Writing for the Reader

Daiju visited the master Baso in China. Baso asked: What do you seek?

“Enlightenment,” replied Daiju.

“You have your own treasure house. Why do you search

outside?” Baso asked.

Daiju inquired: “Where is my treasure house?”

Baso answered: “What you are asking is your treasure


Daiju was enlightened! Ever after he urged his friends:

“Open your own treasure house and use those treasures.”       


–Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones


I begin my book, The Zero Point Agreement with the above story. In opening up to “your own treasure house and using those treasures,” you experience the richness of life. In writing, we hope to offer up our treasures to others in our published and shared works. How do we then make our personal treasures and experiences meaningful to our readers?

In writing a book or any piece intended for readers begin with a question. This question becomes a promise to fulfill. Through your writing you “gift” the reader a response to the question; you fulfill your promise. In The Zero Point Agreement I begin with the question: “How can we become the cause of our life and not be the effect of it?” I give the reader ways to explore this question (as I have in my life). I promise the reader a “treasure” of ways to give up the search for meaning and become a meaning maker. I fulfill this promise. And I answer the question of how to be the cause of your life.

As a writer we get to experience the transformation of our book’s intentions and story as we write. The reader then experiences the transformation through their engagement with our book. Our job is to take what is personally transformational and meaningful and make it meaningful for the reader. 


What’s your starting question?

What are you promising the reader?

How are you giving the reader ways to explore this question for themselves?

Are you fulfilling the promise through the story and narrative?

How are you making the message or story meaningful to the reader? (How have other authors done this?)

When the reader reaches the end of your piece (be it book or blog), have you resolved the initial question? Have you fulfilled your promise to the reader?

The only secure truth men have is that which they

themselves create and dramatize; to live is to play at the

meaning of life.

–Ernest Becker, cultural anthropologist


Join me and other explorers and writers this Friday October 10th for my final 2014 FREE Writing Retreat Day.

Behold this day. It is yours to make.

–Black Elk, elder and medicine

man of the Oglala Lakota


About the author

217 thoughts on “Writing for the Reader

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