The Ultimate Reader

When I started putting together the memoir I wrote about my father, I had the good fortune of connecting with a great writing coach, Sheila. As she explained it to me, her job was to be the “ultimate reader” – the person who asked the questions about temporal lapses, gaps in the storyline, or unexplained references to make the final product more cohesive.

I’d written a number of drafts before I sent a version to her but the first thing she had me do on our first telephone consultation was to tell her the story. As I ticked off the points:

I finally got to the detail that when my dad died, I’d been in the process of becoming a single parent at the age of 45 and was pregnant. I hadn’t told my beloved dad about this decision, expecting that I’d do it after my pregnancy was confirmed.

I could practically hear Sheila groan over the phone because I’d left out a pretty big part about family in my book about MY FAMILY. She gently said, “Oh, I think we need to tell that part of the story too.” And she had me re-order the whole book and write a letter to my dear departed dad telling him that I was pregnant.

It was just one of many spots where I didn’t yet understand my own narrative and couldn’t see the full-circle perspective that it added to the book I was writing. But with her help as my ultimate reader, I was given a gift of synthesis that other people can help us create.

“No two readers can or will ever read the same book, because the reader builds the book in collaboration with the author.”

Neil Gaiman

I usually think of the WordPress community as a group of creators; whether we write essays, poetry, fiction, or have blogs focused on photography. But even more ubiquitously – we are readers. Perhaps we are reading to learn something, to feel something, be transported to another place, or maybe to be inspired about what we need to write. But I think we sometimes forget that we are also helping someone else put their story together.

The act of being an ultimate reader is, in my eyes, one of the most generous. We connect to what someone else is putting out there, imagine what their story is, make comments about how it lands for us, and become a part of the cycle of creativity.

Even when we write for ourselves, once we hit “publish” it becomes something different because it’s a shared space with readers.

The other day, Davy D wrote a charming post about some of his first memories of becoming a reader: What Kind of Reader Are You?. It was easy to understand the roots of his lifelong passion as he described the competition between his neighbors growing up. In that post he also pointed to a book that helps us understand that we have a style of reading as well – fascinating.

Back to Sheila, she was one of the most generous readers I could have asked for. In that space of writing a book about my dad while spending every day nurturing the tiny, little life in my body, she helped me understand better the arc of my narrative. One of the many things Sheila taught me was being a reader is a big responsibility. We have the chance to make writing not feel so lonely. We can laugh together.  We co-create this space and story together. Isn’t it wonderful?

Thanks for being one of my readers.

I’d love for you to check out and follow my latest project – The Heart of the Matter. It’s a blog of fantastic writers and thinkers delving into what matters in life (and also what doesn’t). You can find it at

For most posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at You can also by my book about my father on Amazon: Finding My Father’s Faith

And if you want to follow me, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo from Pexels)

35 thoughts on “The Ultimate Reader

  1. What an interesting post Wynne, with lots to think about. It certainly makes me pause. I’ll try to remember to beat better, more supportive reader 😁

    1. I’m glad you liked the post. I’d have to say that I think your comments are very supportive and helpful! I’m not sure you could do a better job – but I do think if there’s a person dedicated to always doing better – it’s you, Brenda!

  2. I am that reader. The one who craves to learn more about the writer. The reader who feels the emotion the writer so bravely puts on display for all the world to see. The fear of writing, of telling our truths, are put to rest when we experience the communion with those who read our work. This is such a thought-provoking post! Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Well said. I connect with everything you’ve expressed because at heart I’m a reader not a writer and I get what you are saying. My blog goal is to inspire others to become readers, and better readers. Not sure I’m doing a very good job of it, looking at my stats, but I keep trying and I love doing it. I’ve never thought about having a style of reading but it makes sense. I need to explore this idea a little more, it must mean more than most loved genre. The other idea I’ve not explored or acted on is the value of sharing with the author the deep connection experienced while reading her/his book. I find it’s very personal, emotional, and how do you express it anyway? Lots to think about. Love this post.

    1. I love that inspiring people to be better readers is one of your blog goals. That’s fantastic!

      You’re right – that connection we experience when reading is very personal and maybe hard to share. But it’s always so interesting to know how things land for others. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post!

