I recently had to see a few different doctors about a medical condition of mine (I’m fine.) As it turned out to fix my condition, I was supposed to have surgery in one office and then travel to another site, the next day for a surgical repair by a plastic surgeon.
When I initially consulted with the plastic surgeon he explained the proposed surgery to me. It was going to be complicated and involved skin flaps. I told him that I was a writer, had done a ton of research prior to the appointment and that I had many questions.
Some questions were on what he planned to do.
Some had to do with infection rates (I used to be a clinical microbiologist so I knew enough to be concerned about that.)
Some questions were just about things I wanted to know.
I asked my questions and at one point he stopped me. “I can tell you’re a linear type. I have a lot of patients who are engineers and I can see that you’re like them. I’ll tell you what, write down all your questions and I’ll answer them on the day you have surgery.”
Well, okay then.
The thing is, I’m not a linear thinker (just take one look at the clutter on my desk and you’d see that was clearly not a valid description of me.)
I was a little miffed. As a woman asking questions, was this the persona I emitted? Or as an ego-driven surgeon was that the persona he assumed of a woman who dared to clarify information?
As it turned out, I didn’t have to use that particular doctor’s services (yeah!). The wound I had following the first surgery was something that could be closed up onsite. It was all good.
Yesterday I went to get the stitches out. As the nurse was (literally) in my face, she kept up some small talk to distract me from scissors and scalpels (that again, were literally in my face.) “You’re a writer?” she asked me. She liked to write but had never gotten anything published.
“Yes,” I replied. “I’m a writer.”
We talked some more (there were a lot of stitches) about the life of writers, how I worked from home, and how I was able to be a full-time freelance writer because my husband had a good job that included benefits.
“It must be fun,” she sighed.
I told her it was. “And the best part is that I get to hang around with other writers, the people in my tribe.’ I told her. “Writers are the most extraordinary people because they all invent these wonderful worlds in their heads.”
She finished, bandaged me up, and I was on my way.
Two different situations – two vastly different reactions to what I am as a person – as a work of life-art.
Look I could read a lot into this – male vs. female perspective, pre-surgery jitters vs. post surgery relaxation, doctor vs. nurse, there are a million things to compare, but what I want to leave you with is that old adage that we’ve heard a million times.
When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me. (ass-u-me)
As writers, it’s our job to give out correct and appropriate information so that our readers don’t make the wrong assumption about us or our stories. We can’t assume they have prior knowledge, or that they hold similar beliefs. Heck we can’t even assume that they’ll be the same audience that read our last piece.
And if we don’t, if we somehow give someone the wrong impression of us or our work, then we need to take a good look at that situation.
Sometimes it’s the other person’s fault, their filter make them only see something in a certain way.
But it’s important to at least acknowledge that sometimes it just might be *our* filter that made us act (or write) in a certain way to give that impression.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.