Writing Assignment: Write About Yourself From Someone Else’s Perspective

by Randy Murray on April 25, 2014

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us! *

Or, in easier to parse standard English,

And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!

Writers often practice writing in the first person. It’s direct. We know what’s in our own heads (to some degree). Writing as someone else might allow us to see something as an extrapolation of ourselves. But turn that same observation power back at ourselves and things get much, much more complex.

Every once in a while I catch my true reflection in a mirror or window as I’m passing by and I’m often shocked and surprised at what I see. This is not the person I see in my bathroom mirror, carefully composed and considered. This surprised man looking back at me is older, fatter, and surely much more like my grandfather than I truly am. But there he is. The truth revealed.

There, momentarily, I’ve seen myself as someone else might. This is not only a useful writing exercise, it is revelatory in a personal sense.

For today’s assignment, attempt to write about yourself as someone else might see you. Sit somewhere in public, pick a person at random and then write a short piece describing the person, the you, that this other person sees.

Don’t be flattering. Try, for just a moment, to really see yourself from outside. Look at yourself. What is this person doing? What are they thinking (and remember, you can only tell from the outside)? What do you feel for this person, the you that others see?

Don’t use the secret knowledge that you possess of yourself. Be the other person. Look at yourself.

You might need to write a few descriptive pieces of others first, and then turn that observational power on yourself. Don’t be too tough on yourself. Just see.

And then write.


  • Treat yourself and listen to the actor Robert Carlyle recite Burns’ poem “To A Louse.” It’s splendid.

Writing Assignment: Write About Yourself From Someone Else’s Perspective by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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