Living In Others’ Heads
By Casey Douglass
Writing requires the ability to get inside the head of a character, to see their thought processes and motivations unfolding, their synapses firing and their senses collating. What can be useful in character creation is far less useful in the real world, as it just boils down to guesswork. I’m not saying empathy can’t be useful of course, but itself is just using your own mind to try to understand another’s feelings/situation, hopefully based on some decent facts.
It’s an easy trap to fall into, thinking that we know what someone else is really thinking or why they have done a particular thing. Sure, we can guess, but the danger comes when we forget that we are guessing. How many times have we not asked the cutie out because we fill our mind with thoughts of “He/she isn’t interested” or “I bet they are in a relationship” or others that flow from ear to ear in a self-defeating loop of misery. At other times, we might think we know what unknown individuals will think about our latest creative endeavour: “Nobody will like it!” or “People just aren’t interested in what I create!” being two of my own personal favourites.
Viewing the world this way seems to avoid a dose of pain or uncertainty. If you never ask the person out or actually release your creation to the world, you avoid a whole host of possible unpleasantness: rejection, embarrassment, criticism and other uncomfortable states. It makes the world seem safer and more predictable, and also seems to give you the illusion of control, even though in actual fact you are losing some.
How so? By letting your fear of others’ opinions dictate what you do, you are handing over any control you might have to an external factor. If these thoughts stop you doing something that, when first thought of, delighted you, you have quenched your candle of inspiration with the gloopy mud of despair. Can you hear it sizzle? Before long, it might not kindle itself at all, I mean, why bother!
I think all we can do in this situation is to try to bring a measure of mindfulness to how we perceive others. If you at least know that you are stacking things against yourself in this manner, you are better placed to account for those feelings and thoughts without being blindly swept along by them. You might not be able to adjust your course straight away but repeated awareness will eventually help you see how predictable your own mind can be. Once it loses the power to effortlessly drag you down, you gain some of that power yourself.
I have struggled with this mindset for many many years and I can only imagine how things might be now if I was less in awe of my doubts and more “Let’s have a go!” in my actions. I try to push the envelope when I can, doing things that I feel are risky creatively or are outside my comfort zone socially, and just try to see the world for what it is: full of people with a variety of views and opinions, that I have no right to project my own thoughts onto as if they were theirs. Unless you are a character in one of my stories...if that is the case, you are all mine have enough to worry about already!