musings · random thoughts · writing

Observer Effect

In physics, the observer effect suggests that observing something changes that which is being observed.

Creating an artificial system to measure natural phenomena – something I did all the time in my lab-rat days – necessarily involves imperfect instrumentation and manipulation. Shining a laser on a cell in order to make its tagged proteins fluoresce eventually makes that fluorescence fade. Stepping out of the lab, think about checking your oil: you have to remove a bit of oil from the tank to gauge its level, thereby reducing the level and making your measurement inaccurate. On a quantum level, even the objects exposed to visible light that we look upon may be altered by the light – so by the time the light reaches our eyes, the object has already changed.

In my case, tonight, it has manifest itself thusly: every time I try to look inside my head to pull on a thread of a blog idea–those threads that have been weaving with my neurons over the past few weeks, woven on runs or in quiet moments while making tea–the thread disappears. Its shadow remains there, fleeting, like a ghost. A ghost that seems so real that I think I can pin it down, identify it, bring it to life. The ghosts conspire against me by fading in and out of each other – first the ghost of post-election analysis, then the ghost of Aleppo, then the ghost of finding my voice, then the ghost of running. They are all equally strong and equally diffuse, swirling around me. In moments of clarity, I can pin one down long enough to sketch out a bit of its essence, enough for me to feel like I sorted out my own thoughts on the matter… and then – poof – with the slightest turn of my head or blink of my eye, it has gone back into the ether, and all I’m left with is the vague feeling that I had it, once, in another life.

I have set an intention with a group of women I’m basically forcing into the role of accountability partners: post a blog (or Medium) post every two weeks. Set aside time for writing fiction every week. Like me, these friends of mine have indicated some desire to write, in various forms, for various reasons. Inspired by the “Let it be Easy” chapter of the brilliant Tara Mohr‘s book “Playing Big,” (sidebar: if you are a woman and don’t read her blog, you absolutely must. If you want to take it a step further, read her book. If you want to take a leap further, take her online course), I wanted to find a way to let writing back into my life as a creative outlet and as a way of ruminating, distilling, and learning from the voices in my head. Accountability is a big motivator for me, so through Facebook I called out to the females in my life with a penchant for writing (or trying to get there). It’s only been a couple of weeks, and there are only a few of us, but I’m hoping to gain traction – even if only for myself, selfishly, to have the perception of a group who notices if I don’t post, if I don’t share my goals and successes and failures, if I don’t ask how they’re coming along. (If anyone else wants to join our safe little group, please let me know!)

Through that simple intention, despite the fact that writer’s block has threatened to throw me off my game, despite the fact that life is crazy and I still haven’t found a good routine to this whole writing thing, despite the fact that I stare at a computer all day and don’t love the idea of doing more of that when I’m home and drinking tea and wanting to curl up with my book in bed, apparently that has gotten me here. Twenty minutes and six hundred and fifty-seven… fifty-eight words is quite enough for a blog post tonight. Enough for me to remember it doesn’t have it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to meet my expectations in order to be enough.

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