When I know I’m going to meet new people in a casual situation, I run through a pretend conversation in my mind. I consider how I might answer certain questions. Then, I actually meet someone. Everything goes out the window. The meeting is never how I envisioned it. I’m never as witty or charming or intelligent as I think I can be.
My sentences ramble. I usually repeat myself at least once. Here’s the surprising thing: most people don’t pick up on my own insecurities because they’re busy dealing with their own. In a way, we give each other a free pass, knowing that it’s a challenge to walk up and introduce yourself to a complete stranger. So, unless you look disreputable, make a crass remark, or mention you believe in love at first sight (who’s done this and meant it?), first impressions can be fluid. Reinforced over time or changed with future meetings, how you think about someone can vary. But does the same apply when you read someone’s words for the first time?
Once you’ve read that book or subscribed to that feed, don’t you create an idea in your head of the author that sticks? Words have the power to create ideas that can become firmly rooted in our minds as truths. Consider religious texts. For thousands of years, people have made serious life choices based on words in books without ever meeting their authors (or seeing the original copies for that matter). It’s easy to forget that readers can make up their minds about who you are without ever meeting you based solely on your words.
That’s a powerful position to hold. Without the filter of editors or printing presses, there’s no barrier to sharing your ideas with the world. But think long and hard about the words you write, because you might not get a chance to change a first impression. I’m three posts into this experiment, and I suspect you’re already drawing your own conclusions about me. Hopefully they’re good ones.