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The Experience You Create For Readers Goes Beyond The Book

This video really moved me, it is of two of my favorite singers performing together in Ireland. On the left is Bruce Springsteen, and on the right is Glen Hansard:

Look at Glen’s face at minute 7, he is clearly is total heaven in this moment, performing with his idol.

What Bruce and Glen have in common is the road-warrior mentality – they are always in front of fans, always on the road. They are doing more than selling tickets, they are delivering an experience.

There is no “producer” and “consumer” here – the fans are an inherent part of the music. When I wait 12 hours on pavement to see one of Bruce’s shows, I feel a part of it in a way that isn’t just consumption, I am a part of something. Clearly, I DO NOT create the music in doing such a thing. But I am apart of a new experience created around the music.

As I have said, you do not have to write TO an audience, but knowing them is good. Glen and Bruce are notorious for serving their fans. At 63, Bruce still performs night after night with an energy that few can match at any age. Glen has embarked on his own endless tour of his own, and makes a point to meet fans outside the venue before and after most shows. I’ve met him many times.

This is why I never liked the idea of consider a reader of a book (or a fan of a singer) as a passive aspect of the creative process. Their role is so much more than to simply pay $15 for a book, or $80 for a concert ticket.

The work itself (the book or song) is alive. Evolving. In the minds of those who read the book, in their experience of talking about it with friends, in how the work itself shapes their actions in life.

This is really what an author’s platform is, and the true effect of a book. Not a “bestseller list,” and not “Twitter followers.”

Many think that success involves a great divide. The creator on one side – elevated – and the fans on the other. But as long-time success stories show, there is no divide. There is deep engagement and involvement, and those who experience the work of art are a core part of what it creates in the world. How they amplify it, what they create around it, and yes, how they engage with the author of that work.

Rolling Stone shared a great article this week on the 50 greatest live acts right now. I love seeing how each artist and set of fans is in many ways so different from each other, and in other ways, exhibiting the same process.

What experience are you creating for your readers that goes beyond the book itself?

Thanks.
-Dan

  • Trish Feehan

    Intriguing final question, Dan, and one I’ll certainly put some thought into. As readers, we all know how much we bring to the table. We read the words as they’re written, but we imagine the fictional world in our own individual ways. We invest a lot of ourselves in our unique interpretations and emotional reactions. Anyone who’s ever joined a book club knows that you’ll get as many takes on the book as there are members. But, as a writer, it’s easy to forget how much of the creative process happens long after you’ve finished the writing part and after you’ve published the book, once it’s in the hands of readers. So you’re absolutely right. We have to remember that readers are far from passive vessels accepting our written word. The experience of writing and reading a novel is collaborative, as intimate as it is separate.

  • Carmen Amato

    Great, thought-provoking post. Every writer wants their imagery and words to stick in a reader’s head long after the book or article is done. We want them to keep connecting with us, on any of the many social platforms, to give us feedback and even help us with ideas for the next great thing. But more and more the question is how to be the author that not only is available for the collaborative effort but is noteworthy enough (in a huge sea of authors) for the audience to want to collaborate with us.

    • Carmen – thanks. This is why personal connections are so critical. It makes that “huge sea” much smaller.
      -Dan