“I am no Benjamin Disraeli, but I do have my little philosophies. My philosophy of publication goes something like this: Once a book is published, it no longer belongs to me. My creative task is done. The work now belongs to the creative mind of my readers. I had my turn to make out of it what I would, now it is their turn. I have no more right to tell readers how they should respond to what I have written than they had to tell me how to write it.”
I’m a huge fan of essays — and the gem of a comment above is from a collection of articles and essays by Katherine called A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children. I love the way Katherine surrenders both her need and desire to have readers interpret her work the way she hopes that they will. In her essay, she goes on to say that one of the most thrilling things about writing is having a reader point out something in one of her stories that she hadn’t seen herself. In that moment, the reader gives her a gift.
What shines through in Katherine’s comment is her respect for her readers. She sees their creative act of reading as being, in many ways, equal in value to her creative act of writing. I love this idea of readers and writers as co-creators — as joyful contributors to the mysterious art of writing and storytelling. Readers, observes Katherine, bring their own emotional history to a story and in the very act of reading it, they perform a kind of alchemy, transforming it and making it their own.
What a wonderful, fruitful way of thinking about those we write for! Just as a wonderful piece of writing can change the way readers see and understand the world and their place in it, so a reader’s emotional energy enlivens and transform the words being read. How alive and dynamic this makes the act of reading: what combustible energy we have at our command! Let’s handle it with care — and write on.