I Wish to Remember to Feel What My Reader Feels

"how do you feel right now?" by Bella Lago; © 2009 Bella Lago, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The most important skill a writer can develop, in any field or genre of writing, is to empathize with his reader, because the reader will always judge your writing ultimately by what he feels. Mastery of this skill has resulted in some of the greatest feats of writing magic, especially among writers of sales copy, and neglect of it has resulted in some of the most notable snafus.

This week, for Wishcasting Wednesday, Jamie Ridler asks, “What do you wish to remember?”

Well, I wish to remember, as a writer, always to feel what my reader feels, which has historically been nigh impossible for me to achieve.

Growing up, as a teenager and young adult, I lived the life of a romantic. That is, when it came to girls, I felt romance, lived romance, fell in love at the drop of a hat, unafraid to break my heart yet again, because I needed to love and to be loved. But I also rarely considered whether the objects of my affections felt the same as I, because I didn’t know how. Therefore, my own deeply romantic gestures only scared my beloveds, resulting in heartache after heartache, until I finally learned the secret of love.

That’s not to say these experiences went to waste. No, they were violently painful learning experiences, which finally produced a happy ending, and they eventually became the inspiration for Love through the Eyes of an Idiot, so I can’t complain about that.

Even so, I’ve always had a very introverted personality, emotionally. I’ve always found it easy to understand what I feel, even if I can’t find the words to talk about it. And I’ve always found it difficult to understand what others are feeling, especially when those feelings differ from mine.

Fortunately, a good part of my training as a writer has helped me tunnel through that mountain. Because in creative writing, the characters come first—they’re the most important aspect of a story—and in order to understand the characters in a story, a writer must understand the people behind those characters. This is as true for fictional characters as it is for characters based on real, live people. Moreover, the reader’s feelings generally reflect those of the sympathetic characters. So creative writing helps a writer to understand his reader’s feelings.

Even so, sometimes my own feelings overwhelm me, and I forget about the reader’s. When I’m writing sales copy for a book or for the web, sometimes I’m so desperate to sell, because I’m worrying where next week’s grocery money will come from, I forget that the reader does not want to be sold. It should be easy for me to step into the shoes of prospective customer, because I am a prospective customer myself sometimes. But I need to remember to do so.

And as I’ve been revamping my software-development résumé, I had the hardest time understanding how a résumé can tell a “story,” as they say, because I just didn’t get it. Then I realized that I am a prospective client as well. If I were looking for a software engineer to help me develop my websites, what words on his résumé would really catch my attention and make me desperate to hire him? As soon as I remembered to feel what the reader feels, the words for my résumé just started dropping into place.

So, as a writer, this Wishcasting Wednesday, I wish to remember to feel what my reader feels, because that will make my writing the best that it can be.

-TimK

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Comments

Tim 🙂 Thanks for sharing such beautiful feelings with us. It feels like I”m riding in a very similar boat…

As Tim wishes for himself and his readers, so too do I wish for Tim…may we all have the insights, revelations, and awareness that allow us to know how those around us are feeling.

As Tim wishes for himself, I wish for him also.
Well..Tim I think you pegged it here!! You pulled me right into your work. I’m a jaded reader too – lol.
I am one of those put it all out there folks..extroverted & deeply intuitive. My hubby..not so much..he gets himself..but really struggles with how to understand the feelings of others..we make a good team when we work together.
I love how honest and open you were in this post. Really wonderful to read!! I am off to find your book..somewhere where it will put money in your pocket – I get that my sister is a writer. Speaking of novels I am writting one here…wonderful wishcast Tim!!
Namaste, Sarah

This is great. And, as you need to do more of that connection, I think I need to not take on so much of the connection.

Balance. It’s all about learning balance.

SO, your wish? I wish it for you and with you…with love and intention.

As Tim wishes for himself, I wish for him also.

Nice to hear a masculine voice around here!

As Tim wishes for himself, so I wish for him also.

Want to say the same, as Kavindra said.
And: thanks for your comment, yes, I know depression is an unknown word for people living close to nature. So take time to see the apple seeds! 😉

As Tim wishes for himself, I wish for him also.

As Tim wishes for himself, so I wish for him as well.

I love this wish and I hope you find that connection with your readers.

On a side note of what you wrote above, character development when writing is quite interesting to me. I have found that it has opened me up in so many ways. To sit and reflect on how a character will feel here or there. I really enjoy the process.

