9.03.2013

The collaboration of creation: On letting readers shape your writing

I published this article originally on Hobo Mama, discovered it again recently, and loved the reminder that writing is a group effort.

The collaboration of creation: On letting readers shape your writing == LaurenWayne.com
With my grandfather's failing health, I wrote him a letter. I won't term it a "get well" letter, certainly — it was more a (possibly last) chance to say what I wanted to say.

Due to the vagaries of air transit and USPS delivery from one coast to another, I happened to be visiting when he received the letter. He let my mother read it, and as he is a soft-spoken gentleman, she ended up saying much more about it than he did.

I overheard her describe the contents to my father and to other relatives who were visiting, much as one would overhear her mother tell her friends what grades her daughter had received on her report card.

But, brownie points for writing her father aside, it was interesting to hear her misrepresent what was in my letter — to, in fact, rewrite it.

I had written him my memories of his marriage to my grandmother, and my mother added to those memories her own in the retelling. She put words in my mouth, or in my pen, that were never thoughts in my head, but they were fitting and beneficial thoughts, so I let her tell it her way.

It made me think of this blog, how I started off writing into the void of my own thoughts, as if I were writing a diary that would be burned upon my death. But then people started commenting, and I realized that my thoughts were no longer my own, that readers would take them and re-form them and add their own memories and perspectives to them in the digestion.

And so it should be.

I like to think of creation as a group effort, even something as theoretically solo as writing.

In a writing class once, I heard this story about Robert Frost from my professor. I assume it's true, though I can't find a citation for it.

He was answering questions about his poems. One woman tentatively asked if her interpretation was what he had meant in a particular poem.

"No," Frost said, "…but I like it."
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