I've written before about the difference between loneliness, which many feel at this time of year, especially if they have no families, and the kind of creative solitude that writers, contemplatives, and other artists so clealrly need.
I recently became aware, again, of a related problem that writers face: they need readers desperately, need the affirmation of people who read and pay some attention to the quiet work writers do. Not receiving this type of appreciation can add isolation to the writer's solitary life, leading to despair. No wonder so many notable authors have been alcoholics.
With the recent publication of my two articles on prayer, I assumed that some of my like-minded friends would comment on seeing my work in the magazines they subscribe to, but, even when I offered some of them an off-print, they said little. This is puzzling. Perhaps they did not know what to say.
Lynn, who is a largely unpublished writer of wonderful stories for children, has similar experiences leaving copies of her stories with friends, even offering to read a short story after dinner. The result is silence. When this happened last month at a friend's house, no one said anything after her reading. Except me. Even then, not much was said. Even fellow writers say little about her work. She feels at times very much alone in the universe--who cares about her work?--even though the joy of creating stories keeps her going.
At the university where I taught, I expected my colleagues in the English department to be less than ecstatic at the publication of one of my books since academic jealousy is taken for granted. But for people I know, who have the education, skill and interest to read a serious article, I expect a message of thanks or a simple compliment (or disagreement)--so I know that I reached someone out there.
I can count on the fingers of one hand the friends who have responded to these posts. This is no great surprise since I do not publicize my blog. But I expected my articles in national publications to capture the appreciative attention of those who know me. (Well, I did get a message from a stranger in Pennsylvania, who was moved by my article on listening.)
I am not really hurt by this so much as puzzled. Is it that non-writers have no appreciation of the work that goes into even a short article and the likelihood of publication, which is always iffy? Is that everyone is so busy they have no time to read or no recollection of their reading? Are my academic credentials so awesome that people are struck dumb, intimidated by seeing something of mine in print?
Perhaps paying compliments is seen at some level as insincere? Perhaps readers are like students: too intimidated to offer praise at the end of a course.
Involved here is the dynamic between writer and reader, the basic bond of communication between the imagined audience I write for (vs. actual readers) and me.
The issue reminds me of not being thanked and my puzzlement when gratitude is seen as an expression of dependence or embarrassment. Some adults, let alone children, have a hard time saying "thank you." Maybe the response of readers is similar. Either that, or what I write has such limited appeal that I can't expect the people I write for to say much of anything.
Well, I remain grateful for the positive feedback I have received (thank you, Ned, and John: this post does not involve you), and I take great pleasure in the process of writing, seeing it as spiritual exploration akin to prayer. I regret nothing and I thank those who read what I have written.