I hate people watching me write.

Here is one of my insecurities: I hate people watching me write.

I write and rewrite. I rearrange the words and syntax. I’ll write hundreds and hundreds of words, then delete the whole lot and start again.

It’s this process that helps me work out what it is I want to say.

I’m fairly certain this is normal.

When people start watching me, looking over my shoulder, taking an interest in what I’m doing, it unsettles me.  I don’t want them to see my half-formed thoughts on the screen or on the page.

Writing demands a response. We see the words and we form judgments. We have no choice in this. We relate to it, or don’t. We agree or disagree, approve or disapprove,  accept or reject, are interested or bored. You get the idea.

When people view my words before they are ready.  Before the words say what I want them to say, I feel …

I was going to say violated but that is too extreme.

I was going to say exposed or naked, but those words won’t do either. They imply that by looking, people will see what is really there – the real me, warts and all.  Unfinished thoughts aren’t a form of nakedness. Nakedness is a form of truth, but unfinished writing – well that’s more likely to be a form of untruth.

When people view my words before they are ready I feel embarrassed because the words aren’t ready to be looked at yet. And I mean REALLY embarrassed. My stomach knots inside of me. I feel like I’m naked with a million cameras and eyes on me (okay, so maybe the naked analogy DOES work). I fold my arms and hug them into myself. I wait tensely until whoever it is goes away.

Then I feel angry.

And then I feel guilty for being angry with people who are “just taking an interest”.

So there you have it: embarrassed, angry, guilty. That’s how I feel when people look at my writing before it is ready.

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10 thoughts on “I hate people watching me write.

  1. Pingback: Are we hindering our students’ ability to write well? « About Teaching

  2. I am the same way. I prefer to have my work deliciously crafted before other eyes fall upon it. It takes considerable effort for me to organize the large amount of introvert pondering I do. I guess I have a hard time letting anyone see my messy-ness before I can make it coherent. i will say though that the more I write the more willing I am to share before the writing is completely finished. I am slightly more open to feedback (I can see it as that now, not criticism). Perhaps it is because I have actually received some crucial input that led to ‘aha moments.’

  3. Hi Corisel, when I write the posts for my blog, I tend to write and then post, it isn’t very often that I delete and start all over again (although I have at times done that, mostly out of frustration for the need to post, rather than trying to say what I think I want to). Having said that, though, I write what is on the front of my mind most of the time, so some of my posts are thoughts as they happen, so to speak. I think most of them are unfinished, but as long as the post is ‘finished’ for me, I’ll post. I couldn’t write whilst being watched though… not a lot of people who I know (in real life…!), know that I have a blog, for instance.
    You’ve got me thinking about introverted writing though. My post has to look and feel ‘right’ before I post, even if it is utter nonsense!, and I absolutely hate it when I spot a typo after lots of comments have been left. I feel more ‘caught out’ I suppose, than naked, even if I’m the only one to spot the error. Maybe we are our own worst critic.
    I like this post! 😀

    • Thanks Tom,
      I really appreciate your comment.

      Sometimes I can write the way you do, and the words just flow, but other times it takes me ages to untangle my thoughts.

      Its interesting you mention that not many of your real life people know you have a blog. Its the same for me. I’ve often wondered why I would feel so uncomfortable if everyone I knew actually read this.

  4. I feel the same way regarding creative expression…whether it’s writing, art, invention, or even a new recipe. There’s a time for putting whatever it is out there, but I’ve got to be satisfied with it (and by it) first. After all, it’s my creative expression. For me, if it’s done and I put (whatever) out there, it’s for the sole purpose of expressing my thought, work, or vision. Doesn’t sound so democratic…but writing by committee just doesn’t do a thing for me.

    It seems the closer the creative gets in relation to the business world, the more entrenched is the idea that everything is collaborative; that everyone should have a say in whatever it is that originated in some individual mind. I even recently read an expert’s view, authoritatively stating that the notion of the lone creative/inventor is a myth.

    Makes me wonder what would happen if this ‘expert’ bounded into Leonardo Da Vinci’s place, grabbed a brush, and suggested adding some eyebrows to the Mona Lisa…or went to Victor Hugo’s and asked to review his notes on le Miserables…just in case he had some new insight.

    In short, I wouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to be sure that your expression is ‘yours’ before putting it out there.

    • Hi Dale, Everything you say here really resonates with me. I agree with you about writing by committee – it just doesn’t work for me. And that “expert’s” view that the lone creator/inventor is a myth just seems wrong.

      Have your read Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’? She makes many of the same points.

      It can be enormously frustrating being an introvert in an extroverted world!

      • Hi Corinne,
        Yes, I read ‘Quiet’ and liked it. Interesting how the debate continues (LinkedIn has a lot of them) about the ‘creative’ element in business. Most seem to buy into the idea of equality that would eliminate the exceptional and aim for a comfortable level of mediocrity. The line from the Pixar movie, ‘The Incredibles’ comes to mind, “…Everyone can be super – and when everyone’s super…no one will be.”

        Before answering, I read some of your other posts to refresh my memory. Very good stuff! The entry about dreams was great; I sure wish I had such vivid dreams!

        Thanks!

  5. Omd finally someone understands me! in class we had to share our work continually, I would grab my book and refuse to show it to anyone. I wasn’t done & I was embarassed if anyone read it. Interesting post I thought I was weird

    • No, you’re definitely not weird, and I’m glad I’m not alone in this. I’m sure lots of people feel that way. I don’t think the way we teach writing at school, insisting that people read it aloud or collaborate before it is ready, is very helpful at all.

      Thanks very much for commenting.

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