So I’m reading The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein, and I’m really enjoying it.
Some books have these passages that strike you. You know the ones – they speak to you in a way that makes you put the book down and stare off into the distance for a few minutes. This morning I ran across just such a passage in Ms. Dinerstein’s work:
Halfway between the asylum and the town, Nils pulled over and turned off the car. “It’s blue,” he exclaimed, pointing down to a rocky lake beside the road, and also up to the sky. “Blue and orange. Are complementary colors,” Nils said urgently. “If you look at something orange, a paper, for fifteen seconds, and then you look at a white paper, your eye makes blue. The same with yellow and violet. I use yellow and red, and the eye wants violet, so it is living.”
“It is living,” I affirmed, and Nils restarted the car, looking relieved.
– Rebecca Dinerstein, The Sunlit Night
One of my favorite concepts in writing is “the reader is your final collaborator.” I’ve probably talked about it here on the blog before. It thrills me that a person can read a piece of my writing, anyone’s writing, bringing with them their own life experiences, and the words can mean something new and unique to them. And the next person, reading the very same passage, may interpret it in his / her own way and completely differently. And that both unique interpretations may be different from my original intention but entirely valid nonetheless.
Having readers brings your writing to life. It completes your writing.
Songs are this way, too. I’m always saying that if I ever told certain artists what their songs and lyrics mean to me, they’d probably laugh because it would have nothing to do with their original intentions.
And so, just like paintings and colors live, as Ms. Dinerstein’s character Nils says, because the viewer’s eye creates a color that isn’t there, or has an expectation that needs to be fulfilled, stories come to life because of the interpretations and experiences and perspectives of their readers.
I think this is so great. I’m really looking forward to the day when I can have that final collaboration with more and more readers. I hope those future readers can look at the white pages with their black words and that their minds create endless colors.
That would be really cool. Because then it would be alive.