I was saddened to learn of the death of Donald Hall, former US Poet Laurate, and children’s book writer (The Ox-Cart Man). I knew his work but I never met him. Once, however, when attending a conference in Vermont, I was in the audience when he was speaking.
I don’t recall the full import of his talk, but in it he offered a definition of good writing that I have never forgotten. Nor do I know if what he said was something he often offered or if it was something spontaneous. I once tried to search some of his writing for his words, but never found it.
In any case, to the best of my recollection, what he said was:
“What the writer tries to do is—metaphorically speaking—write a circle. But he does not write a complete circle. There is a gap, like the letter C. If the gap is too wide, the reader cannot bridge it. If the gap is too small, there is no reason for the reader to fill it. But if the gap is just right, the reader fills it with his/her own experience and the circle is complete.”
As lovely (and challenging) a description of good writing as I’ve ever heard.