The following is another one of my random thoughts from one of my [many] journals, not initially intended for a public audience, but after reflection I thought some folks might be able to relate to it.
And although I do not like any one to look over my shoulder while I write — it disconcerts me somehow…” — George MacDonald, Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood
To look over a person’s shoulder as he or she writes is the closest one can get to peering in at the working thoughts of one’s mind. This is why, even if the written words are not of a personal nature, it is felt as such an intrusion. It could even be viewed as an invasion — to say “Stop looking over my shoulder” is really no different from crying out in exasperation, “Would you please get out of my head?”
I’m sure some people wouldn’t mind having extra company in their heads and would welcome all the audience they can get. That’s very nice of them, but I also think that may be a bit of a vanity. As for me, such behavior makes me want to wash out my cranium with insect repellent. Or carbolic acid. Whichever is handier.
I understand it can be a temptation difficult to resist. Imagine being given the chance to read over your favorite writer’s shoulder. Now imagine that author spilling his or her wrath upon you. Please, just be patient and wait for the finished product.
And to get back to the George MacDonald quotation, he goes on to say, “…yet the moment the sheet is finished and flung on the heap, it is her property, as the print, reader, is yours.” My translation is, once it is finished (and polished and revised and presentable) you may read it. But to read during the process is to induce cringes and annoyance and will cloud if not totally destroy the writer’s train of thought. The quality of writing may deteriorate if the process does not cease altogether.
Part of the pain of having greedy eyes follow your self-conscious pen may even date back to school, when teachers mercilessly march about the room, burning their eyes upon papers as students scribble feverishly away because they have the sadistic authority to do so. It scares the assignment at hand straight out of their heads and replaces scholarly musings with frantic thoughts like, “What is she thinking?” or “What I’m writing must be terrible!” or even “Would you just go away and stop breathing down my back?!” (I was a silent, sullen child, whose thoughts were most often of the latter variety when in such a situation.) I’m so thankful that my school days are now behind me.
I don’t consider writing to be a social activity. I don’t see how it could be… but I’m sure those who are phobic of independence will try to find a way to alter that. Meddlers. But don’t fret. The point of writing (one of the many points, rather) is to have a work read by others. So don’t worry. You’ll have your chance to read it. Just be patient — and wait for me to finish!
–originally written January 17, 2014