It’s amazing how different we act when people are watching. As soon as we must perform in front of another person, the stakes are suddenly higher and the pressure crouches on our shoulders. Once we open ourselves up for judgement, criticism and bitterness soon follow in the wake of self-consciousness and disappointment.
I’m currently out of state at a family reunion. I am singularly different than all my family members (although there are few of us who are very similar), but I feel like I stick out more than the others. The chemistry-major part of me had a light-bulb moment and yesterday I decided to perform an experiment of sorts. I acted normally and collected data on the reactions that I received from selected family members. This was my control group A. I then picked another family member and observed the way they acted and the responses they received. Although there weren’t that many significant differences between our actions and words, our responses were considerably different. Having conducting the preliminary data, I then modified my own behavior to mimic my chosen subject. To my surprise, the reactions changed slightly — but not for the better. The family members began reacting negatively and very few of them were amused or wished to continue the interaction with me. This was particularly interesting because the person who I was mimicking never received such a negative response. To confirm this, I watched the behavior of the same subject. There was no change in the reception she had.
While the variable was the current behavior, I wondered how much of the response was derived from previous interaction. I haven’t thought of an experiment to determine that, but I’m sure I will and I will definitely share the results when it happens.
My main question at this point was: Why did the same behavior from two different people inspire two different sets of responses? Granted, most of the behavior wasn’t that pleasant (rather harsh, teasing, and sarcastic) but the other person still received a positive response. I surmised that it must have been from previous knowledge of our personalities. However, it still bothered me. And I have no idea what to do with this information…any suggestions?
I’ve begun to edit and send out chapters of my book. I always knew that the experience would be interesting and I’m still on the fence about the whole idea but I decided to go for it anyway. I have revealed layers of myself (the image in my mind always returns to vivisection, without the gruesome screams). I have requested that everyone who reads my book be honest to the point of harshness.
I knew it was risky writing such a contradictory chapter so early, but Chapter 3 was a bit of a scandal in my family and I was both disconcerted and pleased to hear that it made some people uneasy. I was pleased because I think it the duty of the author to make the reader squirm and I didn’t really write anything too terrible. I was disconcerted because, again, I hadn’t written anything too risque and I was distracted by the thought that a few didn’t think I was old enough to write like that.
I am 19. No, I haven’t experienced a lot of the world, but I know what I have experienced and I will always include those lessons in my writing. I am young enough to know quite a bit and old enough to know that I have scarcely touched my tongue to the cup of knowledge that the world offers. Instead of veiled comments about how I shouldn’t know such things, I admit that I was hoping to hear how proud they were about my feeling comfortable writing such things and allowing them to be read.
It is a terrifying thing to have your writing read. Again, I liken it to vivisection. I’m peeling back the layers of myself and revealing my own eloquently-put thoughts. It’s painful! A non-writer may never understand the limit of the pain of which I speak (since I’m a writer, it is my duty to tell them) and perhaps I shall touch on the subject another time. Judgement or criticism of any kind is scary. I guess I forgot that most readers never give the author a second thought — so therefore, my feelings were hardly considered.
Please do not think that I’m complaining. In fact, on the contrary, I would like for my editors to continue editing at the current severity (and if you’re reading this, please do so! Even harder if you must!). This post was simply inspired by an off-handed comment that spurred a waterfall of reactions and thoughts.
I’m editing Chapter 4 and hope to send it to my “board of editors” by tomorrow morning.