Writing: Put Your Head Down and Hope for the Best

In writing I have learned how even the smallest choice of words can allow for misinterpretation.  The more I write the more that words seem like a puzzle that can only partially be solved, that conveying the intention of meaning can at best be only mostly realized.  This is not only because everyone is bringing their different experiences to a work, but also because words themselves fail absolute truth in some ways.

I have been reading a lot about the controversy concerning American Sniper.  I posted a Matt Taibbi article the other day that had to do with the movie and other ideas concerning films and war.  He mentions that he hated American Sniper, “slightly less than I expected to.”  In the comments someone said that he didn’t give the movie a fair shot because he went in expecting to hate it.  They were sort of implying that he was a liberal and that therefore he expected to hate the movie because he was biased against it.  That could be possibly true.  However, it could also be true that he read a bunch of reviews and those reviews lead him to think that it wouldn’t be that good.  It could also be his way of saying that the movie was better than he expected it to because he didn’t typically like war movies or Clint Eastwood movies or any number of reasons.

Now it seems very possible that the reader was viewing Matt Taibbi’s article with the same heavy bias that he was accusing Taibbi of.  It is also possible that the reader was bringing their own frame to Taibbi’s words.  However, because Taibbi did not explain why he expected to hate it, his words are left open to interpretation.  Every time you make a statement you could make a bunch of other statements trying to clarify what you mean, but those too might be open to interpretation, and anyway, every piece of writing cannot account for all of those different ideas.  It’s almost impossible to reach a level of absolute truth all of the time.

I don’t know how some people write, but usually when I write I imagine a voice.  Sometimes that will be a serious voice, sometimes it will be satirical.  It is almost like when you are telling a story and you communicate different parts of the story with different inflections in your voice.  Hopefully some degree of your voice of intent will get through in the language you choose, but it won’t always, and it definitely won’t with all readers.

These kinds of decisions could be paralyzing if you worry too much about what other people think.  If you worried about every interpretation by every reader you probably wouldn’t get very much writing done.  How people read what you write, like so much in life, is out of your control.  You must try to do the best work that you can given the form you are working in, put your head down, and hope for the best.


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