Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I've been thinking lately about how we create our own realities. I don't live in the same world you do. And I don't mean in a bizarre metaphysical sense, like I've somehow achieved a higher state of consciousness. Although sometimes after a sleepless night and a couple of Dr Peppers I think I come pretty darn close.

Well, to a higher state of consciousness or to being certifiable. Either/or.

What I mean is this. You could live in my apartment complex. You could have a five year old daughter and a three year old son. We could come from the same race, religion, socioeconomic background, have the same level of education, so on and so forth. And still we would live in different worlds.

Politics is an easy example. There is one politician on the national scene that quite honestly makes me sick to my stomach. How anyone alive could think that [redacted] is an intelligent, sane person and should ever be given any level of power over more than, say, a family of hamsters (and even then, I quite like hamsters and would worry about them), is beyond me. And yet there are people--many people--who think that [redacted] is the [insert political mumbo jumbo along the lines of "the future of the party" here]. It boggles my mind. Just as, no doubt, my intense aversion to [redacted (but redacted would be a pretty cool name, right? Especially if you spelled it with brackets)] puzzles these people to no end.

We live in the same country, have access to the same news articles and information, and come to completely opposite conclusions.

Same world, different realities.

This is also why, when new moms get told how easy they have it with their newborn, I like to let them know that there's no such thing as an easy baby. Just because someone else had it harder, doesn't mean you can't struggle. I mean, my babies were DEFINITELY harder than yours and I'll tell you stories that will make your blood run cold, but the point is, that doesn't make your experience any easier.

What's funny is this applies to fabricated realities, as well. I carefully crafted every aspect of Paranormalcy, created the entire world. And yet readers come away with completely different views. One character in particular, Reth (whom I think is absolutely delicious), inspires reactions that range from "Can I have his number?" to "I feel sick every time he shows up." Same book, same words, opposite reactions.

And in case you were waiting for a point to this post, there isn't one. I just find the human experience in all its variations fascinating. The more I realize that my world isn't the world, the more willing I am to accept people, even when they are idiots and like [redacted].

(But seriously, people, [redacted]? Really? I still don't get it.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go see about having my name changed to [redacted].


Marsha Sigman said...

Your killin' me. I want to know who that politician is so bad! There are just too many that fit that description.

Also, very true about living in different realities. We all view events in so many different ways. It is amazing.

Kiersten White said...

Ha, yes, too many indeed...

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

redacted would be a cool word for an author's name. talk about the ultimate irony.

The Character Therapist

Kristan said...

LOL! You are too funny. And also, PROFOUND. I think about this very same issue sometimes too. And when I try to tell Andy about it, he's all, Can you hand me the remote?

Doesn't everyone think about random stuff like this?!

Anita Saxena said...

Isn't every politician in some way redacted?

As I gossip about books, it blows my mind sometimes how uniquely every person digests and interprets what they read. It's fascinating.
If I know someone is reading something that I've read, my first questions is: "What part are you on?"

And then I say, "Ooohhh. So what do you think?"
It takes me by surprise every time.

MeganRebekah said...

I am truly fascinated by people's characters (personalities, not a writer's fictional characters) and how they perceive different situations.
When I used to investigate allegations of child abuse I had to interview children. The youngest children were the hardest, because I couldn't always grasp what point they were trying to get across. If they said they were scared of their parents, what did that mean? Scared of being hit? Scared of being yelled at? Or scared because their dad dresses up in a Halloween costume and yelled Boo?

Really great post!

CKHB said...

I feel EXACTLY the same way about [redacted]! Sadly, there's no way for us to ever know if [redacted] and [redacted] are the same person...

My writer's group talked about this a few months ago. We agreed that when written badly in fiction, these differences can lead to confusion ("am I supposed to like this character or not?") but when written well, it results in ambiguity (some people like the character, some don't, but everyone is certain). Fascinating stuff.

Whirlochre said...

It's like surfing on quicksilver, sometimes, this life lark, and I never fail to be surprised at how the same (seemingly) objective truth(s) can come out of the Mangle of Perception quite differently, depending on the POV of the subject beholding the object.

