I began using the phrase when I made the transition from a former (mostly private) online journal to this one, hoping it would help me center my writing. A few writers whom I respected addressed their own readers with this phrase of endearment, and it did dissolve a little of the cold vacuum into which all those words disappeared.
At times I wrote with actual close friends in mind, keeping their names at the top of my drafts to keep me from veering off into detached prose.
But I still felt a little self-conscious and presumptive calling readers “friends,” and even now, on occasion, I hesitate for a split second when the flow of a post invites the addition of this term.
Then I type it in.
Because, you see, “dear friends” began as two daring words — but over time they filled out into a few faces and voices, and a file of revitalizing snippets in my memo pad titled “For Gray Days.” Little lines of encouragement, comments that said “me too,” further thoughts and reading suggestions on a given topic: these reminded me that I wasn’t alone, and that the work of chiseling (and hewing and carving and whittling) thoughts into words was showing something of the Master Creator after all, despite my blistered efforts and fractured concentration.
Thank you for imparting such refreshment here, and — whether you’ve ever commented or not — for reading.
Even though the writing itself is chiefly an act of obedience and of joy pealing forth for God’s kingdom, your time and your words mean a great deal. Rebecca Reynolds says it better (and goes on to give a striking example at the link provided):
[P]lease don’t underestimate the importance of the listener/responder gift. Artists desperately need people to interact with what they are trying to offer. Yours is not a passive role. It’s not the booby prize of the creative world; it’s something vital and active. Your responses are like a bat’s echolocation. They help an artist know if he’s on the right track.. if he is in a wide, good space or if he’s about to bang his face on a stalactite.
Somewhere along the way, you really have become dear friends. Among other things, you’ve bolstered my belief in the redemptive power of beauty, weaned me off of validation-by-numbers, and reinstated my faith in thoughtful readers who will stick through long posts to see what the point might be. Thank you for the words you’ve left and messaged, and the ones you’ve said in person when I’ve had the privilege to meet you face to face. You’ve made me braver about writing to the authors and artists I follow as well, telling them how I’ve been marked by their faithfulness and what specifically leaped out from their work to strengthen and exhort me.
In her brilliant book Bandersnatch, Diana Glyer refers to this indispensable support as the work of a “resonator,” a term first coined by Harold Lasswell.
The Inklings have been called the 20th century’s most influential group of writers. But no matter how accomplished writers become, they still struggle with discouragement. . . . The excitement of creating is followed by desperate self-doubt. Courage and inspiration compete with discouragement and despair. For innovators in general and for writers in particular, one of the most valuable resources in the midst of these challenges is the presence of resonators.
What is a “resonator”? The term describes anyone who acts as a friendly, interested, supportive audience. Resonators fill many roles: they show interest, give feedback, express praise, offer encouragement, contribute practical help, and promote the work to others. The presence of resonators is one of the most important factors that marks the difference between successful writers and unsuccessful ones. (29-30)
I’m no Inkling, but even I can tell you that every artist, amateur or professional, needs resonators. I do have a commission that I feel I’ve gotten from the hand of my Lord (and I hope to share it in more detail someday!). But it’s your presence in this space that has helped me time and again to buckle down and work at better writing, and to remember what the purpose is behind it all.
So, dear friends… thank you.
Stopped by gratitude in the middle of scribbling a piece,
Photo by Scott Liddell (hotblack) at morguefile.com