in Stuff I learned

Positions of power

I’m reading a book right now called The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction and I came upon a passage that hit me sideways a little bit. Those are my favorite passages, of course, and this one has been on my mind all day.

The Russian polymath Mikhail Bakhtin — one of the titanic minds of the twentieth century, though too neglected now — believed that in a dialogue the position of primacy is with the person who listens rather than the one who first speaks. 

After all, he said, we do not speak unless we anticipate a response; and we shape what we say in light of possible reactions.

This applies to writing, too. The way people respond shapes what I write. I don’t write into a vacuum.

People like to opine about writing “because they must” which I guess is a thing but it seems to me a fairly unique one.

I write because real people read and maybe I was wrong all along about which of us holds the cards.