18 Jun Do you write to be read?
What makes you write? Do you write to be read? I was watching an interview with Australian author Markus Zusak (The Book Thief) who said that even if he knew his next novel would never be read, he’d still write it.
That’s pretty honourable, I reckon.
When I started writing Last Seen in Lhasa, I didn’t know it would be a book. It was a labour of love. Last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Sydney. Outside the main auditorium were dozens of Tibet-related stalls. As I wandered around I kept bumping into friends and people who I’d met through writing Last Seen in Lhasa. It made me reflect on the whole process of writing something and getting it published.
When I look back I can see that my first book gave me a platform. I became more than a journalist. I wrote something that lasted longer than tomorrow’s fish ‘n chip paper. I wrote something enduring.
That’s what books are.
I still get emails from readers who ask about my dear friend, Ani, who care about her. After not hearing any word from Ani for many months, I recently heard that she is doing okay. It was such a relief – and will be a relief to my readers.
But back to why I write.
I write because I feel compelled. Because I’ve always done it. I started writing a diary aged nine. That was for myself. Then through journalism I found a wider audience. So I do write to be read.
When you write a book, you are creating a world – and it’s your world. It can be lonely because you can’t share this world with others. But at a certain point writers need to feel ready to let go. That point came for me in July 2012. I knew I’d done enough. That the novel was finished.
Except, of course, it wasn’t. It still went through several more edits. Two more before I sent it away to publishers. Another two once Penguin agreed to publish it.
Still, the bulk of it was complete. And I thought that’s it, I’m done. I am ready to let this go.
But here’s the thing. There is a huge leap between thinking you’re done and seeing the final product. When I received two copies of my novel in the post, I was nervous and excited. It was real and solid – and had its own life.
You just don’t know how your book is going to be received. You just can’t tell on which shore the bottle will end up. You can only hope it will catch fair trade winds … and find a safe harbour.
So, do you write to be read?