Why Are You Reading This?

Most blog posts save the Really Important Lesson for the last paragraph. I’m just going to cut’n’paste it right here:

I write not because I “have to,” but because I want to be read.

Thanks for reading.

Skip to the bottom of this post and you’ll see the very same words.

Are you still reading? Why? Anything written between the first and last word will merely be used to support the Really Important Lesson noted above.

You won’t be surprised to discover that I have a few theories on why you’re still reading. Feel free to skip these:

  • You think I’m trying to trick you. You know from the past that I sometimes mess with your mind in this space and wonder if I’m doing it again. Even now you’re reasonably certain this bullet point is merely a clever tease of something Yet to Be Revealed. You believe there’s a surprise coming. A punch line. Also, someone is following you.
  • You understand the value of the process. This is sort of like saying “I’m in it for the journey” even though you know ahead of time where the journey ends. How many of you saw Titanic. Spoiler alert: the ship sinks. So why did you go? And why do you read a book you’ve already read? Because you expect (or hope) to enjoy the trip. And unlike cruises on doomed superliners (and, apparently, stays at the Hotel California), you can leave any time you like. So are you still enjoying this little journey? Then read another reason below. Or close your browser. Go ahead, I dare you.
  • You don’t want to miss anything. It’s not just the journey that keeps you glued to the page, it’s the possibility that you’ll uncover something you didn’t expect, or better still, something only a select few others will find. When we discover something hidden between or beneath the actual words, we feel pretty darn good about ourselves. We feel smart and clever and are immediately ushered behind the curtain into an exclusive club that earns us at the very least, a knowing wink from the author, and sometimes a secret decoder ring. (But not this time. Sorry. My secret decoder ring supplier went out of business. I blame Dan Brown.)
  • You’re stubborn, an optimist, or a stubborn optimist. You haven’t met a terrible book you didn’t still read from cover to cover. Maybe you hold out hope it will improve. Maybe you hold out hope you’ll actually understand half the words the author uses. More likely you have some mild form of literary OCD and leaving a book unfinished is impossible for you. Did your parents tell you to “clean your plate” every meal, too? Yeah. I thought so. Please add “guilt” to this reason.
  • You like the way I write. Hey, stop laughing. It could happen.

Does it matter why you kept reading? Maybe to your therapist. But not so much to me, the writer. Yes, I’d like it very-much-thank-you if you kept reading because the beauty and rhythm of my words and the compelling intrigue of my narrative gave you a particularly satisfying literarygasm. But if you kept reading because of OCD tendencies or lingering guilt? That’s okay with me, too.

It doesn’t matter if we’re writing a query or putting the final touches on an epic novel that spans ten generations and gives Proust a run for his money, we write not just because we like the sound of pencil scratching on paper or fingers tippy-tapping on laptops, but because we want other people to read our words. Some of you might be queueing up an argument right about now that includes the words, “I don’t write for others – I write for myself.” If you mean, “I’m writing what I want to write, not what others would have me write,” then good for you. I have no argument with that. But if you’re trying to tell me, “I don’t want or need anyone else to read my words,” all I have to say is, Really? Then why are you reading this blog post?

I write not because I “have to,” but because I want to be read.

Thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “Why Are You Reading This?

  1. I read it because you always makes me laugh, or at least smile, a lot. And that makes you totally awesome.

    PS: I hear you can get secret decoder rings from cereal boxes these days. Care for a Coco Pop? =D

  2. I just finished a book, and the whole way through I had no idea why I was reading it. I just did a post about it today, actually.
    It did occur to me that guilt is a possible cause.
    You offer OCD?

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