For someone who is so good with words (written), I can be downright dreadful with words (spoken).
This, I am learning, can be a common "writer thing." We're great manipulating language on paper, or computer screen. Give me something in print and I can do a speedy version of "Pimp My Page" like nobody else. (I really hate that phrase, btw. I find the fact that the concept of pimping has become a popular, positive thing in our culture to be abhorrent. So I take that back. Make it more like "Extreme Makeover: Literary Edition.")
And then, when it comes to speaking in the same way, I.... bomb.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a good public speaker, and when it comes to defending my ideas in a professional, classroom or public setting, I have no problem whatsoever. It's more the personal stuff that sets me stuttering.
About a month ago my boyfriend and I had a misunderstanding. I was upset at something, and he knew it, and was unhappy about it. The whole thing culminated in him sitting next to me and talking to me about how he wanted me to talk to him about it, how it frustrated him to know I was upset but to get nothing but silence, and how he needed us to have a discussion about this. He looked at me expectantly.
I sat there.
Oh, I had plenty to say. But my tongue had suddenly stopped working. I had fully formed sentences ready to go, but no way to give voice to them. What was my problem?
For not the first time, I wished I could just write stuff down and give it to him. Which is ridiculous. When someone is right there, expressing themselves carefully and clearly and awaiting your response, it just isn't good ettiquette to say, "Hang on a sec, I need to grab my notepad!" and then sit there scribbling in silence while they're on the edge of their seat, frustrated upon annoyed, waiting on you to get your thoughts just so so you can continue the conversation.
A lot of my hesitancy to speak up comes from deeply ingrained insecurities that have dogged my steps since childhood, and I think everyone is familiar with those in their own lives. But I realized that a big part of it was that my comfort with words and speaking tended to stop at the written page, and why? Not because I'm a control freak who has to have my thoughts arranged perfectly, but -- because nobody actually speaks that way.
I hadn't realized until recently how much the brain-dead conversational habits of my peers had influenced me. When I write, particularly about my inner thoughts and emotions, I tend to be highly descriptive, vivid, and exploratory. I use specific, charged words that chime with accurate meaning in an attempt to pinpoint precisely my meaning.
And, like, nobody talks like that!
That night, sitting there staring into a pair of earnest brown eyes patiently awaiting my answer, I realized that, quite simply, I was being a moron.
My boyfriend is not what most college types would initially consider an 'intellectual.' Probably this stems from our tendency to define intellectual as a bookbrain, someone who uses a lot of Latinate words in everyday conversation. But in getting to know him, I have learned that my boyfriend is a highly inventive, creative man who is startlingly insightful and has a gift for speaking the way I write -- with erudition, specificity and descriptive clarity, and most important, emotional honesty.
He can sit there and tell me what he is feeling, even when he struggles to find the right word, and even when he does it in ways that surprise me (because, again, no one talks that way any more...). I realized that I had to learn to be more like him.
I am a writer, and it's what I'm good at. I will work to become better at it for the rest of my life. But I realized that I have to work on all my forms of communication. And I have had to fight my writer's prejudice against speaking, and learn to say things the way I am thinking them.
The sentences which would seem normal flowing from my pen feel awkward on my tongue. But the more I share them, the more I realize their importance.
And on the upside, it ensures that I can have a conversation in which I only use the word "like" if I am structuring a simile.
Causes Kyla Perry Supports
National Fibromyalgia Association