Books · Creativity · Writing

A Trick of Light

I find it interesting how two people can see the same thing but come away with different perspectives on what happened. For example, studies have shown that when investigators interview witnesses to a crime, they often end up with wildly different explanations of the event. And it’s not that the witnesses are purposely trying to cause confusion. It’s all in how they interpreted what they saw.

It’s the same when people watch movies, listen to music, read books. We all get something different from the experience. Our takeaways may be similar or decidedly different, but no two people experience the same things in the same ways. It’s personal taste.

That’s what makes us individuals. If we all reacted and felt the exact same way about the exact same things, well, I think life would be boring. Nothing to discuss, debate, or defend. It would also be the death of creativity and art.

Try this sometime: When there’s something happening, a big event, watch the faces in the crowd. Let your eyes scan across the masses, watch to see how people react. You’ll probably see a lot of similar expressions – shock, awe, fear, surprise, wonder, depending on the event, but you’ll also see outliers. For example, when there’s a wreck during an Indy 500 auto race, you’ll see some people cover their mouths in shock, some will turn away, but there will be others who smile, laugh, maybe even cheer. The variances of human nature.

Or on a smaller scale, I occasionally like to watch a movie with my partner – one that I’ve seen but she hasn’t – so I can watch her face during certain scenes to see how she reacts. Sometimes she does what I expect, but there are occasions where she reacts unexpectedly, laughing when I expect her to cringe, or cry when I thought she’d simply frown. I think it gives me a little more insight into her feelings and how she interprets the world around us.

I’m not saying that any one way is right or wrong. It’s just human nature, who we are, the culmination of our lives up to that point in time. You and I may both look at an abstract painting and I’ll see something wonderful, a display of emotion, while you may simply see paint on a canvas. We are neither right nor wrong. But it will make for some interesting discussion afterwards.

I think of this phenomenon as a trick of light. We both see something, experience something, but depending on how the light hits our eyes, I may see it much differently than you do. When it comes to creativity, we are all going to see the images differently, hear the music differently, interpret the words differently.

We have to keep that in mind when we create something. We may have an intention, but that doesn’t mean the audience will see it the same way. We can’t take offense at that. Once we complete a piece of art – song, story, painting – and release it into the world, well, it’s no longer ours. It belongs to the viewer, the reader, the listener. And how they respond to it depends on things we can’t control.


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