I’ll never forget, years ago, when I overheard a classical musician ask a fan if they were a musician. Embarrassed fan would admit that no, they didn’t play anything, but they listened avidly. This musician would then reassure the fan that yes, coming to concerts every week did indeed qualify them as a musician.
That stuck with me, mostly because she was right.
There’s no great divide. Whether you’re on stage or you’re in the audience, whether you’re recording music or listening to a recording, we’re all part of the same community. It takes ... something ... to understand and appreciate the language of classical music. It takes being a musician, even if you’ve never picked up an instrument in your life and can’t read a lick of music.
I remember in college, there were three of us working in a little museum shop. We were discussing the employees (mostly us), and a painter-friend commented that for a car museum, it was strange that all of us were artists. (I’m a musician, too.)
The third friend just stopped and said, "I’m not an artist. I’m a history major."
Both of us stopped and stared at her, completely surprised even though we knew she was a history major. Then both of us said, "Of course you’re an artist."
She listened, she looked, and she was creative. She showed me that history was an art, a creative art. She just was.
But when I started blogging and going to writer’s groups and conferences, things changed. In the writing community, there are polls that ask, "Are you a reader or a writer?" As if there’s a difference. Readers are part of the creation circle, even if they don’t write themselves. And writers, of course, read, even though they write.
To further muddy the waters, there’s all the hullabaloo about whether you’re a writer or an author. And what makes a novelist? When can you call yourself a novelist? When you’re struggling through your first draft? When you’ve finished it? When you’ve had a novel published?
I would not write if there were no readers, and I suspect a hearty portion of writers would not write if there were no readers. Readers are a part of the final product. They keep this whole book thing we love alive.
So, yep ... that girl sitting under a tree, avidly reading a novel? In my book, she’s a novelist, too.
What do you think?