A few nights ago I attended a Willie Nelson and Family and Old Crow Medicine Show concert at Meadowbrook in Gilford, NH. (In case you were wondering why I was there, my friend’s husband backed out and I was asked to go in his place.)
Thousands of people applauded and cheered after each song. Some were inspired by their ingestion of alcohol and other substances but a genuine appreciation of the music permeated the air (along with a sweet odor). There is no disputing the fact that attending a concert is a social activity for many people, in addition to an opportunity to enjoy the music. The majority of the songs performed by Willie Nelson have been sung or played many times over the span of many years yet the attendees reacted as though he had dedicated the last five or more years of his life to creating and perfecting them and that he was performing them for the first time.
What if we authors got that same reception every time someone read a book we had written? Would we be motivated to spend even more time writing?
Different abilities and talents are required for singers and writers (unless the singers also write their own lyrics). Would I as an author be comfortable on stage under bright lights in front of thousands of people reading from my novels about Claire, Anne, or Olivia? Hell, no. I have a hard enough time sharing my writings with my writing group. Yet I couldn’t help being jealous of the accolades the performers received at the concert.
Reading is generally a solitary pastime. Any cheering and clapping is done in the privacy of your home. The author, therefore, receives limited direct feedback. So what drives a writer, especially one who has yet to be published, to keep producing? Maybe that is a question appropriate for Siri, along the lines of “what is the meaning of life?”
Speaking of Claire and her cohorts, I offer my sincerest apologies to them for being out of touch these past weeks. You have to believe me that they’ve been in my thoughts. I know what they’ve been doing and thinking and even planning to do. But I haven’t taken the time to record any of this. Everywhere I have been—the hotel in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Inflatable Park, the swimming pool, the Mayflower Beach—I’m thinking of them, feeling their presence, the same as when I’m reading a book with a main character with whom I identify. I know she isn’t real yet it’s as though she is my companion.
Writing a book is like reading a book. The characters get under your skin, into your head.
Only it’s a million times harder.