And then, to make things worse, there are "moods"...

L. T. Host said...

I smell a character named [redacted] in a future WIP from you...

Rachel said...

I totally get this. We could be thinking on the same side or completely opposite, but I have the exact same thought. The potential for some politicians to end up really given some serious reigns is frightening, and I find it amazing that there are so many people that would disagree with me.

Dominique said...

Oh my goodness, I completely agree.
I have a twin sister, and if anyone in the world should be in complete agreement, it's the two of us. But even we don't see eye to eye on everything. No one sees the same thing as everyone else.

Natalie Whipple said...

I know exactly what you're talking about...not that we discussed it yesterday or anything;P

This is why I love writing—the world opens up in new ways everyday.

Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Caroline Starr Rose said...

I love all the responses one book can create. That's why book clubs and reading friends are so great.

Anthony said...


RE: Politics.

You are correct in that we all have our own certain reality. But I don't think you get it. Or if you do, you've oversimplified things and trivialized key understandings, especially about politics.

"We live in the same country, have access to the same news articles and information."

No. We do not live in the same country. We do not have access to the same news articles and we certainly do not have access to the same information.

I've lived in the suburbs, I've lived in the country. I've lived in a college town, I've lived on the west coast, I have lived on the east coast.

These places are dramatically different. They have different, distinct cultures. You're lumping people together because we're Americans. Well, it's great to be an American but in many instances the similarities end there.

Information is another major area of difference. The information at my disposal and yours is dissimilar. The information Hotstuff has access to is different.

But differences are not the only thing at work here. Especially in politics, spin is all and well. It is one thing to get information. It is another to get slanted, hack (lol) pieces churned out by the journalistic equivalent of hamsters in a wheel.

Journalistic quality around politics is at an all time low. I encourage you to stop putting faith in traditional sorts of media, and start casting a wider net.

Put another way: I have two friends. One swears by Fox news and thinks that Fox is the cat's meow.

I have another friend who is religious about watching NBC news.

Now, the Fox guy thinks all the other news sources are biased and full of crap. Many people believe the same, because Fox is riding a wave of popularity.

The NBC news woman thinks Fox is biased and full of crap.

Which new source is the best? Which ever one you pick, there is a different one that someone else picked.

We all have our internal biases, however, the information age is upon us. Your daughter, when she is your age, won't be reading paper newspaper. She will be more proficient at getting information out of these other sources than you are.

And that is another difference, especially when it comes to politics.

Kiersten White said...

Anthony--Sorry, I copied and pasted your comment to take out the line about my husband's profession. I'm not sure when I told you that, but I'd rather not post it on the blog. Thanks.

As far as your other comments--I think you actually PROVED my point. That's exactly what I mean--one friend CHOOSES to watch Fox news because she feels they represent the world she lives in. The other is outraged by Fox news because she feels they skew the world she lives in.

We choose our realities.

Kiersten White said...

Also, ahem, I don't read the newspaper. I read many and varied sources of news, thankyouverymuchdearsir. And I don't only read things favorable to my chosen part/politicians.

Neener neener.

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

So true. Beautiful post.

Let us know how the name change goes!

Sara said...

I hope my reaction to Reth is the former! ;)

Valerie said...

Great, thoughtful post! This reminds me of something I've wondered about since childhood.

I've always wondered if we see colors the same way, like is my blue, your orange? And if we do all see them differently, then what if everyone's favorite color is actually the same color. Like maybe everyone in the world actually loves green it's just that to some people green is red, or yellow, or purple, but really we're all responding to the same thing, it's just being filtered through our brains differently. It boggles the mind if you really think about it for a minute.

Anyway, enough of my totally off-topic ramble. BTW I totally agree with you, [redacted] is crazy! I don't know what people see in [redacted] at all!

Anthony said...

First off, I love blog entries like this and that you get twenty or more comments. WUV WUV WUV!