  4. This, this all day: …”being a reader is a big responsibility. We have the chance to make writing not feel so lonely. We can laugh together. We co-create this space and story together. Isn’t it wonderful?” Yes, indeed. It is! Thank you, Wynne! 💖

    1. Oh, Vicki — you are the ultimate, ultimate reader. I’m so grateful to you for sharing your thoughts – on this post, on my book, on the things you write. You have most certainly made this a wonderful story and place to share together! Thanks, my friend!

  5. Love this perspective. And what a gift to receive from Sheila!

    Btw… there’s a typo, after “Back to Sheila…”

  6. I love this post! Your posts always have great truth nuggets, which is something I look for as a reader.

    I did the same thing when I wrote the draft of my first book, I omitted personal anecdotes and stories about the lessons I had learned, and when my sister-in-law read it as a reader, she noted that I had. That was a big lesson for me as a writer, to learn that my readers would want to relate to me through those anecdotes. It totally changed my outlook and approach to writing.

    1. What a great illustration, Tamara. Yes, those stories provide those details for readers that are important in building the relationship. Thanks for reading and adding your experience to the thread!

  7. Thank you so much for the link to and kind words about my blog post, Wynne. You are right in highlighting how reading is as important as writing, especially when it comes to being part of a supportive blogging community. One thing that jumped out at me from this excellent post is that conundrum, we have as writers, deciding what details we decide to share with people who will read our writing. I hope you will be able to write more of how you worked with Sheila as it would provide a great insight for writers and readers alike.

    1. What a lovely comment, Davy! And I love how it pushes me forward in knowing what is of interest to people. What a lovely full circle process writing and this community provide.

    1. Wow, wow, wow – thank you, Dr. Stein. I’m so grateful to be able to read your wisdom and to have you comment on my writing. Your gentle comments help expand my thinking again and again!

  8. I love it when bloggers mention posts that resonated with me too. I lack the courage to be the ultimate reader. I don’t have enough confidence in my writing convictions to feel comfortable sharing them with others. Even in planned critique situations, it’s really uncomfortable for me to do that. I love giving deserved praise though. I thought that this piece was well crafted and read easily.

    1. This resonates with me too. If something doesn’t land for me, I’m not sure what to say either but I can do better if answering a specific question. However, I’m all for providing enthusiasm and encouragement when something is great. Thanks for reading — and adding your comments, Jeff! I appreciate it!

  9. Ultimate readers and great editors are true Saints. They help us see the connective tissue and the opportunities are sometimes too challenging for us to see. I like to describe a great editor as part therapist, mother or father, best friend, grammarian, and soul mate all in one. I loved how you described how Susan helped you with your book. I’m sure it came with some pain. Nobody wants to rework something they’ve written, but it’s great when you can look back and see how they’ve helped. I love too how you describe the relationship between the reader and the writer. When I hit publish, I’ve always got my hands over eyes, cringing waiting to see what happens, but those readers are the same reasons, we keep coming back to our blogs. Great post Wynne.

    1. I love this Brian, “I like to describe a great editor as part therapist, mother or father, best friend, grammarian, and soul mate all in one” – right! And as such – they are hard to come by!! 🙂 I feel that nervousness every time I hit “publish” too. Isn’t that funny? Thanks for taking time to read and comment – I appreciate you, my friend!

  10. Thank you for your warm post. It helped me get clear on writing. I am quite worried about the perfect time to start and doubt my writing skills. I hope I can find some amazing readers to give some insights and guidance so I can pursue my passion. Honestly my blog is very inactive but I want to make it active with movies animes review and some philosophical thoughts. I hope I will get some ultimate readers to assist and help us learn together.

    1. I’m so glad you shared your thoughts and plans, Pragash. I think you are right that it’s time to stop worrying about the perfect time and just start! May you find your ultimate reader and audience!

  11. Stunning post Wynne. Really got me thinking. Never thought of being a reader as a responsibility. Makes so much sense. People put themselves out there. It’s up to us to show them respect and compassion and understanding for doing so. But also up to us to be honest and help out where we can. Thank you Wynne. I’m in awe of your writing ✍️

    1. Wow, AP2 – that is quite the compliment coming from you! And I love how you combine respect and compassion – exactly. Thank you – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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