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The Sadness of the Unread Story

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. — Ursula K. Le Guin

I’ve tried explaining this before, but I wasn’t sure if I was alone in my feelings. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon this quote from Le Guin that I realized she feels it and, no doubt, other creative types do as well.

A story isn’t complete until people experience it. I’ll take Le Guin’s quote further and say it’s not just written stories, but also stage plays, screenplays, poems, paintings.

This is why it’s so important to me to share my writing with the world. It’s not about chasing money or fame or awards or anything like that. (Although all those things can certainly sweeten the deal, and the money aspect is necessary if you want to make a living from your art.)

It’s about chasing readers. I want people to read my work, to experience my work. And if they feel inspired to do something more with my work — review it (good or bad), share it with others, discuss it in a book club or classroom, turn it into a film, create fan art, whatever — that’s when the art I’ve created becomes fully alive, something completely separate from me. That’s magic.

Whenever I fall in love with characters on a new-to-me TV show, I always turn to YouTube for mashups, and I’m never disappointed. All I have to do is search on things like “Holder and Linden” (from The Killing) or “Frank and Claire” (from House of Cards) or “Virginia and Bill” (from Masters of Sex) or “Nancy and Andy” (from Weeds) or “Deb and Lundy” (from Dexter) and I’ll find videos created by fans that extend the story of these characters, celebrate the story, share the story. (If you work in TV, you know your show has truly arrived when these mashups start showing up.)

Fan fiction works the same way. People become so enamored by a world an author has created that the fan writes more about the world. The art continues — it goes on and on.

I think that’s the coolest thing. It doesn’t get any better than that.