During our last class, Ray asked us what challenges we dealt with during our first experiment. I raised my hand and explained to him my dilemma.
I was writing about the history of hysteria and how that persists in modern society through a form of mental manipulation known as gaslighting. This is where a person or group of people invalidate another’s feelings by acting like they’re “crazy” for feeling a certain way. During my research process, I came across a bunch of different articles on the topics. I found one beautifully written piece on someone’s personal experience with gaslighting from Teen Vogue, another one on the history of hysteria and its connection to politics from Vogue, and a long article basically on why you shouldn’t call women crazy (including some history and psychology) from Refinery 29. These articles all had one thing in common: they made me feel like I could never write a piece as good as that.
After I brought up this barrier to Ray, he explained helpful tips in the analogy of a cocktail party.
For any given topic, there is a cocktail party full of experts who have studied that topic for over a decade. They’re all conversing about it in terms that are hard for outsiders understand, and they’ve most definitely all published numerous articles or books surrounding the mastery of the topic. And here I am, a passionate but less knowledgable newbie to the topic. I’m starting to learn things about the topic that’s shocking, emotional and inspiring — but the experts are probably bored of talking about those things, or haven’t even thought about it for 20 years. Thus, I feel out of place and like I can’t add anything new to the conversation.
But there’s also a large group of people outside of the cocktail party who don’t understand anything about the topic the experts are discussing. They probably would like to know, but there hasn’t been a way for them to easily access the information in a way they can comprehend. Sure, I don’t fit in with these people either. But what if there was an in between?
There is! There is room in between the experts and the spectators for those passionate newbies like me, trying to find a way to reshape the message into a way those outside of the party can relate to. It’s a space where I’m free to learn and grow as I become more advanced with the information, while still creating media about the topic as a novice. Basically, the main point this analogy conveys: there is a space in between being an expert on a topic and total ignorance, and that type of content is as important — if not more important — than those who feel comfortable at the cocktail party.