If a book falls in the forest

If a person writes a book and no one reads it, is it still a book? Depending on your reason for writing, your answer will vary.

I write for a variety of reasons – relaxation, brain exercise, practice my craft, gottagetthatdamnideaoutofmyhead – but I primarily write because I want to entertain people. It’s a need written in DNA, and a novel is the current medium in which I choose to satisfy it (I’ve also dabbled in flash fiction, a novella, pitched a comic series, and currently have two tabletop game ideas I’m exploring).

Looking at it from that perspective, I won’t find success until my writing is in someone’s hands, whether physically, digitally, or in the not-too-distant future, displayed via holographic projection. Said another way, what I’ve written is not really a book until someone reads it. It’s simply a interesting story, perhaps an exercise, occupying a similar paradoxical state as Schrödinger’s cat.

I imagine people protesting on my behalf: Don’t sell yourself short! There’s value in the experience! Simply finishing is a major accomplishment! All these things and more are true. They have value, and I appreciate the sentiment.

But they’re not the things that bring me to the keyboard. However…

It’s funny, as I write this I’m reminded of something from my childhood, a phrase I learned watching classic MGM movies:

Which brings me to another perspective. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees what you have written/sculpted/painted. You might be a working for an audience of one. You might be working for an audience of none. The very magic – the miracle, if you will – of creation is worthy in and of itself. “Art, for art’s sake,” as the roaring lion reminds us.

Perhaps that is truly why we write or pursue other creative endeavors. The muse will not be denied. The art cannot be contained. That, too, is written in DNA, perhaps scratched and scrawled deeper than a need to entertain.

In the end, it doesn’t matter which reason is more meaningful to you, if either are. However, I think it’s important to consider and decide, because much happiness, stress, and sadness comes from artistic pursuits. Understanding what brings you to your creative workspace will help ensure you keep returning.

I’ve decided both are important to me. I began this post intending to take a position. Share an opinion. But when it comes to art, opinions like criticisms hold less value than the work itself. No one is going to include the phrase “opinion, for opinion’s sake” in their logo.

Good luck to you in your writing, and to its paradoxical existence in the world.


© Michael Wallevand, July 2021


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