Elwood Writers had its fortnightly meeting at a café on Carlisle St in Elwood last week. We’re a politically engaged group and so the early part of the session was inevitably spent talking about the then upcoming federal election. Decisions, decisions.
Before looking at the pieces of work we’d submitted for review, we talked shop. We discussed the literary industry, and visited the recurring issue of how to make ends meet as a writer, and how to balance financial pressures with the demands of a creative practice.
What happens to a piece of writing when it’s out of our hands, and to what extent should we be concerned with how our work is interpreted by an audience? It was interesting to consider the possibility of misinterpretation by readers and whether this matters. Maybe there is no such thing as misinterpretation. Once a piece of work is released and shared, it ceases to be controllable. Readers bring themselves and the sum of their experiences to the writing, and they place themselves inside or alongside the work, and so all interpretations and responses have a claim to be valid. There’s the reader and there’s the writer and there’s the work, and they all exist in a fluctuating relationship. An author’s biographical notes, a writer speaking at a festival, an artist’s stated political position: these are experiences which can affect the way we read and respond to a piece of writing.
After critiquing each other’s submitted pieces over a couple of coffees, we dispersed into the busy afternoon. And now the federal election has come and gone, and at the time of writing the outcome remains unknown. There’s a possibility that the outcome will still be unclear by the time of our next meeting.