Tag Archives: Readers

(Almost) Always Working

Being a writer is an odd sort of existence. You come up with these wild (hopefully original) ideas and slap tens of thousands of different combinations of the same 26 letters onto the page and bring them to life.

Katie Oldham famously wrote about the experience of consuming these ideas:

Creating the most effective hallucinatory experience takes a lot of effort. You need to know what you’re doing. You need to have a solid grasp of the rules and conformances – so you can break them properly. You need to be dedicated, not just to the execution element of the craft, but to the whole universe of storytelling. I will also argue it’s not enough to have merely existed, you need to have experienced something in life, either first-hand or vicariously through others. That’s not to say that young, inexperienced people can’t write engaging or even transformative stories, but I’ll assert that they are in the minority. Hell, the list of those who can is short enough as it is even if you don’t impose any life-experience criteria.

There’s also an expression out there, and I’m not sure who to attribute it to, but it goes like this:

Writers are readers.

I’ll take the quote a step further and say:

Writers are conscientious consumers of storytelling in all its forms.

Yes, books are storytelling but so are:

  • graphic novels,
  • and screen productions (large and small, self-made or professional),
  • and live theatre,
  • and webcomics or cartoons,
  • and graphic novels,
  • and magic,
  • and stand-up comedy,
  • and poetry,
  • and spoken (or signed) word,
  • and cave drawings,
  • and all the visual arts,
  • and music.

Recently, George Stroumboulopoulos (“Strombo”) interviewed the surviving members of Rush, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, on his “House of Strombo” show (you can watch the full YouTube interview at the end of this post). This segment early in the discussion really resonated with me.

Strombo: “Rush could have played 20 different genres. What were the things that you were being exposed to that led you to figure out that this is the way you wanted to be?”

Lifeson: “Listening to other things like Joni Mitchell, listening to the crafting of songs and what works and what doesn’t work and what really stands out in a song, and the pacing, and all of those things about the structure of a song, you learn about that through listening. You… maybe are not directly influenced by the music itself, but how it’s constructed and how it works… becomes the important thing, I think, and you carry that on forever.”

I extend the philosophy of Lifeson’s influencing experiences to my everyday existence. Sure, there are times when I just shut off my brain and enjoy various art forms for the sake of enjoying them, appreciating art for art’s sake, but more often than not I’m examining, as Alex said, “how it’s constructed and how it works”.

I pay attention to how whatever I’m consuming makes me feel and then I start thinking about whatever it is that’s making me feel the way I’m feeling. Naturally, if it involves words of any kind I examine the writing first, but what I’m really doing is looking for the fundamental elements of the story that are triggering the emotion, regardless of the positiveness or negativeness of it.

Ultimately, I’m constantly asking myself, “Why does the story make me feel the way I feel?” and when I sit down at the computer to write, I do my darndest to take those pieces, those elements of structure and construction, and craft the story I want to tell. In that sense, I’m (almost) always working, a concept that Misters Lifeson and Lee have understood since they strummed their first chords together more than fifty years ago.

I got no time for livin’
Yes, I’m workin’ all the time

– Workign Man. Songwriters: Alex Lifeson / Geddy Lee

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that everyone who creates should consume with the same analytical intent. It’s perfectly fine for anyone to enjoy art for art’s sake 100% of the time. However, if you’re a writer, if you’re a storyteller, I would encourage you to look beyond your chosen medium, see what makes it tick, and bring some of that into what you do.

At the very least, you’ll have a better understanding and appreciation for whatever it is you’ve experienced, and who knows, in the process, you might create a more engaging or transformative story of your own.

Check out Alex Lifeson’s new musical project, Envy Of None. It’s a departure from the musical stylings of Rush, but something any music lover will appreciate (Maiah Wynne’s vocals are so haunting and trippy you’ll find yourself immersed in the music). https://envyofnone.com/

Alex Lifeson, Strombo, and Geddy Lee

You Owe Me Nothing

I was going to do a completely different post this week, but then I came across this train wreck of a comments thread on Goodreads and I just had to voice my thoughts on it. Unfortunately, the author (of the book, not the review) has since deleted all of his comments, fortunately, some genius decided to capture it via archives.is (which should scare the crap out of anyone who suffers from the delusion that they can post something online and then bury it later).


I had to read the whole thread because apparently I enjoy the carnage of watching someone completely self-destruct. Every time the author commented I would think, he can’t possibly make this any worse, and then he went and made it worse. The real work of art here is how he swiftly took one negative review of his book and turned hundreds, if not thousands of potential readers into people 100% guaranteed to avoid anything he’s ever written or will ever write. That expression, “There’s no such thing as bad press”? Well, Dylan Saccoccio is finding out the hard way that there are clearly exceptions to that rule.


There are many reputable authors out there who will all give a writer the same advice on responding to reader reviews: don’t do it. DO NOT ENGAGE! Reviews on book sites like Goodreads, Amazon, Barns & Noble are not for writers. Reviews are for readers. You can write the best god-damned book the world has ever seen and there will still be people that think it sucks donkey balls. Get over it. You know what should thrill you to the teeth? The fact that someone literally took hours out of their day to spend time with something that you created. You may have even received some money for this transaction. If you are a writer, it’s almost guaranteed to be less than a cup of coffee, but someone out there, probably a complete stranger, spent time AND money on your creation. If that’s not enough for you then I think you’re in the wrong business.

You know what readers owe us? Nothing. Nada. Bupkis. Zilch. Diddly squat. Nothing. Did I say nothing? I did? Well, I’ll say it again, NOTHING. To put it bluntly, readers owe us exactly one-fifth of sweet fuck all.

Robert Niles has a couple great quotes and was speaking as it pertains to reporting, but this sentence is wholly applicable for all types of content:

“They [citizens] have the right, and ability, to go about their lives without ever once glancing at your publication…”

In short, by simply picking up a copy of your book or stopping by your blog and giving your work more than a second glance they’ve already given you a whole lot.

Be thankful for that.

In summary, read my stuff. Maybe you love it, maybe you hate it, or maybe you’re somewhere in between. Either way, I’m glad you spent some time with it. That is, after all, one of the reasons I create it in the first place.

Shameless plugs:

~ Andrew.