2 min. read
Lately I’ve been reminded of really good writing advice that I heard years ago – avoid the assumption that your readers know what you know. Your characters are in your head, so you know what they are thinking and doing – the reader doesn’t. You have to tell the story from the beginning to the end without missing any of the important details in the middle or you risk leaving the reader in the dark.
Makes sense and sounds easy but I’ve messed this up, not only in writing, but in life too. I can remember too many times in my work life where I was working diligently on fixing a problem. So diligently in fact that I didn’t take the time to inform all the parties involved that I was aware of the problem and working to resolve it.
Not only that, I would get annoyed if someone got in touch to let me know about the problem and ask questions. Geesh, can’t you just give me some space and let me fix the problem! Oh wait, I didn’t tell you I was fixing the problem! Oops.
I was recently involved in a similar type of situation where I felt like I was the one in the dark. After a couple of uncomfortable interactions with a friend they explained something that made me say, “but you didn’t tell me that!”
We were in communication and on the same page at the beginning of the story but then we stopped communicating and continued the story in our own heads.
We both made assumptions and as Don Miguel Ruiz1 says, “The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking – we take it personally – then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems.”
Unsurprisingly, when my friend and I met up again closer to the end of our story, we were nowhere near on the same page. The story lines in our heads had taken us in completely different directions.
Fortunately, we were eventually able to get back to the same page, but it took a really frank conversation to mend the hurt feelings.
If we hadn’t kept each other in the dark, if we had shared the really important middle bits of the story, if we had asked questions, we could have avoided the assumptions and the hurt feelings altogether.
I hope in the future, rather than leaving myself and other people in the dark to make assumptions, I remember Don Miguel Ruiz’s advice and “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.”
As always, communication is key.
Wishing you Insight, Clarity, and Growth in the new year as well as Peace, Joy, and Love.
1 – Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom