Blank economies

A reader has as many choices as a writer does. But isn’t every writer also a reader?

To fill a blank page. A minute of focused attention. An hour of narrative decision-making, risk-taking, word-plucking, metaphor-stomping.

It takes courage to open a book, but heroism to finish it, since every reader’s commitment is a leap in the dark, even a leap of faith. Hours invested on the sole guarantee of a moment’s share price. It takes even more courage to drop a book that doesn’t deliver, or live up to expectations. But what are the expectations? Everyone reads for a different reason, but for some reason all reasons come to a head, like the vanishing lines of a Renaissance painting, into a clear focal point. Which is why we feel so gratified after we’ve finished reading a good book.

I know people who can read 500 pages a day quite effortlessly, and not putting in significantly more time than others I know who can’t break the 100-page limit. Do the former experience the book at breakneck speed, while the latter merely drag their feet? Or do the latter relish the page in a deeper, more meaningful way than the others?

The blank page calls for the most complete and accomplished words. It is easy to fill a page, but not every blackened page is worth reading. In the long run, the better words drive out the worse. The problem is that the worse ones take a long time to evanesce, while the better words take a while to be recognised for what they are. Many reputable editors have historically turned down masterpieces. Their descendants are still paying for the sins of their fathers.

In this comedy, order is always, ultimately, de rigueur. But chaos is all we experience, and faith is all we’ve got.

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