Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle

I started blogging about books in the winter of 2020. I’ve been an avid reader from an early age and thought it would be fun to share my favourite books with more people than just my friends and relatives. Over time this website has grown itself into a little hub for people to connect with each other and have conversations about interesting books.

 

One of the most exciting things about this journey is that I get to meet people (online) from all walks of life. Every now and then someone reaches out from somewhere across the globe and then we write. During these interactions, I’ve often been asked about the ultimate challenge for writers:

 

How to create something unique and personal that lasts and speaks to people, without conforming too much to what you think the audience will love. This is how I like to approach the writing process:

 

Writer Kurt Vonnegut offered in the first of his 8 tips for writing a good story: “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” I relate to that statement because I believe the attractiveness of the work is ultimately determined by the reader’s personal interpretation.

 

However, tastes move on and the eagerness to please can count on little admiration. It’s the writer’s job to detach from what is taken for granted and connect to his own vision in order to create something meaningful and unique. As Oscar Wilde says, “A true artist takes no notice whatsoever of the public. The public to him are non-existent.” And I think that’s true. The counterintuitive but really necessary thing is to first find things you’re excited writing about. It’s the excitement that flows into the work and will make it stand out.

 

So in some ways writing is like a message in a bottle that you throw into sea. You’ll never know where it arrives, how it’s going to be perceived and by whom. At its best the writing is unique and sparks a conversation. At it’s worst it has lost its creativity and merely functions as a colourless whole that appeals to no one, including yourself. Writing for an audience, in stead of – to an audience means sacrificing the gift that’s distinctively yours.

 

As author James Baldwin would say, “The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides”. In order to create something meaningful we must make pleasing ourselves – not others – a habit, so that if that message in a bottle is not going to be received or appreciated, it was still worth writing it.

 

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