How To Handle Misinterpretation
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How To Handle Misinterpretation

What if people misinterpret your writing? Well, there are a couple things you can do.

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How To Handle Misinterpretation
Lalesh Aldarwish

Being a Writing/Communications major, I took a lot of literature classes in college. Throughout those classes, one huge theme repeatedly caught my attention--one that plagues every writer, if I'm not mistaken--and that is how to interpret literature.

Now, I'm not going to write a guide for how you should interpret literature. It would take me a long time and you probably wouldn't agree with me. This is more of a look into the writer's side of things. After all, there would be no literature to interpret if it wasn't for writers.

So let's start with the scary stuff:

As soon as you publish something, whether it be through an official publishing house or a blog or a printout you've handed to your friends, the work is no longer under your protection. Up until now, you've had complete control. Nobody could read your writing, and therefore nobody could rip it apart. But we're all mature here and we all want to improve, so we know that releasing our babies to the public is a good way to unearth our faults. As long as we can stand the criticism and make constructive changes, we're all good.

But what if someone reads your work and then misinterprets it completely? There's a chance--whenever you release your darlings into the Wild Badlands of the Public Eye--that some reader is going to take a totally wacky message from your words. For example, one time I submitted a short story to a writing class, and the people who proofread it thought my main character was in a Girl Scout troop. (She was actually a cadet in a space battle training academy). This is a small example. Some different works, like philosophical essays or analytical articles, may have more important meanings that the author would prefer someone not misinterpret at all costs. It could destroy the author's entire main point.

Like I said, scary stuff.

Here, however, is the point: when I said 'release your darlings', I wasn't joking. Writers have undying love for their work, and unfortunately that love can act as a massive blinder. When my writing class asked if my main character was a Girl Scout, I blurted "WHAT?" but then instantly realized what had happened. In short, my writing skills sucked. If I wanted the story to be interpreted correctly, I should have added more genre-specific details. It was a simple fix in that case, but it made me think.

In order to avoid misinterpretation, writers must be clear. We must practice writing, re-writing, re-re-writing and editing all those rewrites. We should also depend on our beta readers to uncover muddled ideas. And that is constructive criticism at its finest. Embrace the crit. It'll help, even if it stings.

Another reminder--when you release your work, it's going to be misinterpreted by somebody anyway. There are just too many people in the world for all of them to think exactly like you. This is okay. If you have the chance, a polite correction would be nice, but most of the time that isn't an option. This is also okay. Once you've published, you have to accept the blows as they come. It could mean a) you weren't as clear as you thought and it's another opportunity for improvement, or b) they misread a detail and made a false judgment. Part of writing is being humble and resilient, and if this situation doesn't spawn humility and resiliency, then I don't know what will.

All the same, keep writing. Improve yourself, trust your audience and roll with the outcome as it unfolds.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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