When I created my Facebook account in 2008, I felt daunted by the About Me section. Full disclosure: I’m not a natural at this sort of thing. I overthink. I doubt. Rinse and repeat. Not knowing what the world of Facebook would eventually entail (I joined to keep up with friends from graduate school), I summed myself up in one sentence and moved on: I’m an experiential junkie.
That statement is still true. I’m predominantly a kinesthetic and visual learner. I prefer to jump into the messiness of learning by process. To squeeze essence from a moment and make something new with it.
It’s also true, that I grow increasingly interested in the expression of experience through writing, and the study of experience through architecture and web design. When I have time of my own, I do more of the studying and expressing than the physical doing.
In the Name of Customer Service
My service industry career began at the age of 14 with my first job as a busgirl in a family-owned steakhouse, and ended at the age of 32 as a bartender in a neighborhood pool hall. Customer service has a direct in-the-moment focus on caring for someone else’s experience. What I do now (with the exception of client relations) is quite different than customer service, yet I always have the experience of others in mind.
While writing a poem, I’m motivated by someone reading it 100 years in the future. This helps me revise until the poem is clear and concise. Until I’ve fully expressed an idea or feeling or experience.
What I learn from studying architecture is no different. One aspect of design is to consider–and in many cases heighten or add meaning to–the experience of occupants based on the function of the building.
In web design, the practice of incorporating experience is plainly called, User Experience (UX). It sounds simpler than it is to implement, though I could say this about writing and architecture too.
On What Comes Natural
I recently attended a poetry reading where someone (who doesn’t write) asked if I was always thinking about writing, possibly taking notes in my head as we spoke. I understood where he was coming from, the image of the writer with the proverbial notebook. But I answered, no. That’s not how I process.
When I’m out “in the world,” I prefer to immerse inside the experience of it. If I’m lucky, I’m not thinking about anything. I’m simply being.
When I get in the car, that’s a different story. I take notes right away or wait until after a silent car ride where the experience can work its way through my head.
Full immersion is natural for me though of course it also takes effort to sustain. Distraction is so flashy. Responsibility, weighty at times.
I love what I do because I easily and happily become immersed in the work. Which is why I struggle with Facebook, and other in-the-moment social media outlets. I enjoy keeping up with friends, family, and local events. But for me to have fun and be in my natural and preferred state, I would have to immerse myself, which comes at a high cost to my creativity–I don’t have an abundance of time and extra brain space. And I simply can’t afford it.
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