Why Do I Write?

I feel that I have something to say. It may or may not be important to the world, but regardless, it feels important to me. I can’t seem to say these important things out loud, though.

Don’t get me wrong — I talk. A lot. As a child, the phrase I heard more than any other was, “Hey, how about you try to NOT talk for two minutes?” (As an aside, I wish someone had taught me the skills to be around people without feeling the need to fill every crack of silence, and also informed me that sometimes, people who talk a lot are gifted communicators and can harness that into a career like marketing, public relations, teaching or journalism.) But the things I say are often inconsequential.

In fact, when I’m in a social situation like a party or at work, it takes quite a bit of conscious effort on my part to not say every. single. thought. that whizzes through my head.

“I’m thinking of trying that new yoga class on Saturdays.”

“I made chilli last night and used more paprika than usual and it turned out great.”

“When I was a kid I had Fisher Price roller-skates and would skate around my parents’ basement.”

I also tell stories out loud in a way that I think some writers do: with some guessing, a fair bit of drama and hyperbole, and lots of exclamation points. My favourite thing is when people let me tell stories like this and just enjoy them for what they are, with a grain of salt. (Another aside – the same can be said for my cooking.)

But when I need to effectively get something important across — my doubts about a situation, a relationship or job; my insecurities, to a loved one; describing my beliefs in something bigger than us — I stumble.

I’m able to speak. Words come out. But they’re not right. More often than not, they are misunderstood, because frankly, they were poorly chosen. I can hear that as they pass my lips. I stumble and trip on my thoughts, get sidetracked and allow myself to be carried away by the conversation, eventually losing my original path all together.

What was it I wanted to tell you?

My brain doesn’t calibrate properly to the pace of speech. It either moves faster than I can express, pushes out thoughts before I can think them over, or it can’t keep up to my lips, which are trying to create a sentence. I suppose maybe this variability means my brain forms its messages in fits and starts. All the ideas all at once, and then I need to ruminate on this one turn of phrase for approximately five minutes. Yes… that was what I was getting at. Those words are perfect.

When I write, whether it’s typing or with a pen on paper, I don’t feel myself forming the thoughts. They come out through my fingers, and magically, there in front of me, is exactly what I was trying to communicate. Wow, I didn’t know that was what I meant!

Sure, I have to edit. I love editing. But even that seems to move with the pace of my thoughts. Mull something over once, rant about it, get it all out. Let it sit a day or two. Look again. Good lord! Did I say that? Let me put this here and move that over there and cut all of that out entirely and I see now that I forgot to mention something very important. The first draft is the soapstone, carved into a very oblique shape of… something. An owl, perhaps. Later, the features come into fine detail with the specific fine-tipped tools.

There is also the matter of being heard. I mentioned that I talk a lot — this means I often feel compelled to fill perfectly lovely silences with utter nonsense that no one cares about; and that the things I do feel the real need to say often ramble on, and on, and on. Predictably, the people who spend the most time with me learn to tune me out. I know enough from spending heaps of time with very chatty children that this is a survival mechanism and I really shouldn’t take it personally. And usually, I don’t. But sometimes I will be saying something that feels really important to me, and I’ll realize they’re not even trying to pretend to listen anymore. And yes, that hurts my feelings sometimes.

Writing makes so much more sense in this regard. Pick up what I’ve written. Read a paragraph. Distracted by the pasta boiling over? Come back in 15 minutes. If this section is boring, skim over it and get to something more relevant.

Of course, my feelings can still be hurt when it comes to writing, and I’ll tell you how. Show no interest. Don’t ask me what I’m working on. Don’t read what I’ve written. Don’t notice when I’m proud. Don’t encourage me to create. Frankly I couldn’t care less if you like what I write (argh, that’s a lie. I’d love for you to love it. But the only thing I’ll dislike more than you hating it is if you lie about it and say you didn’t), but for God’s sake… read it. Read something. Even if it’s just this blog post.

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