We always come across articles about mistakes writers make: "Top ten mistakes writers make", "Top 5 author blunders", "What NOT to do as a writer" and the like. But today I was prompted (by a personal correspondence with somebody) to make a post about mistakes that readers make. Definitely not out of spite, but because I think there are some grey-ish areas that need to be discussed.
It's an age-old adage, a fact, that readers confuse the "writer personality" of their favorite authors, with the actual personality of those writers. I have read of a certain writer warning his readers: "Please don't expect me to be funny just because the characters in my books are usually funny, because I am perhaps the least funny person you will ever meet." I also saw a movie once, about a girl who followed her favorite poet to the ends of the earth, only to be greatly disappointed upon finally finding the dear poet who wasn't the least bit interested in lighting her candle wick of inspiration, at all! And I could simply just go on and on if I wanted to go on and on. The bottom line of all this, however, is that much like with their favorite movie characters; readers/supporters/fans too often mistake the person behind the pen with the words that are penned.
It's completely safe to say that extremely beautiful ideas cannot be conjured up in a dull or ugly mind, as well as to say that ugliness cannot be produced by a beautiful person. It's safe to say that. But I will use myself as an example when I say that a writer can be very strong and intense behind the pen but completely soft-spoken and quite timid and insecure in reality. One must think first and realize, that the words on paper or on the computer screen, are not actual spoken words of the tongue. I'm a strong writer, I can get my idea across intensely in a way that will penetrate you down to your bone and marrow and I wield that sword either which way I want it to go; whether I want to soften your heart and hum it with a soothing lullaby or shake your mind into a place so obscure to you, in order to make you see a point that is so foreign to you and you will end up feeling like you are being born out of the womb anew. Because of this, there are those who conjure up an imagined person in their heads that is supposed to be me: someone so outspoken, well-spokem and opinionated; when that couldn't be further from the truth! All the people who are around me and spend any amount of time with me, will definitely tell you that I am soft-spoken. I don't know exactly what they are thinking when they use those words to describe me, but I do know that I never see the importance of voicing my opinions over others, but I would rather sit back in my chair and giggle. I am very comfortable with throwing in my two cents and then laughing at myself right after I do. In fact, I think that I laugh at almost everything that I do say! Not because everything I say is funny, but because the art of speaking and voicing an opinion takes up such a lighthearted space in my heart and mind, it is along the lines of jumping into puddles and accidentally dropping cotton candy on the sidewalk! It's nothing serious or important enough to not laugh at. Behind the pen (or behind the computer) I am set out to change the world (or change the way that you see the world) but that is only my character as a writer and not my character as a person.
So is it the reader's imagination that is to blame? The hyperactive hypothesizing that takes place in a reader's mind, propelling him or her into making conclusions about his/her favorite writer? Do people like to hypothesize about others in order to create something bite-sized that is better understood? Or is it in fact an underactive imagination that is at fault? An imagination that fails to dig further and beyond the words to see the true person that is behind them?
I think that, at the end of the day, the written word is not the spoken word and when you read the written word, it is not the same thing as hearing words spoken with the tongue. And perhaps there is too much interpretation that people are trying to do. "She probably means this", "He probably means that", "Because she means this and because he means that, then this is what kind of people I can expect them to be." And do people make the same mistake with other artists? Like when people look into a painting and try to dissect the mind behind the painting?
I think the way to know a person, is to know the thoughts that go through the person's mind every day: the memories and the dreams, the desires and the regrets, what makes the person smile...
Is it not enough to enjoy the work of art, and leave the person behind the work of art to mystery? Must a reader always go in search of that mystery? Or is it only human nature to search for the mysterious?
I know that I wouldn't want anyone to think that they know me, just because they read what I write. We think that we know Michelangelo because we look at Michelangelo's David in the Galleria degli Uffizi, but do any of us really know Michelangelo? As for me, I am content with mysteries remaining as mysteries, not because I'm not curious, but because a mystery is in itself a wonderful existence, and there is such a lack of wonderful existence in the world, that I think we should just let a mystery stay wonderful all along.