Writing is largely a solitary activity. Even when we circulate a draft through a committee or bring our work to a critique group, that’s for review. The original is a solo creation.
Yet writing is all about relationships. Writers relate to the subjects they write about. Narrative history, biography, or personality profiles demand at least a bit of empathy with the people whose stories they tell. In fiction, characters take shape in my mind as semi-independent beings with their own notions of what they’ll do or say. Even when I write about fruit flies or galaxies, trying to do justice to the subject involves a personal sense of connection.
And writing is about a relationship with the reader. Except perhaps for a personal journal, we write to communicate with others. Readers are a constant presence. Who might read this? What do they already know, what are they curious about, what might confuse them or draw them in? If you are reading this blog post, thank you! It was written with you in mind.
Writers are like hosts at a party, introducing subjects and readers in the hope that something will click. To polish one’s craft is to strengthen the introduction. “Hello, dear reader. Here’s a subject I find interesting, and I hope that you will too.”
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.