The best way to connect to a writer is to give them other writers, give them other ideas, and let them refine their vision. By introducing a writer to another writer (living or dead) is to move them into new relationships with their own ideas and work. But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.
I've been in the business of subjective measurement for some time. How do you value a poem or a piece of fiction? Simply put: you don't. You measure their intent, you measure their access to the past, you measure their understanding of aesthetic quality. In the end, you measure their expectations, their visions, and their end product. Sometimes, I say simply: I didn't understand this part. Or, it reminds me of something you wrote earlier. When it works - I explain how it works in terms of my own reading. For example, "I like this poem because it presents two different ideas that oppose one another. Seeing those two forces might be similar to magnets or opposites and this is where your word choice could be considered polarizing." While I am making judgments on their work, I am merely telling them my thought process as I read. Not because it has more value than their own, but because it might illuminate an area for development. This could be a type of subjective conversation that leads to more inquiry or understanding.
Writing and thinking about creating new writing is always about connecting people together. Albeit, the people might be dead, but writers are experts in recommending a voice to interact with. Sometimes, it is a "one and done" kind of experience (a writer doesn't like a suggestion). Other times, reading becomes an obsession and writers will consume everything that a famous or noted writer produces. Personally, I think it is more effective when the writer is dead. That's not to say that living writers aren't important, but if we believe that people are content, then their life, their work, and anything else becomes the subjective understanding of that life, that work, and that experience in intellectual thinking. We know reading and thinking is complex. You can never read a great book for the first time - again. There is only one first and then there is again and again, in different ways and constructs. Writers are the network other writers study. They are the community, the content, and the ability to change something in the future. We are creating and building upon those who wrote before us. And we have the opportunity to commune with them, from Whitman to Carver at any time. This communion of ideas and connectivity is rhizomatic, and it is constantly evolving.
So, a writer then becomes the content by way of art, the subject or aesthetics by living, and the subjective learning group all at once. They can be mentors, teachers, students, and building blocks all at once - or at different times in the writing life of someone else. Why would someone become a Melville expert? Why would someone dissect every Whitman poem? Why would someone go to the place where a writer committed suicide? Because they want to "know". By that "knowing" we define the essence of subjective learning. We bring it to just that - to "know" we mean anything, everything, what we need, what we want, what we must find in order to create and add to the world. It is a brilliant and complex community residing on the pages of the rhizome. How it is accessed and interfaced is forever an exploration of form and creative endeavor. The hope is that we will never know its completion, but merely its possibilities. We need a new model - we need to define the path of creativity, and foster the infinite journey to be had there.
P.S. It is fascinating to connect some of the inspirations and conversations that writers had with one another. For example, Coleridge and Wordsworth inspired some fascinating writing. When you find and see some of the connection writers have with their contemporaries, the rhizome grows. The pathway augments and shifts. It has always been a connected group of thinking, we just haven't realized its relevance or power in our thinking process. Maybe now is the time. (Hope this makes sense).