One of the best gifts you can give a writer is (aside from reading his/her book) a note, however brief, which tells the writer that you’ve enjoyed or related to his/her work. I try, whenever possible, to write to authors whose work I’ve enjoyed not expecting a response, not to try to make connections or network or anything, but just to say hi and let him/her know there are readers out there. I especially try to do this when I read a story in a journal. I know first-hand how many hours go into crafting a story, and there is a moment of euphoria when you realize that story will begin its life outside of you–and that others might read it. But then, once the words are in print, I sometimes wonder: is anyone reading this? With a few exceptions, that’s why most of the writers I know publish: not for some (relative) fame but because they hope someone might read their work. They hope their words might resonate with or have meaning to someone else in the world besides themselves. Writing is a solitary, private activity; a sense of community outside the writer-ly world only arises when that activity is shared through some form of publication.
In any case, I’m happy and grateful always to get comments on my blog but am even happier when readers of my weekly column write to my personal e-mail address, which I publish at the end of each column.
This week, after writing about my complex love/hate relationship with the iPhone I don’t have (try to make sense of that psychological state), I got a kind note: “Dear Kristina, I just would like to write to say I completely agree with your piece in the Tribune. It is so very true. In respect to reading that, I myself found myself thinking, where or when it was that I ‘f’ell victim’ to my iPhone…” The note goes on, but without re-typing all of it, there are several reasons why it’s kind:
1) It goes into some detail about the piece, and the author shares her experiences with me. (I love to hear about others’ thoughts about or experiences with the things I write about.)
2) In it, the author tells me that she passed along my writing for someone else to read.
3) The author wrote the email in the first place–and then hit send.
To this author: thank you for your kind note! I responded via email, but when I get a note from a reader, I try to reciprocate the gesture to other writers I read. That means I’ll send out a note to the writer of the next journal/magazine piece I enjoy. Writers: pay it forward!