The neat square of sunlight in their front yard was all the sisters needed to enjoy the false spring day. The younger girl sprawled on a blue beach towel, her head bent over the pages of her chapter book, a squishy brown dog by her side. The older, a Princess Elsa wannabe in her diaphanous blue gown, sat primly in a straight back wood chair dragged from the kitchen. Her head was bowed as if in prayer over the open book in her lap.
When I passed again, the sunny square had stretched to a rectangle. The girls lay side-by-side in the lowering sun, each on her own towel, each engrossed in her own book, a bowl of snacks between them. Their feet pointed skyward as their legs windshield wipered from side to side.
Rushing from errand to errand, chore to chore, I thought how long it had been since I’d lain on the grass and basked in the joy of a good book.
Often, we say we write because we must. Of course, that’s true. Even those of us who are journalists, freelancers or corporate communicators don’t do it for the money, such as it is. Writing is part of who we are. The words that flow from our minds through our fingers to our screens provide us with enormous satisfaction (and frustration).
We understand the power of a word and ruminate on our choices as we run. Work out plot point as we walk. Set characters on courses as we shower. We know our characters better than we know some family members. For some of us, our characters are family members. As much time as I spend thinking about my writing, I spend the inverse amount thinking about my readers.
Oh, I think about how to make them want to turn the pages. But I don’t think about how my readers will experience my writing.
Good writing – regardless of genre – transports readers. Our poetry can give voice to feelings they can’t express. Our memoirs can show they are not alone. And our prose can take our readers inside other families, other cultures, other cities, other worlds. Our writing can unleash imaginations, illuminate issues and take readers places they have never before ventured.
Watching those two little girls devouring their books reminded me that although the process might be about the writer, the product is about the reader. With skill and luck, the books those girls one day will read will be ours. In the meantime, grab a towel and a book and find your patch of lawn.