There is a rhythm to the writing, as there is to the reading. The writer through the language places words, phrases, paragraphs onto the page, much as a musician composes music and then sends it out to the world for listeners to enjoy—except as the writer, we often do not recognize how we are creating poetry and music with a full beated heart. When I am writing, I am not aware of the rhythm. I am manipulating the language, but its rhythm comes from instinct, not from controlled purpose—that is how it works for me. How it works for you is your own. It is only now as I read over this draft that I wonder, “Is there a rhythm here? Can I manipulate it so there is one to make my post more effective?” But I only sit and contemplate that idea, knowing to ‘try’ or to ‘attempt’ this will only make me feel too aware and that too aware will kill the very thing I want to create. That is how I work.
When reading an author’s book, I am not at first aware of the cadence or lack of it; only when I’ve put the book down and reflect on my experience will the coordinating pulse become apparent. I am reading a novel now where, much as I want to, I cannot pace the beat. The author is well-known, and the story is one I want to read (and I will), but I am aware that something is not quite right: the rhythms are off, off, off. I stagger and stumble through the words, finding the beauty in this author’s ideas, but our dance is clumsy.
Similarly, a few months ago I began a novel and while reading the first two chapters, I had the urge to put the book down; something just wasn’t right between us. I felt awkward with my partner. But curiosity, and professional understanding and empathy for the hard work and the process, kept me reading to the third chapter, then the fourth, and along the way, I tapped into the rhythm of the writer’s words and began to enjoy the book in a way I cannot find with this current novel I’m reading. I thought, I’m so glad I didn’t put the book away or I’d have missed this waltz. I simply needed to fall in step with the writer: one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three….
My writer—and I love saying “my writer,” as if we have a bond, and we do—has no awareness of how in-tune we are to one another in the moments of my reading the author’s words. The author doesn’t know I am swaying in time, lifting up then setting down, dipping, rising, falling. The writer and I have never been closer and I wish I could turn my head, look up into that expectant face, and say, “Your words have affected me, moved me, made me laugh, entertained me, made me think. I … I love you.”
The characters dance along with us, apparitions who become solid and real through the sure hand of the author’s writing. The hand at my back, warm, sexy, powerful, guides me here, there, here, there, to places and events and people, and emotions that fill my body to full-bursting. Melodic conversation enlivens the room. My bedroom becomes whatever the writer says it becomes, just by the power of the author’s words. I lose control. I lose my mind. I gain everything. Everything! My head spins with possibility. Writer and reader. Close. Closer.
When I close the book for the night, I have to re-orient myself to space and time, to the silence in the room, the absence of character, language, song. I long for one more page, and I look forward to our next encounter, when Writer and I meet again, when the author will move me about the room. Yes, there are missteps; sometimes I step on a foot or mine will be crushed, sometimes there is a discordant tone, or we bump into someone who moves in the way. But I don’t care. We are partners: Reader and Writer. The most lasting of loves. The beauty of it all is stunning.
When I find the last page, the last phrase, the last word, I know I will never be the same, and I will grieve our parting.
I have this hope: that when others read my work they feel the rhythm with me, that I lead them through the beauty of the language, that together we dance. That they stay with me until we are partners. That they fall in love and never forget a thing.
As a reader, do you experience that dance? As a writer, do you hope your reader does?