course, that opens the door to the question of personal and artistic integrity. If I'm sitting here typing my "deepest darkest emotions" with one eye on a Grandma in Budapest who might someday buy a copy of the text, I can't in all honesty claim my words will reveal, well, all honesty. Consciously or not I will edit it to the liking of my Unseen Reader.

My most glaring example of this trait: a diary I kept in 1994. In those pages I glossed over some embarrassing tidbits, eliminated a few anecdotes, and most telling, actually made sure to include some (true) dirt to spice it up for the reader. It was so nauseatingly forced I couldn't bear to keep the diary going. It lasted all of a week.

That's a good sign tho', no? If I had the self awareness *then* to recognize and fight the need to tidy up the world, I think I'm pretty safe in saying there's a raw honesty running through whatever I write now.

So, Unseen Reader, I thank you. I thank you for keeping the fires of my imagination burning, for forcing me to always improve my work, and for - every once in a while - actually being a real, live reader who enjoys my work.

See you soon.



Fred Oftencold said...


Now I'm "unseen." How am I going to shave?


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I sometimes would love to write a book, but that just is not my skill. If you want to write, then do :o)

William Wood Field said...

"They are not monologues; they are dialogues."


Perhaps in some ideal sense that is true. But more often your readers - like me - spend more time lurking around the corners of your blog without engaging in any dialogue whatsoever. I do enjoy your blog immensely, and especially watching your beautiful family progress through the milestones of life. Still, I offer the following, extended caveats and comments: