Writers and Readers

Writes and readers are not the same things.

I heard such a claim from a theologian friend of mine once. He had been told that you could either write or read, but probably not do both. He thought it was lame.

Then he became a writer.

And understood.

I listen to the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. It has confirmed this from a different angle.

The setup of the show is this: a writer reads someone else’s short story. Then the person who read the story talks about it with Deborah Treisman, the New Yorker fiction editor.

It is not uncommon that in listening to the conversation it becomes clear that she is a much better reader of short stories than the storywriters are.

She recognizes meaning where they don’t want to see any. She puts the pieces together to give a compelling reading of the story we’ve all just heard.

Of course, not all writers are the same. Nor are all readers the same. Some readers are fantastic for discovering meaning (David Dark is one of these–his writing is so enthralling because he’s showing you how he reads not only books but also the world) some are fantastic for telling you that your n-dash really should be an em-dash. (I just use hyphens—forget you people.)

Lame or not, I find folks falling more one way or the other. Some are great readers. Some are great writers. (Or, “express proclivities toward reading” v. “express proclivities toward writing.”)

Few do both.

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