My kids have a fabulous book called The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak.
As you can imagine, it doesn’t have any pictures.
Its premise is that the rules of grown-up/child book-reading state that parents must read whatever is written in a book, no matter how outlandish:
This got me thinking about expectations, and when we meet them and when we don’t.
Take this blog: it also has no pictures. It also has a certain tone, norms, style. There are types of posts that I write and types that I don’t. Ways that I speak and ways that I don’t.
I’ve been thinking about what I choose to write, and how that interacts with the expectations I’ve set for you as a reader. There’s an unspoken contract here, one that I am keeping by writing the way that I do, and that you are keeping by reading, by applying ideas that you find helpful, and by sharing posts with others.
Mostly it feels right to write into the expectations I’ve created: I am sure I wouldn’t show up with nearly as much care or attention were it not for the pull of meeting (and hopefully exceeding) your expectations.
On the other hand, those expectations also set limits: things I might want to write but don’t, ways I might want to speak but don’t, topics I might want to cover but don’t.
This means that I’m making a choice when I come across an idea, or even a sentence, that falls outside of the lines. And it’s possible that I’m making the wrong choice, since those lines are both real and imaginary, a projection of my and your understanding of where they are drawn.
I could, instead, ignore them.
I could choose to write GLuURR-GA-wocko ma GRUMPH-a-doo, or I could shout out with anger, or I could choose to share a deep, real fear.
The thing I need to keep noticing, each time I sit down in front of a blank page, is that I am dancing with freedom and with expectations. I owe it to myself and to you to remember that it is indeed a dance.
You’re dancing too. Dancing with the expectations of those around you—whether friends, family, colleagues or customers—dancing with the lines you feel you’ve drawn, dancing with the lines you feel they’ve drawn.
Most of the time those lines are in the right place, they are useful.
Except when they are not.
You have more freedom than you think you do.
Without that freedom, a Book With No Pictures would never have been written.