Grading the ascent

Many writers insist that when they are writing they write for themselves, they don’t think about the reader. A noble sentiment, even a necessary one, but is it true? Even Emily Dickinson wanted to be read. Do we not all, when we are writing, have in mind if not our ideal reader then our ideal writer, the writer who drives us forward, the writer whose audience we would like to share, the writer – if we dare admit it – we would most like to impress?

It is useful to acknowledge the truth of this, because it opens a window on to the summit of our ambition. Ambition is often seen as a dirty word, but for me it is a powerful word as well as an honest one, an abstraction that is physically revealed in the very act of writing.

How far do we want to climb? I’m not talking about a universal standard, a clearly measurable distance. It is a matter of the kind of terrain we wish to traverse.

Nina Allan

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