The Watcher-Walker Problem

So, there’s this idea my mom introduced me to, which in a certain way seems to be true of most creative people (hopefully she’ll give us a source) called the Watcher-Walker. While not as serious as, say, multiple personality disorder or something, the idea is that creative people are deeply divided in terms of motives: half the time, they have the same motives as everyone else, wanting to live a happy normal life, and the other half of the time are collecting bits and pieces of life to use in their art. The former is the walker, the latter the watcher. It tends to make you more then a little self critical (and certainly most if not all creative people are very introspective), but it also poses a problem when the two interests are conflicting. While normally you might live your life and the watcher can just enjoy the ride, there are bound to be times when the walker says, “back off, this is dangerous” and the watcher says, “but I wonder what would happen if I pushed just a little harder…”

For me, the first real outlet I had for this introspection was writing. Bit and pieces of my daily life found their way into otherwise fictional stories. I think it’s because of this that I am more likely to push harder out of curiosity in print then I am in person. Through e-mail or instant message, I’ll ask difficult questions or say things that are a little exaggerated to see what response I get.

I have never really trusted these mediums of communication as much because of this, even though I am typically more comfortable in them. The desire to treat them as fictional is too strong. So my response has always been to feel like the things I feel and express in person are the most genuine, and that anything I want to say but can’t in person is possibly more hypothetical then real.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering about this mindset. In some cases, I can look back and know that following this rule would have saved me a lot of trouble. It’s not just creative or introspective people either; I’m sure everyone has been in a fight and thought later that it seems they weren’t really that mad, only that they felt they aught to be mad. It’s the same idea, crafting a fiction of sorts as we go to make sense of the world.

At other times, though, I have wanted so badly to say something in person that it gnaws at me and yet I can never spit it out.  If I can say it more easily with pen and paper later, does that always make it false? By the same token, I say things I don’t mean in person all the time. Who doesn’t? A slip of the tongue, a hurried statement in the rush of the moment, and suddenly you’ll spend the rest of your days trying to clarify what you meant.

It seems maybe it’s not so cut and dry. I need to sort out how to tell one way or the other (if such a thing is possible), though, because I know for sure what I want and what would be interesting to want, I’m stuck, indecisive.

(If anyone, self-described as creative or not, wants to weigh on on feeling this way [or feeling the opposite] I’d love to hear about it. I think it’s really interesting, if sometimes frustrating. Especially comment if you think you’ve found a solution! You may be responsible for eliminating the “angsty artist” once and for all.)


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