Making Feelings Visible

The possibility of transmuting feelings into words, and words into binary code that travels over the internet into the screens of people, to elicit the exact feeling that is intended by the writer is amazing to me. It is alchemy. I know the science that makes it happen, but that doesn’t diminish its wonder.

I’ve been thinking lately about handwritten letters. I only got the chance to write a few of them before they lost out to the digital revolution. But the few times I received letters from loved ones, I saw how they evoke sentimentality. I still have those letters saved in boxes back at home.

When was the last time you received a love note? If I wrote this to you, sent it via the post and you received it via morning mail delivery, or picked it up in the post office, would it have a different effect? Would you cherish this more if it was written in my jagged handwiriting? Would you love me more if I sent this note to you on scented paper?

In the last couple of months, I have received three rejection mails. The first two were related to writing opportunities. I found them funny. I have little expectations of my words. I still get surprised when people tell me they mean something to them. The third mail was about engineering. There’s a chance I’m more insecure about my engineering aptitude than I am of my ability to convey feelings via words. If I fail at writing, I always have engineering. If I fail at engineering I have… *cue Nina Simone*

Recently, it occurred to me that I came to the internet too late to fully enjoy the part of it I would have loved the most: e-mails from friends. My love language might just be e-mails containing links to great essays and stories.

I received all the rejections by e-mail.

Screenshot of Blitab's homepage. http//
Screenshot of Blitab’s homepage. Source:

Last week I read about a tablet for the blind called Blitab. Once in a while, technology does something truly transcendent, something different from the current race to one-up the world via code. Visually impaired folks can now receive love notes without middlemen. They can now read those love notes without being worried that a stranger will see them blush. They can now receive rejection from their long distance lovers in tactile form. Bllitab’s creators know they’re not just turning binary code to braille; they’re dealing with feelings. Their tagline is “feelings get visible.”

All the rejections I got were written in language I thought was patronising. The choice of words made it appear like the folks who wrote them were concerned about my feelings. Of course, this is bollocks. It is simply good PR. If given an option between euphemised rejection and a sharp cutting off, I would always choose the sharp one. Sharp, precise cuts leave neater scars.

When I started this, I knew there is a possibility the reader will get to the end and feel sorry for me. I do not want this to happen. This is one of the dangers of words: they often take a life of their own and do to the reader what the writer never intended or envisaged.

In this age of overreliance on digital technology for communication, we are all, definitely, visually impaired. It is impossible to see me as I am now, so you are just relying on words to decipher how I feel. I am doing the same.

If you cry after receiving a letter, you’ll probably leave tear drops on the paper: evidence of your grief or joy. If you laugh too much, the letter might be filled with drool or spittle. The media by which we now communicate, however, leaves no evidence of emotions. (Except for like buttons, which are usually a false representation of how we feel.) So here I am, thinking you might be feeling pity for me, but for all I know, you might be laughing your head off. That is not a bad thing. It is what I did when I received those three rejection e-mails. But was my laughter true to my feeling?

Words often fail me, or perhaps I’m the one who fails them. I want them to mean one thing, and they mean ten other things that are not what I want. I encounter them and fail to experience the feelings they are supposed to evoke. I think I’m supressing my feelings about those rejections. Maybe the laughter would have been rage if I got those mails physically, via letters that I had to open with my hands and feel between my fingers. Maybe I would have ripped them in two, or pinned them to the wall in rage. Perhaps my feelings would have been visible.


Featured image by DVIDHSUB via Flickr


21 Replies to “Making Feelings Visible”

  1. *sighs* I’d like to know if receiving those mails stung. Was disappointment hovering around the edge of your laughter? I’m sorry. I think this is something that all you writers experience– rejection, tons of them; then one day someone really sees you enough to give you a chance.

    1. It didn’t sting, and that was my worry. I don’t even make enough submissions to be worried about rejects in the ‘writers’ sense. But I think I understand what you mean by being ‘seen’ by someone. It’s not just writers, deep down, it is what we all desire.

  2. Forgot to add. I miss letters. I miss written words. They’re personal, unfortunately we have to make do with… this. Years back an ex gave me a book. On the first page he wrote a happy new year note. I’m not very fond of him anymore, but I kept the book. First because it was a book duh, and second because of that note. Sometimes I pull it out from the shelf and run my fingers across the words– not of Chimamanda’s. His. They’re personal. Yesterday a girl at the office passed me a tiny note at a time I was really angry with someone. It said, “Love you.” I smiled my first real smile all day at that time, folded the note in two and kept it on my laptop. It was personal again.

    1. God bless the lady who slipped you that note. Some people really get it.

      Why is there something sad about pulling out the book just to run your fingers across your ex’s words? Does it happen every time, or only at down moments?

  3. “Words often fail me, or perhaps I’m the one who fails them” . This! Spot on!

    And we are here again. You know, if I didn’t know better, I would have taken the credit for being the muse for this post.

          1. I try clicking on your name and it won’t go through. Okay just tried google search. It seems the addy attached to your name isn’t the same one you’re currently using.

          2. Okay, i’ll make it easier. Google says your site is
            Wordpress has this attached to your name

            If it’s wrong, you should contact them or something. If it’s an old site, then go to settings on your admin panel and make the former your primary blog.

          3. Yes. I see what you’re saying. The latter is my blog header. I dont know why its suddenly a chore to access my page from the name though. It used to go at a click in the past. Thank you Uju. Now, may we er leave Ife’s page? Lol

  4. Your words did not fail you this time. Just when I was about to be sad for you, your words made me smile. You did that- you drew one emotion from me, then another, and then another.

    The thing with writing, indeed all forms of communication, is that people read and see and interpret through filters. When I use my words to evoke an image in your mind, say small boy in a blue shirt, the small boy you see is different from the small boy I see, based on your experience, culture, etc.

    I grew up in the era of pen pals and letter writing. I’ve saved some letters not because of the paper, but the words they contain. The same is true for some text messages, chats, and emails. I’m not hung up on the medium, I’m hung up on the thoughts the words express.

    As for the rejection, it’s a fact of life abi? Tomorrow is another day!

    1. I’m not hung up on the medium, I’m hung up on the thoughts the words express.

      This is so true. In my experience, however, I’ve found it more difficult to hold on to the thoughts expressed in text messages and chats because of how easy they are to lose. A change of phone, a re-installed software, etc., is all it takes to lose the most heartfelt messages, without which it is difficult to refresh the memory and remind the heart of how I feel.

      As for rejection, it’s tomorrow already, and I’m still here. That’s all that matters.

      Thank you Timi for the kind words.


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