The Uncanny Valley

This weekend another person told me they like my blog. Yet another. That makes it… how many now? Oh yes:  a lot. And I know what you’re thinking, Veena.  I know what you’re thinking because I am you, Veena, and you’re thinking, “What the HELL is so remarkable about my writing?”

But then that’s the problem you’ve always had.

Allow me to illustrate. When I was young, younger than this, I used to write. Not like I write today, but I used to write necessarily and fill up diaries, journals, notebooks, green, pink, and purple with words, words , words. Because the words, they weren’t just on the paper; they were in my head first. Everywhere I went there went this insistent stream of narration sometimes a pounding torrent, sometimes slowing to a mere trickle, but always there.

What was my problem, you ask?

I thought everyone thought like that. So I asked my best friend Morgan one day, you know, just to double check. Morgan looked at me askance with the kind of look that says, “Um… no.” She may actually have used those exact words. “Um… no.”

It was the first in a long line of proofs that people are not the same as me. A lesson I, apparently, still have not learned. I am not average. Not that I am better or worse than average, but different? Yes. Certainly.

Because my writing is the same few thoughts banging around in my head for years, maturing and occasionally gaining an edge of clarity or complexity here and there. Pretty dull and uneventful stuff if you’re me, but then I forget you’re not.

The other interesting thing is that not nearly as many people like me. I’ve never once had anyone come up to me and tell me they like me as a person. I get it. I’m scary. I’m the uncanny valley. In psychology there’s a theory that, up to a certain point, the more human something looks, the more we empathize with it. But when something with human features looks and moves almost, but not quite like actual humans, it evokes a feeling of disgust.

My writing is human enough to be relatable, because my life story is everyone’s life story. People know pain. They’ve felt confusion. People know the gnaw of an emptiness you can’t quite put your finger on. My writing is different enough to be of interest. I put my finger on it. Me as the person? Nah, too challenging. I put my finger on it and I tell you exactly how it applies to your life and what you could do to change it. The changing, the responsibility that comes with it, that’s the slightly inhuman part. People don’t want that.

And all this makes my writing, what? Safe? Not exactly what I aimed for.

Still, she liked my blog. The one that I deleted. Why? The same reason: safe. Can’t control what people do with my words, what they learn or unlearn from them. But I shared part of myself with you and I had to delete it, didn’t I? It’s like giving someone a vase on Christmas and then taking it back when you decide it really looked better inside, on your kitchen table. Really not much of a gift unless you leave it out there. 

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