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Changing the Script

I have started this post three times now because each thing I wrote strayed from “the script” as Nathan Bransford would say.  It strayed from my personal script, which is guided by internal discomfort when I think about how my words might offend another person.  (Especially when my need to say those words is less than the weight of the words.)  It strayed from the more general, societal script of “everything is a-okay.”

Everything is a-okay.

See, I just stuck to the script.

Nathan’s post is about how we have loose scripts we use when speaking with one another.  I say X and you say Y.  I say that I’m tired, and you offer sympathy.  You say that you’re going on vacation, and I express excitement as I ask you for details.

We expect to hear back certain words, especially if we say certain words.  For instance, if I ask you how you are, even if you just had a loss, you’ll probably give me some version of fine.

But if I ask you, “How are you doing with everything today since I know that answer probably changes from day-to-day?”, it opens up the script to go in a different direction.  I’m not asking out of politeness.  I’m asking because I want a real answer, and changing the script does that.  It signals a different response should occur.

Of course, that’s still a script.  But it’s not the script.

I loved his post because he points out how people fight back when you don’t say what they want you to say.  When you don’t express happiness when they think you should be expressing happiness.  Or when you’re not feeling sad despite the fact that they think you should be home, in mourning.

Seek out these good people who will let you complain when you’re “supposed” to be happy and let you be happy when you’re “supposed” to be sad.

But most importantly, ignore the rigid people out there who try to make you feel badly because you’re flipping their script. They’re not seeing you as a human being, they’re seeing you as a faulty computer program.

It’s a good reminder that we all need to change the script — in our writing and in our everyday life.  Whatever your characters say first, erase it and have them say something better.  Whatever you think to say first, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “how can I change a few words and change the whole script?”

His post is about publishing, but it’s applicable to every facet of life.  It gave me a new aim: To stop trying to come up with the perfect words and instead just come up with different words; anything that strays from the script and takes the well-worn conversations in an entirely new direction.

7 comments

1 A. { 04.19.17 at 7:58 am }

Love this and the Bransford post as well. I’m struggling with this because I want to post about how I’m experiencing this whole new mom thing, which is burdened by a host of shoulds and cliches about what people do and ought to feel or think. It can be hard to dig through all that habit and training to find the authentic voice to talk about what a mixed bag of swinging highs and lows it is.

2 a { 04.19.17 at 9:14 am }

Depending on my mood and my audience, I don’t really feel compelled to follow the script. And I certainly don’t mind if other people offer honest answers to polite questions. Apparently, I like routine everywhere except in my conversations. 😀

3 Peg { 04.19.17 at 9:20 am }

Love this.

4 Pamela Jeanne { 04.19.17 at 11:40 am }

Pointed back to your blog after stumbling into a Barren Britches Brigade discussion the The Handmaid’s Tale nearly a decade ago. Reading my answers I see how much I’ve changed my script — you and your blog work were pivotal to that narrative change. Immense grateful. xoxo

5 loribeth { 04.19.17 at 6:23 pm }

Yes! And of course, there is no greater flip of the life script than the loss of a baby — and when they hear you speak those words, people are (understandably) at a loss for a response. And a little further down the road, if they ask “How are you?” most of the time, they really don’t want to hear the honest answer. 🙁 So we answer “Fine,” even if we’re really not.

6 Jill A. { 04.19.17 at 6:58 pm }

His post, which I did read, sounds very self-centered to me. All about how if he wants to go off script, he should be able to and if you don’t want to follow him, well, you are “boxing him in.” Did he ever hear of manners? There are times for surface conversation and times we go deeper. There are ways we invite further comments and start conversations and ways we shut people up. Maybe he has a hard time with social cues. I do sometimes, but you learn that all of life is not about you and what you want. That not everything is personal and a thought out response directed at you for good or bad.

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.19.17 at 10:28 pm }

This post has me thinking. I was just thinking about the power of words because of an old post of mine I came across, about how precise I try to be with words because of that. Now I’m thinking of all the possibilities that lie beyond the One Best Script. Hmmmmm……(how’s that for a word?)

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