False Notes (16/30)
Friction = data.
A lot of really good writers believe that you should read your work out loud as part of the editing process. The purpose is to ensure that your writing is natural and embodies your own unique voice. When you read something you’ve written out loud, you will immediately notice words or phrases that the novelist Larry Woiwode calls “false notes” — language that feels uncomfortable and out of place because it’s incongruent with how you actually communicate.
In addition to being a great strategy for writing, I’ve found it helpful to be on the lookout for “false notes” in other areas of my life. If you can train yourself to notice these points of friction in real-time — and trust me, if I can do it, anyone can — you start to become aware of important data points that bring a new level of self-awareness. This strategy is effective across a number of dimensions. It can help to identify issues in relationships, clarify decision-making, and reveal what you genuinely do and do not enjoy. Ultimately, these “false notes” can help paint a picture of what your ideal life looks like by filling in the colors that suit you.
This strategy recently helped me realize something that probably should’ve been obvious. I had planned to spend a few months working on a farm in Virginia once my lease ends this September. The prospect of being out in the Appalachians sounded incredible, and I frequently daydreamed (daydreamt?) about it. However, I noticed a serious aversion to figuring out the actual logistics of making it happen. I had the equivalent of writer’s block when it came to planning the move.
After pushing it aside for the fifteenth time, I realized that the friction I felt was a very important piece of information: there was no scenario in which the logistics of this made any sense.
When the most optimal solution is putting all your belongings in storage, driving to Virginia, driving back two months later, packing the contents of the storage unit into a moving truck, then driving somewhere else across the country, it’s probably best to reconsider the whole thing. Once this became clear, I made the decision to postpone the farm to next year and instantly felt a huge weight lifted.
Make an effort to notice the “false notes” in your writing and your life. The information they contain will improve both.