Hello and good day!
It’s Thursday again, and time again for you to endure the ordeal of slogging through my blogging. I could say that it’s also time for me to slog through the process of writing another blog post, but I rarely think of writing as an ordeal (though sometimes the process of forcing myself to get started can be a minor challenge).
One crucial aspect of writing, of course—if you want to be a good writer, anyway—is that you need to read a lot. Most of the writers whose work I admire are or have been avid readers. This makes sense. One could probably say something analogous about musicians, or about other types of artists: it’s difficult to know what’s possible, to have a deep grasp of the intricacies of one’s subject, if one doesn’t expose oneself to what other artists have done. Of course, each person’s bandwidth is limited, as is each person’s interest and exposure, but that’s part of what makes art interesting, and fundamentally stochastic. Mozart, unfortunately, could never be influenced by the music of the band Yes, but the converse is true, through the accident of historical placement. I sometimes wonder what Mozart might have done with modern musical instruments and precedents at his disposal, just as I wonder what Shakespeare or Dickens might have written after extensive exposure to the modern world. We can, unfortunately, only imagine the wonders to be found in “Electric Guitar Concerto No. 4,” or “The Tragedy of Richard Nixon,” or “A Tale of Two Social Media.”
It’s up to us lesser mortals to carry the burden for our predecessors as best we can, however ill-suited we may be to do so. And to catch at least a tiny bit of contagion from their greatness, we must be exposed to it.
So, as with most writers, I tend to read a great deal. Of course, in the modern world that can be both easier and more difficult than in the past. I have become a whole-hearted convert to the e-book format, for instance. Though I am romantically attached to real, physically printed books, with that heady smell and feel of ink on paper, and the dusty splendor of the used book store, there is something astonishingly wonderful about being able to carry a library of well over a hundred books in my pocket (including the complete plays of Shakespeare and the collected novels of Charles Dickens). It is a bit depressing, however, to realize how few other people seem to do this…at least in my day-to-day environment. During break times at my job, one co-worker regularly approaches me as I look at my smartphone, and asks, “What are you doin’? You reading?” in tones of repetitive and persistent incomprehension. Recognizing that written language is probably the single technology that allowed almost all others to exist, I find myself filled with wonder, not infrequently veering toward despair, to recognize how few of my peers are committed readers. A greater percentage of my social counterparts in high school were readers for pleasure than was even the case in college, let alone in med school (the latter, of course, partly due to simple constraints of time; when medical students take time to read, it’s usually about medicine).
Of course, talking about my present “social counterparts” is somewhat misleading. Outside of work, these days, I basically don’t socialize at all, since no one else seems to share most of my interests (or I theirs, to be fair). It’s depressing that, with access to unprecedented amounts of reading material, merely a click or a tap away, most people seem to have no appetite for it. It can be very lonely to have no one with whom to have a conversation about a book that one is reading…or about a book that someone else is reading.
Of course, one might say that by making audio versions of my own stories, I’m acquiescing to that lamentable tendency not to read, but in this I think I’m on relatively firm ground. As a person with a long commute, I find that listening to audio books is efficient, entertaining, and closely approximates the process of sitting down to read a book. Though writing is most assuredly a visual form of communication, it nevertheless conveys data that—for me at least—is experienced verbally, rather than visually. When I read words, I hear them, though that vocal information subsequently conjures entire virtual realities, with all conceivable types and levels of sensation. I suspect that this is true of most readers, though clearly it cannot be the case for all. (Someone deaf from birth is obviously not going to hear spoken words in their heads when reading a book; certainly, they’re not going to “hear” anything closely resembling what a non-deaf speaker of that written language would hear.)
Anyway, the audio of my books is a way to allow others to “read” them who might not have or take the time to sit down and look at the page, whether on paper or on screen. I hope, of course, that this will encourage the more traditional reading of my works by at least some listeners, since that is the form in which they were created, and how they are intended to be enjoyed.* But if people do enjoy my stories, in whatever form, that’s a net good from my point of view, even if they don’t “read” them in an ordinary sense.
With that in mind, the audio for chapter four of The Chasm and the Collision should come out sometime early next week, and I will thence go on to read chapter five. If you like it, why not tell two friends about it? Then they can each tell two friends…and so on, and so on, and so on.
Speaking of “and so on,” Unanimity continues to grow. Every new day’s writing brings me closer to the end—by definition—but it’s still a ways away. There’s just so much more that needs to happen. Hopefully, this means it will be a rich book to read and enjoy, but at the very least, it’s a rich book to write. That, ultimately, is the only criterion by which I can reasonably judge it.
Please enjoy whatever you might be reading. Please, also, do find someone with whom you can share your enjoyment, and from whom you can have such enjoyment shared in turn. It’s hard to overrate the power of such interactions. Accept the word of one who pines for them.
*and the only form for which I receive any payment, such as it is