Blogs by Stephen Kata
7/12/2011 9:03:22 AM
As writers, it is our goal to communicate to others a message, or a picture of what is in our minds. In my poetry, I try to create an atmosphere in which the reader is led to ponder subjects or concepts which they might not otherwise consider. Yet I am continually surprised by what is gleaned from my work by readers, who often sharing meanings I did not intend and find images I was not consciously aware of using. In the case of poetry, this is an illustration of my view that once you put a poem out there for readers, it becomes no longer yours, and folks get out of it what they will. It's all good.
Communication as a whole is a tricky business, however, and in even the most straightforward and informative essay, I often wonder if humans understand each other on the most basic of levels. To begin with, words often have different connotations, depending on the person's gender, background and life experiences. Rape, for example, provokes entirely different reactions and feelings in a woman from those in a man. Also, a person who doesn't want to be perceived as having a temper might say they get upset rather than angry because for them anger means a higher degree of violent expression than another person. And so on. We all have our red flag words and terms.
Digressing from the idea of communication in terms of the written word only, I wonder how well we communicate in daily conversation, particularly when it comes to abstract concepts like color and taste and odor. Try to describe to another person, for example, the color red without saying the word red. Or how an orange tastes or what it smells like, without saying it tastes or smells like an orange. In these cases, we assume that based on common experience, we know what each other is talking about. But is even this so?
Let's take a banana. You and I each look at one and agree that it is yellow. But how do I know that when you say yellow, you see the exact same thing as I do? It's entirely possible that when you see yellow you are seeing what I do when I look at an apple (assuming here that the apple is red). We both call it yellow, but it isn't necessarily so that our brains are registering exactly the same image. Similarly with taste, you might say cinnamon and I assume I know what taste you are referring to, but there's no way of knowing if, though we both agree on what cinnamon is, we are having the same sensory experience. And similarly with odors. In each of our life experiences, we have catalogued these items and filed them away in our brains with the accompanying tags yellow, and cinnamon but there is no way of knowing that we are communicating identical sensory experiences.
What does all of this mean? Simply that we must be specific in our descriptions of characters, settings, and concepts in fiction and non-fiction, and in our choice of words in poetry. And we must take it to heart without becoming irked when a reviewer criticizes our work because he or she doesn't understand what we are saying. We cannot blithely assume a reader knows what we are talking about. The more we assume, the less we truly communicate.
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More Blogs by Stephen Kata
Religious Arguments - Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Woids - Thursday, December 08, 2011
Games - Saturday, October 15, 2011
Excerpt - Friday, October 14, 2011
Writing - Sunday, August 21, 2011
Perspective - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Quote for the day - Friday, July 29, 2011
Involuntary Actions - Thursday, July 28, 2011
Illegal Aliens - Monday, July 25, 2011
A Sense Of Wonder - Monday, July 18, 2011
Going Postal - Friday, July 15, 2011
Postage Due - Thursday, July 14, 2011
Communication - Tuesday, July 12, 2011
What Is Your Life? - Thursday, July 07, 2011
Quote - Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Just ruminating - Wednesday, June 29, 2011