As a teenager, I hitch-hiked a lot. It was not a necessity; it was a choice.
By doing it, I felt free. Trains and buses had a schedule that I had to keep to. But they didn't have to and that was unfair. If I was late to the station, it was my problem. If the bus I was on was delayed, it was my problem.
Trains and buses are so predictable. No matter how delayed, they always reach their specified destination. Hitch-hiking can lead us anywhere. One day, for example, I wanted to travel to Prague. It was quite late already; the driver who stopped to pick us up was heading in a slightly different direction, to Jicin. Okay, Jicin was a place I hadn't been to before, so I thought, “Why not?”. By dusk we reached there and this way I spent the night in the hometown of Rumcajs the Robber.
Hitch-hiking lets us remember of how good people are. It happened quite often that drivers went out of their way to drop us off in a place more suitable for us to continue our journey. Sometimes they bought us lunch or hosted us in their houses. Hitch-hiking also reminds drivers of their inner good. Quite often I heard, "I never take hitchhikers but..."
My routes, all over Europe, sum up to the length of the equator. All thanks to strangers' kindness. Mostly, it cost them nothing. Just a few minutes of their time. They were going that way anyway.
Writing is different.
Writers write because of an inner need, yes. But ask yourself - do you meet all your inner needs? All of us have a lot of things we’d like to do but we don't. Usually it’s because of lack of money or lack of time, and as time is money, it’s the same shortage.
Writing isn’t like dishwashing, which we can do at any moment if we have an extra ten minutes of spare time.
To create worlds or lifelines or criminal mysteries, we must think deeply about what we are about to do. It’s really hard, or even impossible, to do this after we return home from the school we teach at or the office we do paperwork in just to earn a living. It’s hard to do in the afternoon at home where our parents or flatmates or spouses or children demand our time and attention. Just as car capacity cannot be exceeded, the human mind has its capacity as well. Like with any other activity, writing is done best when the writer has the possibility to focus on writing.
Writing is done for readers. It's like cooking.
Being home alone, we sometimes eat bread with ketchup or order pizza; for special guests we prepare delicious dishes, decorate the table, light the candles. Diaries are usually only written to be read by the author. It’s the readers for whom writers choose words with great care, for whom they construct characters and storylines. Writers already know the stories they describe; such an effort wouldn't be undertaken without thinking of others who’ll enjoy reading them.
Writers need readers. And readers need writers. "Only those who can't read say we have only one life. Those who read books live a thousand lives". For us booklovers, that's obvious.
So we need each other. Authors and readers exchange what they hold most valuable for the good of both. They exchange their time, attention, creativity, engagement, passion, love.
It would be nice if writers were invited every day for dinner by readers who would be able to express their gratitude for the author's work in that way. Like hitch-hiking, it would allow us to meet a lot of interesting people. But because teleportation hasn’t been invented yet, it wouldn’t really be practical. It's somehow sad that something as trivial as money is a tool for important exchanges, but it’s the easiest and most convenient tool.
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