When you’re a writer

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few days on the nature of writing and the written word in general. When you are a writer – whether it’s a blog, a book, a tweet or a post on Facebook – you’re putting your thoughts out there and leaving everything up to the interpretation of the reader. The risk in this is that there will be at least a few whose interpretations are so far off base that you wonder if maybe they’re not fluent in the language.

This is not something new. It’s been decades since I first became aware of the significant disconnect between intent and perception. Perception is a tricky thing. There can be as many perceptions as there are people observing an event or reading a passage. The goal should be – and many times it’s a struggle – to write your message so specifically and succinctly that it leaves little up to interpretation. Even THEN there will still be people who just don’t get it. What to do? You can work harder to be more explicit to limit that possibility or you can accept that those who “don’t get it” are not your audience anyway and your concern for their opinion should be fleeting. Momentary at best. I am trying to embrace the latter, but I still find myself perplexed when something evidently gets lost in translation.

The great thing about books is that if it’ s a full-length novel, you have 80,000+ words to get your message across and make sure that it’s clear. With social media, the risk is even greater because the interaction is so limited. With the regular interface of Twitter, you only have 140 characters to make an impression. What this abbreviated version of communicating with the public does is make it even easier for people to embrace fallacious interpretations and make character judgments based on them. Even with face-to-face interaction, we are all quick to jump to conclusions because we can’t possibly think that our perceptions could possibly be incorrect. We have not been socialized to ask the question, “Wait, what do you really mean?” before we jump to conclusions and more often than not, demonstrate to the world our limited understanding that sometimes we need interpreters even when we do speak the same language. And that’s with the added benefit of body language!  It has the potential to get so much worse in our current virtual reality.

What’s the best answer? Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know this – people who make character judgments based on such limited information are not adequate judges of character and in the end, they really have no healthy place in your life. Surround yourself with people who lift you up rather than those who drag you down. Lord knows negativity is rampant in the writing industry, so full of rejection. Don’t accept any additions if not needed.

Wipe the inane drivel from the front of your shirt and move on – the unbelievers are not worth your time and in the end, the message wasn’t intended for them in the first place.