This Week’s Writing Prompt

“To me, as a reader, the greatest thing about the novel is that it gives access to the mind of the writer.”[1]  What a thought! This quote by author Jane Smiley articulates afresh why I love the written word. As a writer, I spend a lot of energy putting thoughts, emotions, and memories onto the page. Yet, as a reader, how aware am I of an author’s deep ruminations and long-stored remembrances? Have I ever considered what a gift this is? No wonder writing is regarded as a vulnerable art.

Smiley further points out there is “no intermediary between you and an author’s mind. There are no

 “To read a book is an act of humanity. It’s an act of connection.”

 – Jane Smiley, author of Some Luck

actors, there’s no stage production.” It’s just you and the writer, intimately suspended in time and space by the words he or she penned specifically to share with you.

“To read a book is an act of humanity. It’s an act of connection,” states Smiley. What connects us as reader and writer are shared experiences and the ability to identify with one’s humanity: the joys and heartbreaks, the successes and failures, the innocence and depravity.

We find we are not so alone or different from one another. In The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr indicates it is “your emotional connection to the memoir’s narrator that hooks you in” by creating places and people that live and breathe inside the reader. “The best writers make you feel they’ve disclosed their soft underbellies.”

Accessing the mind of an author and witnessing their soft underbelly can only come as a result of a writer’s dedication to honesty and authenticity. Regarding memoir, Karr refers to this concept as “the truth contract twixt writer and reader.”

What do you think?

  • What are your thoughts on the concept of having prolonged access to the mind of an author? How does this access impact you as both a writer and reader?
  • Do you consider writing a vulnerable art? Why or why not?
  • Have you experienced the kind of intimate connection with an author that Smiley and Karr describe? What book created this phenomenon, and why did those words resonate with you?

Share your responses in the comments section below.

All posts in response to our writing prompts in July will be entered into a drawing to win a free online coaching video—that’s a $20 value!

[1]Fassler, Joe. “’Writing Is an Exercise in Freedom’: How Pulitzer Winner Jane Smiley Motivates Herself.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 3 Dec. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/10/ideas-motivate-great-writing/381224/. Accessed July 1, 2019

2 Comments

  • by
    Judi A Graham
    Posted July 18, 2019 10:15 am 0Likes

    I really don’t want prolonged access to anyone’s mind, let alone an author! I don’t want the author’s thinking to ramble into my mind and cause any more short circuits than I am already experiencing.

    In truth, every author has a style. Their style is not mine nor do I want it to be. A book to me is a source of enjoyment – the same with a television program. Some styles are easy to follow, others, not so much.

    • by
      Beverly Bailey
      Posted July 20, 2019 1:24 pm 0Likes

      Well said, Judi. I agree. I read for enjoyment or learning, not to delve into the psychology of an author’s mind or reasoning. I did a lot of that in graduate school–but not now. Also, we forget that to a small extent and often to a large extent, writers create fiction, even about themselves.

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