Monday, July 23, 2012

What My Book Says About You

Yes, I'm doing it again. I'm reading my own interpretations into your perfectly normal and reasonable actions.

Most readers are familiar with the idea that a book says a lot about the author. Unless you're a reading machine who devours books the way some devour gummi bears and never bother to think about them as you go, I suspect at some point you've read a passage and wondered what the author had to go through to come up with that idea. At least, I hope you have. It's OK to think about a book as more than a story.

I maintain the first book an author writes is a therapy book: meaning, intentionally or unintentionally, we write it as part of our own therapy. I may think this because I trained as a marriage and family therapist and tend to view the world through that lens (relax. It's a strengths-based lens and I'm looking for what's right with you, not what's wrong).  I will concede - grudgingly - that the first book written may not be the first book published, but I suspect it is more often than not. 

Why? Because writing and completing a book is hard work. Very hard work. Something drives the author to work that hard not only to finish but share his masterpiece, and I posit it is his desire to tell his story in whatever altered form his subconscious dreams up. He may disagree if he wishes, but I will apply Shakespeare's "the lady doth protest too much, methinks" and he'll lose anyway.  No offense, gentlemen.

I've written in this topic elsewhere, and I'm sure I'll write about it again, so I'll move on to my title theme.

What I did not realize before I published is how often a reader approaches my book with an automatic bias. The difference may be that I now hand over a brick with a picture on the cover and a concise little blurb on the back that supposedly sums up the story (it doesn't, really. No blurb ever does justice to the real story) which allows the reader to form an opinion other than "Good Lord! That's a 4 inch, two ream, 6 lb binder you're handing me!" And God bless all of you who took it.

Since I've handed over that brick, I've heard "Dragon-worshippers? So they're the bad guys?", "Ooo, shape-shifters," and my personal favorite so far, "Blood? You wrote a book with blood in it?" Each of these statements says more about the speaker than me. Why assume dragon-worshippers are bad guys? What makes "shape-shifters" stand out? Why is it so surprising I would write about blood? Have you met me?

It's almost as interesting as the questions and comments I get after the book is read. It's fascinating to see which parts capture people's attention, especially when I compare their reactions to what I intended when I wrote it or what I wanted people to take away from it.

TT: It is amazing how we manage to communicate with each other at all. Our separate experiences and focuses are so different, how can my words mean the same thing as your words, and how does that meaning travel through sound or sight and take up residence in your brain in any shape remotely similar to my intention? Wow. Just...wow.

I almost didn't write this because I fear shutting down those comments and questions that fascinate me so much, like Captain Picard who couldn't think what to say when he discovered the empath loved listening to his voice. I do hope you'll keep asking and commenting. It's my story, after all. I want to tell it.

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