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Wanting to be Read- Plight of a Writer

A common statement and position many writers take is that we write for ourselves and we don’t care about other people’s opinion about our writing. It is self-deceiving and kind of self-protective position. We want to save ourselves of the scathing impact of brutal reviews and avoid the embarrassment of reviews which do not happen. Let us get this straight. Writers write to be read. Reviews are a sign that they are being read. That apart, in the today’s world, and possibly it always has been that way; one picks up the books read and recommended by those we believe in, in matters literary. From that perspective, reviews are very important to the writers. 

Don’t look down on the desire of a writer to be reviewed. Don’t be so judgement, not in such a hurry. It is not always commercial reason that one wants the book to sell. It can also be because the author truly believes that he has a message, he has an emotion to share with the world. It can be that and just that. Reviews make the books roll. They make people pick up the books and read and in a way, allow your words to touch their souls. 

I have been reaching out to people through giveaways, seeking and hoping for reviews for my stories collection. I must tell you it is very humiliating. We writers are like aliens from the outer world sending out messages in the ether, our pleas, and our requests to be heard. The world doesn’t owe us a reading. We try to polish our words, string them like exquisite beads, so that our readers might get charmed by their beauty and their hearts be stroked by one small, hidden messages skillfully sneaked into the stories we write, wrapped into the poems we stitch. I don't write for myself. If one were to believe in Sartre, no one does. His explanation is that writing being such a subjective art that one cannot actually make sure what one has written is right unless it be read by others. I will quote a complete passage of his from his famous essay - What is Literature? which beautifully brings home the point, much more elegantly than I ever could. He writes, "The creative act is only an incomplete and abstract moment in the production of a work. If the author existed alone he would be able to write as much as he liked; the work as object would never be able to see light of the day and he would either have to put down his pen or despair....it is the conjoined effort of author and reader which brings upon the scene that concrete and imaginary object which is the work of mind. There is no art except for and by others." And while he contends that the risk the writer takes is far greater than the reader since he is the first in the uncharted land, and he risks much walking in there as he writes no matter how far the reader goes, the writer goes farther; he still maintains how the two complement each other, and are necessary to one another,  when he concludes that reading is a pact of generosity between the author and the reader. I would further stick out my neck that generosity to my mind is more on the part of the reader, for the author is serving his own necessity, while the reader indulges the author out of his or her own volition. Reader has a choice, writer doesn't. Writer has a gift for the reader, but the reader can still decide not to receive it.

It is disappointing when someone opts for the giveaway and doesn’t read it. It is sad. Selling is another matter altogether. When someone buys your book, some unknown benefactor and then writes a sweet review, happens rarely, but when it does, it is such a big boost. But expected or unexpected, reviews mean a lot to the writer. They prove that the words you wrote in utter loneliness are being heeded to by a world largely disinterested in what you keep scribbling in your journal, looking at the vast nothingness outside your window.  


In a world of self-promotion and networking as an essential part of writing today (I don't know what Salinger would have done in today's world of book launches in Five star hotels and getting invited via network to literature festivals), it is not always easy for a writer who would more often than not have resorted to written word primarily because of his handicap at socialization, let alone his impossible awkwardness at self-promotion. Trust me, I know that man. The man who wants to tell people what he has written and wants them to read those words because he feels those words will have answer to their questions as well, but is too embarrassed to admit having written, in the first place. I am that man. It is awkward to admit it but many I have deceived and pestered into reading my book would know that already. Writing in any case is setting yourself up for public humiliation, so well, why not admit it. I seek refuge in the words of Samuel Johnson- “ I would rather be attacked than be unnoticed. For the worst thing you can do to an author is to be silent to his word. And would end with thanks to those who took time to review “The Rude Tenderness of Our Hearts”- to Bhumika, Purba, Alice, Bithika, Archit, Puja and few others who left review under the anonymous title of Amazon customer. You have helped me have courage to keep writing more. It also reminds me of my own unkept promise of reviewing one ARC. I am so bad. And to think of it, it is one of the writer whose work I so profoundly appreciate. I will write that review soon. In fact, today I had set about to write that review, but it became this post. That is an honest confession and an apology to that writer whose review I owe. She knows my apology is directed to her, and I know, easy to please people that writers are, she will forgive this delay.

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