Living and Writing in the First Person: ASSUME This!

IMG_5929“It is the nature of the mind to become addicted to certain ways of seeing things.”  -Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Transforming Problems into Happiness

When we write in the first person there are boundaries of what we can claim to know about the other people in our story. In fiction and nonfiction alike, the same boundaries apply. In first person we can’t assume what others are thinking, or their motives for their actions. At the same time, what we the writer or first person character assume about the others in our stories and scenes are critical to our message and the reader’s experience.

Life same.

IMG_5979“Creativity, in almost every area of life, is blocked by a wide range of rigidly held assumptions that are taken for granted by society as a whole.” –David Bohm, “Dialogue as a New Creative Order” from The Essential David Bohm

Assumptions underlie every thought, every interaction, and every experience.

Assumptions predispose us to experience others and situations a certain way. There are countless assumptions built into our unconscious from our past, family, and cultural heritage. If we are part of some organized religion, we are in agreement with some rather significant assumptions. For those who are part of a group, especially where there is emphasis on those who belong to the group and those who do not—there are likely unspoken assumptions that keep you part of the “in group.” Assumptions are so consistent, historic, and pervasive we can’t expect to free ourselves of them with a simple affirmation of “don’t make assumptions.”

To experience more joy and freedom in our relationships we want to assume we are making assumptions. By stepping back and witnessing yourself in certain social interactions, notice too what assumptions may be underlining your experience. By assuming we are all operating under assumptions, we can walk more consciously and gently among each other. When we accept that we hold assumptions, we are able to view and respond to new ideas, to see the many other possibilities inherent in the situation because we have gotten beyond an assumptive posture.

In writing, same:

As we write we make all sorts of assumptions about our subject and theme and about our readers and what they understand. So, as you write, check your assumptions. Is there something you need to describe or show so that the reader can understand your point or to help get your reader more into a particular scene?

In those more challenging encounters in life we can be aware that the reasons for someone else’s behavior, choices, and emotional reactions are not fully known to us. This way, we can offer up some equanimity and compassion when another’s choices and behaviors are disturbing or confusing, instead of adding to the negativity with our assumptive posturing.

In writingshow us what you know as the writer, or reveal to us what the first person character knows through the writing of details. I like to close my eyes and witness a scene and see what I need to show the reader so they too can have the same experience as I had or as the character had. In writing in the first person, we have to show what the others in our story may be feeling, thinking or wanting by revealing their actions. All assumptions must be exposed. As a writer we become a witness to everything that is happening in a given scene or story. When we write from this witnessing presence, our scenes and stories will captivate the reader. (A happy reader makes for a happy writer).

In life the more we can witness and observe, and respond to life from this witnessing presence, the happier we will be.

IMG_6175“It should be clear by now that the major barriers to such [a creative] order are not technical; rather they lie in the rigid and fragmentary nature of our basic assumptions. These keep us from changing in response to the actual situations and from being able to move together from commonly shared meanings.” –David Bohm, “On Dialogue and Its Application” from The Essential David Bohm

ROOM FOR ONE MORE in my Transformational Writing circle, held in Madison on the first Tuesday of each month. Starts in October.

And several spots in my upcoming (year long) writing support circle: Keep It Simple, held in Prairie du Sac every 2nd Wednesday night.



(Photos were taken on my recent trip to Ireland by myself or my daughter, Lydia.)










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