Test Your Reflexes

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

I have a theory. People’s reactions to a novel or Christian living book, movies, and to what we hear are as individual as the people themselves. Small details in what you watch or read may strike a chord for you but go unnoticed by others. My theory is that these nuanced differences, if appropriated effectively and consistently, help writers to find their unique voice, their passions, and even to lend clarity to their brand. Whether you’ve never thought about doing this exercise or haven’t done so in years, today is your opportunity to test your reflexes and analyze them.goalkeeper-reflexes

We spend many days overwhelmed with work and life. I look forward to reading after I shut down my laptop for the night. I have a stack of books on my nightstand that I’m reading, but so often my brain does not shut down. Tomorrow’s schedule and to-do list scroll—march—across the back of my mind. Can you relate? It’s no wonder we miss registering subtle details of our reflex reactions that are unique to us.

Here is the way the exercise will work. Think about two movies and two books, TV or radio programs, or social media posts that have stuck with you because you either liked or disliked something about them. I’ll start us off with an example.

The movies Hunt for Red October and Seabiscuit endure as two of my favorites. I choked inwardly when Jack Ryan jumped from the helicopter into the ocean to get aboard the submarine, because I share his dread of turbulence and I’m not a great swimmer. And my stomach turned at the abuse Red Pollard suffered without his family during depression-era survival. But what resonated with me in both movies was the intelligence of the characters, the way they comported themselves, and their dialogue. The scene in which Ramius and Bart Mancuso debate how to respond to the torpedo coming at them was sublime. The way Red Pollard found pleasure in his books amid the depravation of the Great Depression, the understated instincts of Tom Smith, the horse trainer, and the quiet dignity of both of them were particularly appealing. A common thread in those movies is that the characters learned from each other. I love learning, and I love dignity. Those details are what resonated with me. That’s just me. You might have had little reaction or completely different reactions to these movies. That’s okay. It points to our unique values.

Now it’s your turn. Answer the following questions and then share with us what you discover. Be sensitive to nuances you haven’t noticed up to now.

What kind of reaction did you have to each of them?

  • Emotional (compassion, joy, admiration, sympathy, anger, impatience, disrespect, distrust, negative reaction to something about the setting, and so on)
  • Thoughtful (logical, agreement, appreciation of a new perspective, truth-doubting, disagreement, distrust).

Most of us recognize these readily, but the next question delves deeper.

Why did you react this way to each of them? Go below the surface to identify specific details triggering your reaction.

  • An additional detail you didn’t pick up on until you delved deeper
  • Something relating to your personal experience

What are the common threads? Here is where you’ll find insights that set you apart as an author and should be applied to refine your brand.

Share what you discovered or confirmed about your unique values. Have you been applying them in your writing already? I look forward to your comments.


Busy with work and life, writers overlook insightful reflex reactions that define their uniqueness. Click to Tweet.

Test your reflexes to what you see, read and hear, and discover nuances that set your writing apart. Click to Tweet.