The Great Writer must compete for Attention and Induce Action
Writing is very personal. It’s a seemingly magical method of capturing images and thoughts from your imagination and putting them on the page in a way that very few other disciplines can. Painters, musicians, sculptors, architects, maybe engineers and extemporaneous public speakers are perhaps the only vocations that demand the inspiration that comes from within go straight to the blank canvass before them. This means they may need to throw away more of their creations than others because they are unfit for public consumption. Everyone should study their craft to continually improve, but the writer has a unique challenge in that they must compete with the rest of the world for the readers attention.
A painting can hang unobtrusively on the wall or be visited in a gallery. Portable music has become the personal soundtrack of many people’s life. A building, regardless of the fluidity of it’s lines, does not move.
To be read, the writer needs to compel the reader to make the time for them. The reader always gets to choose when to pick up your book, or fire up the Kindle and read your work. As a writer, you have no control over whether you will be carried along with your reader, or left on the nightstand, relegated to the bathroom, or placed on the coffee table like an ego stroking trophy for guests to see and enjoy.
Your work has to compete for attention against screaming toddlers, the television, Facebook and countless other distractions.
As a writer your work should endeavor to be your reader’s travel companion and lover. It, (meaning your work, and since writing is personal, it, meaning you) should be called upon during long waits in line, aboard flights and ferries, trains and busses. You should be brought to bed at night where you are chosen over sex or sleep, for at least for a little while longer. If your writing isn’t at that level you will lose. If you achieve that tier of preference, you can be considered a very good writer. To be a great writer, you need to do more.
The great writer doesn’t settle for winning the competition over preference. The great writer induces the reader to think about and do things differently. Perhaps to be a better parent, or to be discerning over which television channel to watch, which websites to visit, which airline to fly, or which revolution to fight. The great writer must seduce and challenge the reader. The great writer, leads with their words.
You don’t have to be a great writer, but you should try.