Reading as creation

This is part empathy, part thievery. Empathy, in art, is art’s part-exchange with us, its inclusivity, at once a kind-ness, a going beyond the self, and a pickpocketing of our responses, which is why giving and taking are bound up with the goods, with the gods, with respect, with deep-seated understanding about the complex cultural place where kindness, thievery, bartering and gift-giving all meet, make their exchanges, and by exchange reveal real worth.
— Ali Smith, Artful

I was reminded of a question a student once asked me: ‘When does a work of art happen?’ Firstly, in the moment of its production – in the mind, then studio, then display, when its constituent parts lock into context. Secondly, when the art meets its audience and gaps, productive or otherwise, between the creative intent and its reception emerge.
— Dan Fox, Limbo

no act of reading can ever be passive.
— Jonathan Basile, Tar for Mortar

Every reader writes the book he or she reads, supplying what isn’t there, and that creative invention becomes the book.
— Siri Hustvedt, A Plea for Eros

The meaning is what emerges from the interaction between the words I put on the page and the readers’ own minds as they read them.
— Philip Pullman, Dæmon Voices

What we give the reader is a raw code, a rough pattern, loose architectural plans that they use to build the book themselves. No two readers can or will ever read the same book, because the reader builds the book in collaboration with the author.
— Neil Gaiman, The View from the Cheap Seats

the reader’s imagination automatically completes the writer’s.
—Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel

But imagination is not and never has been optional: it is at the heart of everything, the thing that allows us to experience the world from the perspectives of others: the condition precedent of love itself.
— Katherine Rundell, Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise

The novels I like best, if we’re going to get individual, are the ones that invite, or demand, that their reader take part in their making, be present in them, be creative in response to them, and in being part, be the opposite of excluded, be active, be alive to them and them in turn alive to the reader.
— Ali Smith, ‘The Novel in the Age of Trump’

We write and we read in order to hold another human being close.
— Anne Michaels, Infinite Gradation

The writer does not know for whom she writes. The reader’s face is invisible, and yet, every sentence inscribed on a page represents a bid for contact and a hope for understanding.
— Siri Hustvedt, Living, Thinking, Looking

Perhaps the ultimate blank is the space between the reader and writer – or, more accurately, the space between the story we create and send out to the world and the story each reader perceives.
— Peter Turchi, Maps of the Imagination

And this ideal reader may prove to be anyone at all – any one at all – because the act of reading is just as singular – always – as the act of writing.
— Margaret Atwood, On Writers and Writing

Meanings are for the reader to find, not for the storyteller to impose. The sort of story we all hope we can write is one that will resonate like a musical note with all kinds of overtones and harmonics, some of which will be heard more clearly by this person’s ears, others by that one’s; and some of which may not be heard at all by the storyteller. What’s more, as the listeners grow older, so some of the overtones will fade while others become more clearly audible.
— Philip Pullman, Dæmon Voices

But if stories are one of the ways we make sense of the world, they are also how we experience whatever doesn’t makes sense, whatever cannot be fully understood. Stories are how we stand in the presence of mystery. If mystery, the genre, is about finding the answers, then mystery, that elusive yet essential element of fiction, is about finding the questions.
— Maud Casey, The Art of Mystery

I know from writing lyrics that some details – names, places, locations – are desirable; they anchor the piece in the real world. But so are ambiguities. By letting the listener or viewer fill in the blanks, complete the picture (or piece of music), the work becomes personalised and the audience can adapt it to their own lives and situations.
— David Byrne, How Music Works

A work of art, therefore, is a complete and closed form in its uniqueness as a balanced organic whole, while at the same time constituting an open product on account of its susceptibility to countless different interpretations which do not impinge on its unadulterable specificity. Hence, every reception of a work of art is both an interpretation and a performance of it, because in every reception the work takes on a fresh perspective for itself.
— Umberto Eco, The Open Work

That’s the thing about books. They’re alive on their own terms. Reading is like travelling with an argumentative, unpredictable good friend. It’s an endless open exchange.
— Ali Smith, The Book Lover

Composing’s one thing, performing’s another, listening’s a third. What can they have to do with one another?
— John Cage, Silence

The purpose of a story or poem, unlike that of a diary, is not to record our experience but to create a context for, and to lead the reader on, a journey.
— Peter Turchi, Maps of the Imagination

Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of traveling from here to there.
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Journeys start in ignorance
— Glyn Maxwell, On Poetry

the urge to fill blank spaces is fundamental to the quest for knowledge.
— Peter Turchi, Maps of the Imagination

All maps are the product of human imagination. They are scripts of thought and reasoning and embody all manner of storytelling; each line, shape and symbol has a purpose, a value, a direction and a significance for those who create the maps and for all who interpret them.
— Huw Lewis-Jones, The Writer’s Map

Trust the art, not the artist; trust the tale, not the teller. The art remembers, the artist forgets.
— Julian Barnes, Keeping An Eye Open

Bit by bit, discoveries reconfigure our understanding of reality. This reality is revealed to us only in fragments. The more fragments we perceive and parse, the more lifelike the mosaic we make of them. But it is still a mosaic, a representation – imperfect and incomplete, however beautiful it may be, and subject to unending transfiguration.
— Maria Popova, Figuring

I am simply converting the things I have consumed – food, yes, but more importantly the stories I have read, dreams I’ve had, people I’ve met and conversations I’ve overheard – into a different form.
— Nell Stevens, Bleaker House

The place of reading is a kind of yonder world, a place that is neither here nor there but made up of bits and pieces of experience in every sense, both real and fictional, two categories that become harder to separate the more you think about them.
— Siri Hustvedt, A Plea for Eros

The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates.
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Art is always an exchange, like love, whose giving and taking can be a complex and wounding matter
— Ali Smith, Artful

its fragmentation forces the viewer to engage in the construction of meaning, thus fulfilling the promise of every modernist work to make the audience an active participant.
— Jan-Christopher Horak, Saul Bass