Hi Tim,

Hey fellow writer! Will take a closer look at your site after wishing that your wish comes true. To feel what your reader feels is a great way to approach any writing. Empathy can be a tough one for all of us because we need to get out of ourselves to feel it.

May your wish to remember how your reader feels come true! Thx. G.

p.s. you are a brave man to join the wishing circle!

As Tim wishes for himself I so wish for him as well.

As Tim wishes for himself, I wish for him as well.

That process of connection & recognition of an existing connection is a wonderful thing.

(P.S. I have a cousin named Tim King & when I first saw your comment, I was very confused!)

As Tim wishes for himself, I wish for him also. Blessings be!

Thanks, all of you, so much for your warm wishes.

Sarah, I hope you enjoy my Love-Idiot book. Best of luck on the novel you’re writing.

BTW, you can preview it at Google Books, and I am booking blog and podcast interviews, slowly, as time allows. So anyone who’s interested in having me talk to their blog readers, please do contact me.

Sara, I agree: character development is so fascinating, and it’s one of those things that when I started to learn how to do it well, my writing just started taking off. Incredible.

Giulietta, maybe brave, but you all have been so accepting. I actually used to do the wishcasting thing sometimes, a long time ago, when it had its own blog. And I never cared or noticed that most of the participants were women. I just needed positive energy in my life, and that did it. Now, I’m rediscovering blogging, and I’m also looking for ways to lift my spirits as my life undergoes change. And you all have been most gracious to me in that need. Thank you.

Allison, yeah, there was actually someone else named Tim King at my high school IIRC. I’m definitely not the only one in the world. That’s why all my websites, business cards, books, etc. all have “J. Timothy King” on them. 🙂

-TimK

As Tim wishes for himself, so I wish for him as well.

As Tim wishes for himself, so I wish for him also.

Thank you for sharing your powerful story.

….may you always connect with the readers…as you wish for yourself, so I wish for you:)
Susan

Tim,

First, the “business:” As Tim wishes for himself, so I wish for him also. 🙂

Second, thank you for your comments on Blisschick. As you can see, my readership is predominately female. I have had a couple of regular male readers and some even who comment, and the thing I notice is their desire to TELL me/us things, rather than just comment or participate in a conversation.

Now maybe this is something about the material I write — that it brings about this type of commenting from men, but I think it has more to do with enculturation. That men are taught to “debate” and “win.”

This is a long post that is meant to say — thank you for being YOU. Your comments are different. You are simply conversing, joining in. It is a breath of fresh air.

Hi, Christine. You’re welcome, and thank you for the interesting comment. 🙂

I do know what you mean, that men tell (or debate, or compete) and women converse (or nurture, or bind). When I commented on your blog—as I do with all of the Wishcasting Wednesday posts (and I try to do with other inspirational posts)—I intentionally acted as much as I could like a “woman.” Uh… I hope you understand what I mean. I tried my best to find something good to say and to say it, to be inspiring or encouraging, to find something positive to contribute rather than highlighting areas of disagreement. I don’t always do that, though, especially when something really upsets me.

Actually, I’ve come around to the view that it’s probably not just enculturation, but also biology. That is, most men are instinctively preprogrammed to compete most of the time (“fight or flight”), whereas most women are instinctively preprogrammed to nurture most of the time (“tend and befriend”). Of course, whether this is instinctive or cultural (or both), that’s just the nature vs. nurture discussion again. But maybe that would be an interesting topic for another blog post. I’ve certainly read some interesting things of late on the subject, and I find it all fascinating.

-TimK

As Tim wishes for himself, I wish for him also.
Oh yes, and thank you for stopping by!

Tim — I totally agree with your anthropological/biological take on the female/male issue. I get so frustrated with women who mistake equality with sameness. We are not the same, and this seems pretty obvious if you’ve ever seen the naked body (sorry to be so blunt).

I mean, to create that physical difference on the outside, there is so obviously difference on the inside, and this, so obviously (to you and I) has to create difference in the brain and how we perceive and interact.

This does not eliminate the need for or the “correctness” of equality, and actually, it necessitates it — the whole yin-yang, balance thing. 🙂

I, too, can be quite “male!” A bit on the argumentative side and I have to really watch that. 🙂 That need to “win” is also enculturated into first borns, regardless of sex.

As Tim wishes for himself, I wish for him also

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