I was hanging out, priming the creative pump a while back. That’s what I like to call it when I am kicking back and relaxing with a good book. I found a rather compelling detective story titled Saratoga Headhunter by Stephen Dobyns (1985). I will leave the story for your discovery but hidden in there toward the middle of the book, I chanced on a shiny nugget, quite unexpected but thought stopping. The private eye come milkman was characterized as “an emotional joiner.” The idea is quite unlike being sensitive or empathetic. Think of a magnet. If emotions in others represent one pole, our protagonist represents the other. You cry, he cries. I’m supposing it happens with other emotions as well. You smile, he smiles; you get upset, he is upset. You get the idea: An Emotional Joiner.
My first thought was having Dobyns’ hero as the primary consumer of my blog would be totally terrific. He would pickup on the emotional subtleties and go with the flow, so to speak. Sure, there was a second thought. He would have no opinion about the post. He would just get pulled along, wherever or however it went. He would be incapable of critical feedback. What would be the point of that? A reader without the capacity for criticism may like the post but cannot appreciate it. There needs to be an independent potential for like and don’t like. A writer needs a critic.
As is my bent, I next went hunting for a wise saying or pithy quip about critics and criticism and came across this barb, “I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” It is attributed to an unnamed English Professor at Ohio University which happens to be my alma mater. Yes, that is an interesting coincidence but not all that remarkable. Here is what is remarkable. I think I may know the name of the unknown professor. I will lay odds her name is Miss Gray. If so, she is the same English professor who told me I was too illiterate to be a college student way back there in my impressionable, undergraduate days. What do you think? Does it sound like they may be one in the same visitor from a bad dream? Yes, I think they are indeed the same person. It’s either that or O.U. has a serious problem with gratuitously cruel English Professors.
I continue to think only writing for social joiners would be a fairly meaningless activity but am bummed to be reminded of Miss Gray. I said I wanted criticism and it still seems important but it can sometimes transition into brutality. Perhaps there is a mid point where social joining and legitimate criticism overlap. I think that is where writer and reader converge to create literature, the world where they are both engaged and fully participating. It is kind of a Hmmm place where we can both be surprised.
I write as carefully and as clearly as I can.
You sincerely try to understand.
We may never be the others fan.
But we always give each other a hand.