And I like it that way.
You may say—what? No way. Okay, if that’s the case, then why are you promoting your work on this site?
Well, you’ve got me there.
But what I’m after here is the honesty in writing, the sheer, lean effort that we unknowns have to go through to get anything published. Yes, we bring a kind of decent track record on paper that agents can list. But celebrity? Not even a note of it.
The sensible side of me doesn’t wish for obscurity any more than the next writer, but I have to acknowledge that when I earn publication of my writing, it’s on the writing alone. I think I know why, too. I put the reader first. So much so, I may be giving the reader as much as 75 percent consideration and myself, the expressionist, the rest. What this means is that no word goes down on the page unless it’s written for you, the dear reader.
Now you may be thinking—gee, I know this already. But there is more to it, an intensity not often spoken of.
I am blind until you, the reader, see first. I feel and smell nothing in the space around me until you touch the cotton upholstery and you smell the cookie on the counter. There is no sunshine in my story until the sparkle catches your eyes. I live only when you live.
In this sense, writing is never a lonely sport because I am you.
So when I get asked good advice on writing, this is it: make a gift to your reader. Operate quietly in the recesses of the reader’s mind. Be humble and quiet. Tiptoe. You are their waiter, and they have the whole gorgeous restaurant to themselves tonight.
John Michael Cummings' short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story
"The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.
He is also the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2009), winner of The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12) and one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY.
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