"As far as your other comments--I think you actually PROVED my point. "

I'm not explaining myself very well, sorry. I should have bridged the gap where I was talking about culture and then talking about biases.

What I meant was, there is an enormous amount of diversification in American culture. These cultural differences setup the biases that we gravitate towards. So it's not just a matter of choosing to watch one biased news source over another (although, tellingly, some are more biased than others, ha).

A large part is where we grew up. Where we went to school. Who we played with. Where our parents took us to church.

Make sense, or should I retake my meds to get rid of this nasty headache? :-)

Let me give you a political example: Sarah Palin. Some women just don't GET Sarah Palin, or the fascination others have with her. This is a cultural difference issue. The way the news/blogs talk about her are secondary.

Sometimes it's not living a different reality based on choice. Sometimes, it's exposure to other things some people miss.


ps. I have no idea why I knew your husband was Job Occupation Hotstuff Plus Plus, other then you told me at some point. Heh.

Kiersten White said...

Anthony--this is true. And I didn't mean to imply that it's all choice. Certainly a large part is who we are and how we were raised.

And I'm sure I told you at some point. I just prefer to keep Hot Stuff Specifics off the blog. Given he's a professional assassin and whatnot. Makes things awkward.

Kiersten White said...


Karlotta said...

To me, all politicians are this mysterious "[redacted]" person. Except where you see idiocy, I see sinister motives. ;)

I've wondered about the color thing, too... and whether or not people think I'm the mirror opposite of what I think they are.

Obviously this whole multiple reality thing is going to beg another question: Who's reality is right?

At any rate, I'm getting more excited to read Paranormalcy.

Andrea Cremer said...


A few things - 1) thank you for using 'neener, neener' in a comment I need to see that much more often in life :)

2) I keep seeing stuff about this Reth fellow on Twitter and now here and must say, I am dying to meet him when I read your book.

3) What is Hot Stuff's going rate? I'm almost finished plotting the total annihilation of my nemesis and could use a hand.

Kiersten White said...

Re: the color thing, I've thought this exact thing! Spurred by a high school friend with color blindness and wondering how he saw the world. Knowing I could *never* see it the same. Strange things.

Andrea: 1) You're welcome. I agree. 2) I love love love writing Reth. I'm excited for people to meet him. 3) Hot Stuff is retired. He's now a garbageman. Or, as he prefers, waste removal engineer.

lora96 said...

Please don't change your name to [redacted] despite the coolness factor as i have already bookmarked kierstenwrites.blogspot.com and i don't think redactedwrites sounds as endearing. No offense or anything :)

Also, I think that even politicians for whom I have voted share many qualities with the unnamed individual you mentioned. And as for Anthony's comment, I'm guessin I am one of those women who "just doesn't GET" Sarah Palin. To each his own. Really. That's the cool part about America, I think. That I can think the Tina Fey bit about the vp debate is hilarious and others can be profoundly offended but no one actually gets hanged for treason over it.

Also, just to make this comment even longer:

In my YA book, I think the character of Ash is (these are my actual words) "magically delicious" and my best friend in the whole world read it and thought he was boring! Other people have liked it, but wow! she and I are in such accord on most things that it's crazy, but not my fictitious guy.



JenE said...

I have wondered the same thing about color! But my brother really is color blind. He hates it when I hold up something and ask, "What color is this?"

I often have to remind myself that others do not share my reality. More than once I have opened my mouth and inserted my foot before reminding myself of that fact. Speaking of. . .

I know there has been a lot of political discussion, but in my reality, the point of today's post was about writing and the reader's experience. The politics was just an example.

Awesome post, Kiersten!

Little Brother said...

I think [redacted] is secretly Kanye West. He is, after all, "The Voice of this Generation".

Kanye West said...

Im real happy for you Kiersten, Imma let you finish but Perez Hilton had one of the best blogs of all time

Liam said...

Reth is an awesome name. What does redacted mean? What politician? Why does Sarah Palin look so much like Tina Fey, and vice versa? And why is Tina Fey one of my heroes?

These are the questions that haunt me.

