“I AM WHAT I AM.”
The act of writing is an act of creation. An author writes from the sum of his or her experiences, not only as a particular creature of a particular culture in a particular time, but also from the experiences they’ve absorbed through reading the words of all the other writers they’ve read. Yet the act of reading is an act of creation too. Each time a piece of fiction is read an entirely new thing is created: the writer's words are filtered through the mind’s eye of this new reader, who interprets the words and underlying ideas as they will, a particular creature of a particular culture in a particular time, with their own unique experiences. Authorship clashes with ownership when it comes to residence in the mind. The ownership of this newly created thing, made up of all sorts of ideas and mixed with all sorts of experiences, is really the new readers alone. The only place it exists is within the mind that creates it, and it will stay for a long time if it’s worthwhile, living with the reader as a genuine, valuable experience of their own.
Note that none of this has anything to do with image, beyond the formation of letters into sentences on the page. The weight of a piece of fiction comes from the supremacy of the ideas inside, not the appearance of the writer. The durability lies within the strength of the message. And the craziest part is that it’s all in our heads.