I woke up in the middle of the night last night and reached out to a friend via text to check to see if he had finished reading the most recent book I finished. He’s always been a sport about reading these alpha books and giving me the vibe from them. Last I had known he hadn’t gotten a chance to finish the newest one so I was curious if he ever got around to it.
I was happy with his reaction with the completed work and got to thinking about the book before I fell back asleep. It is what it is, I thought. It’s a quick, mean little thing that would make a good
‘Summer read’, as they say, which to me means it’s breezy and engaging and quick to get through.
None of those slights at all, at least not for me.
I have slogged through books that were sloggy for this reason or that and that didn’t make them more important or memorable than the breezier ones.
For some reason we get caught up in the same nonsense with books as we do movies, where someone wants to Say Something Important and you can feel that they’re saying it, or trying to, and it just starts to feel like a college lecture.
While this little book of mine is all of those things I said above, I also do think it says something. It’s definitely not my most heady work but that doesn’t mean it has less to say. And that’s where we arrive today, at the idea of you sort of get whatever you get out of something.
For me, as the writer, I know what I was trying to do and will keep trying to do as I refine it later on. I know what it is for me and hope it is for other people.
But there’s the rub – it will be whatever it will be for the folks that read it.
I have no power over that.
Two people can read something and one will find it hilarious and the other tragic.
The author may have had an idea in their head as to which reaction they preferred but there are so many weird things at work with writing and the process that it’s hard to tell someone they’re wrong with how they reacted to it.
Take the movie GOODFELLAS.
A brilliant look at mob life over an era of time.
It’s a brutal movie but also very funny. Some of it overt, some not.
The humor was intended but it’s easy to see why people wouldn’t always laugh at it because sometimes the laughs are at someone’s expense or peril.
GOODFELLAS was intended to be funny but whether or not we’re always in on the joke is up for debate.
So there was intention in the film and its writing and filming but then there’s the reality of our experience with it.
You read about this all the time, how artists will refuse to tell what something is ‘actually’ about because it limits it. There’s no lie there, it does, though sometimes it feels as if these creators are being a little glib in their answer. Toni Morrison’s work had definite meaning and impact but whether a character really flew in her book or whether that flying was meant to be a spiritual opening and connection to something greater than themselves is up for interpretation.
She knew what she intended and saw when she wrote it but what that was may not be easily explained.
I know that I went through that with Reliquary In Black. I have all sorts of things I was trying to do with it, that I intended with how I wrote it, and that I hope people get out of it but I can’t be mad or sad if someone doesn’t get all of that.
If they like the book, that’s what matters.
I mean, heck, that they read the book is all that matters.
I can’t control if they like it or not but if they are open to it and give it that chance, well, that’s all I can hope for.
I can’t get mad about folks not liking the work.
All of us that create want to have our work understood and have it be impactful. I know I for sure do. But we have to come to terms with the fact that people will get out of our work what they do. They could get something completely different but that’s because that’s what they needed.
Take art, as an example.
I knew two artists that looked at Thomas Kincaide’s work as hack, and just awful but his work, this ‘painter of light’ meant something to people. That’s why it was so ubiquitous for so long.
Are all those people who were moved by his work wrong?
Who has the right to say that?
You can think it if you want, but and sure, people can get the WRONG thing out of work – think FIGHT CLUB and how many men missed the boat on that one – but we get what we get.
Ya get what ya get.
You got into the experience of a work, film, song, book, painting, or anything in between, and you have your own needs to have fulfilled. Do you want something to move you, thrill you, make you laugh, make you cry, or just entertain you for a bit.
With luck, you get what you need out of it.
It can work the other way though that your own biases mute your experience.
The last album Alice In Chains did with Layne Staley was that way for me. I heard it and hated it at first. It took months to grow on me until I finally learned to love it. Same happened with the last Prong album before they took a several years break. I just didn’t connect with it.
But I did over time.
Other works are the same way.
They change as we change.
You get what you get.
Sure, we’d all love to have our work be deeply impactful and important and well regarded and to be something people tell their friends to experience for themselves. That’s just not how it works though. We can create these things in the best way we can and put all of ourselves in these things but that still doesn’t make us able to change how someone else experiences that work.
Some will love it.
Some will hate it.
Some will be indifferent.
For some it will be the most impactful thing they ever read.
Some will find its philosophies laughable.
That’s just the way it goes.
Some of it is on us and our skill at doing what we set out to do but some too is on the reader and what they bring to the table.
Ya get what ya get.
And there’s no way around that.
It’s my hope that any of you that read these blogs, or ever read my books, or watch my shorts get something out of them.
Whatever that is.
I just hope you get what you get.
I write books, do podcasts, make movies, and am strange and interesting. IGNORE ME!