Venus Vaughn said...

It took me a while to figure out that no matter how it looks from the outside, everyone has problems.

I once met a gorgeous woman, she had a decent job, benefits, a husband who loved her, nice house, sweet pets, a grown and resposible son. Not a day went by when strangers didn't compliment her on her looks or some aspect of her seemingly perfect life ... but I got to know her. And she wasn't happy.

She had gone through tough things in her past. She was riddled with insecurity in her present. She was even fearful for her future.

There I was with only a few of the 'gifts' she had, and I was much happier than she was. I thank her for curing me of that level of judgment. Because of her I learned it wasn't about what it looks like on the outside, it's about what you hold dear on the inside.

Tara said...

I'm loving the [redacted]! Awesome. I'm a huge fan of the reader response theory. I do believe that a person's experience with a book is different based on what reality he or she brings to it. And I know for a fact that my reality tends to be wildly different that other's. (And, I can't wait to meet Reth.)

Lady Glamis said...

Great points! I hate it when people tell me my labor was easy, my pregnancy was easy, or other things along those lines. Doesn't mean it was easy for ME - just in comparison.

So many things are subjective. Most often, we just need to listen to ourselves and trust that. :)

CMOM Productions said...

This is all so very true! You can be born in the same family, raised by the same parents, and still be in completely different worlds. Not that I'd know or anything.

[Nick] said...

Brackets, what an awesome idea!

the Lola Letters said...

So do you mean to tell me that you don't want everyone to know that hotstuff works at [redacted] or that he loves to eat a heaping pile of [redacted] on his chili cheese dogs, or that your darling children [redacted]and [redacted] love playing at [redacted] park just [redacted] blocks down from your home on [redacted] street in [redacted], Ca?

What about your love of all things [redacted] and your obsession with [redacted]? Are we allowed to talk about those, or is that really embarrasing for you?

I loved this post through and through and I dare say that you, my dear, are a total [redacted]. (Worry not. It's really, really nice and complimentary...I just didn't want it to go to your head.)


(Hey, you're not the only one who likes to keep herself a few secrets.)

My hubs, [redacted], just asked me if I thought you would be offended by this comment and suggested that I [redact] the whole thing in order to prevent a falling out. I told [redacted] that that was prepostrous and this is just how we roll...(right?)


the Lola Letters said...

Oh, and the Kanye West comment?

stop. it. right. now.

Tears of laughter and joy streaming down my face.

s-t-r-e-a-m-i-n-g I tell ya!

Kiersten White said...

Lola, I was going to respond to your comment, but my comment was [redacted].

Also, yeah, Kanye and his comment interruptions. Honestly.

Kaela said...

Hey Keirsten - I just started following you and loved this post - it's something I've been thinking about more and more. Particularly about how people's realities influence their reactions and opinions differently about the same event. I try to keep that in mind before I judge people for not thinking the same way as me. It's hard though, because MY reality is of course, the right one.


Mandi said...

This reminds me (somewhat) of a comment my husband always says, "We all just live in [Redacted]'s world." (That's my 5 year-old daughter...she may or may not be a garbage man)
I think that is essentially what everyone is doing. Living in their own world, with their own sense of reality, what is important, and what color the sky is. (and can we just talk about smells for a minute? Does skunk smell different to you than it does to me? Is that why my husband inhales deeply whenever we go through "skunkville"? )
Thanks for such an insightful post... and comments!

Lisa Schroeder said...

Kiersten - I love this post. I was have a particularly hard time one day, but in my blog said I hated complaining about it because so many people are worse off than me. Someone replied that it didn't mean what I was going through wasn't hard on me. And just having someone say that made me feel so much better.

So yeah - "Just because someone else had it harder, doesn't mean you can't struggle."

Sarah Laurenson said...

Wow. I can't beleive how many of us have that same color theory.

[Redacted] really bugs me. I hope [redacted] isn't given anything important to screw up. I've gotten my fill of that with [past redacted]. And there's [redacted] and [redacted] and [redacted]... oh heck, too many to list.