“The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
Yearning lies at the heart of why we write. We yearn to create an alternative world, one which, if we're honest, we'd rather spend time in than anywhere else. We yearn to live as different people, achievable through our characters. We yearn to tell stories as a way of making sense of the world or maybe even to feel we have control over things in some small way, the prime movers of our fictional universes. Believing we have something to say we yearn for our voice to be heard. There are many other reasons people write, for catharsis, a way of dealing with traumatic events, as a way to preserve memories, but I believe it's yearning that drives a writer most strongly, that fires up that need to get to our desks and into our work.
In the heart of a reader lies a similar yearning. Readers yearn for escape. They yearn to become someone else, to experience life from different perspectives. Readers yearn for order, meaning, resolutions, comeuppances, promises fulfilled, all those things real life doesn't provide, at least never in the way that's hoped for or expected.
When we open a novel we're asking the writer to take us on a journey, to spirit us away. We're asking to be introduced to characters we want to become as real to us as members of our own family. Sometimes we long to see a side of ourselves reflected in those characters and while that isn't always a comfortable experience, when it happens it deepens our connection to those people and the skilful writer who created them. We aren't always seeking a story with a big white wedding at its climax, but often one which leaves us with a sense of hope and with the satisfaction that every scene was leading up to that showdown, that tearful confession, that murderer's unmasking. Everything in a novel, every event, every line of dialogue, has a purpose. How alluring, reassuring, when life so often feels like nothing more than a string of random occurrences.
Consumed by the nuts and bolts of writing, spelling and grammar rules, the structuring of sentences, word choices, it's easy to lose sight of our work as being created to have a life beyond our desks, a life in the mind of a reader. But if we're serious about publication this is exactly what we're striving, yearning, for. It can be daunting, too daunting at the tentative first draft stage, to consider readers with their sophistication and sharp minds, but it's important and it can be exciting. What writer wouldn't be greatly encouraged and inspired by the thought of his or her work speaking to the heart of even just one reader?
That in creating we can fulfil our fantasises and in turn fulfil those of a reader is surely one of writing's greatest rewards. It may take years of yearning to reach the point where we're accomplished enough as a writer to inspire in a reader everything we feel reading writers we admire, the sense of being transported, identification with a character because we see ourselves in them, the joy of savouring a stunning piece of description or a striking image. What could be more worthwhile?