Make useless things
Carefully Chosen Words (or...Your thoughts are more important than your grammar)
"A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. - Luke 6:45 CSB
They say you should write the way you talk. People I highly respect in the world of words have admonished writers that their written words should sound the same as their spoken, everyday, real life words. There are several podcasts I listen to that are hosted by authors I read, and it’s true of them—I am familiar with their spoken voice and when I read their words I can hear the author saying them.
But I don’t think I write that way. I write the way I think and thinking is easier than talking. I tend to want to speak the way I write sometimes, but I edit on the fly and switch voices. It’s like I think through my fingers, and when I type or scrawl words on paper my neurons fire in a different way. Plus, I can delete. Spoken words carry a lot of pressure to get them right the first time.
Recently, I was trying to discuss some writing ideas with someone and I was really struggling to articulate the jumble of my mind. They listened graciously and had some ideas, but the gold-nugget of their advice was that I needed to have more conversations about these ideas in order to bring clarity to them. They said talking through the ideas would help create the outline I was looking for.
I am 43 years old. I know how to talk. One of my earliest report cards mentioned Tresta is a good student but she does too much talking and it makes me laugh, and wonder: What was I talking about? I don’t have any scars or traumas from being told to be quiet, but I have a deep internal dialogue always going, constantly needing edited, and conversation is not always natural to me. I know how to talk but I often would rather not.
Also, my spoken voice just doesn’t carry. It takes actual energy—abdominal strength and lung capacity—for me to project my voice enough to be heard, and this makes me literally tired. The two days a week I tutor are exhausting; coaching volleyball is exhausting; socializing in a loud and crowded space is exhausting. Those excuses make it easier to be quiet.
I understand the effort it takes to be heard, and nothing frustrates me more than being interrupted or seeing someone else be interrupted. It’s not that what I have to say is supremely important and wise—sometimes it’s just funny or nonsense—but it feels like the ultimate disrespect to be interrupted. Equally rude is the person who talks incessantly and leaves no room for response, the one who is always teaching or informing, never listening or learning. Words come easy for some people and I think they take for granted the effort some of us are making to verbalize things.
I have been guilty of interrupting others and talking too long, though. I am my own pet peeve. I talk out one side of my mouth about the importance of care with words and then make mistakes with words all the time.
I sent out a newsletter to subscribers last week. At the end of the day Shelby told me she’d read it, and I was surprised and honored to learn that she was a newsletter subscriber. She loves me this way. She also loves me by telling me the truth about things, and she had some truth to tell. She tiptoed around the sentence but finally got it out: I think I maybe might have caught a mistake in your newsletter, mom.
Our kids know us so well—all our pet peeves and secret sins and the things we edit out of polite public conversation; they know the real us. Shelby knows my annoyance with grammatical errors, whether they come by ignorance or lack of care or simple mistakes. How many posts have I gone back to edit because of a missing “the” or “and”? Nit-picky stuff. Knowing this about me made her aware that I’d both want to know about the mistake but then also feel like a public idiot about the mistake, and because it’s a newsletter and not a blog post, there’s no fixing it. It will live in permanence in the inbox of all (very few) subscribers until they delete it.
She feared I might lose sleep over it and in the past I probably would have. We looked it up together and I had, indeed, written “write” when I meant “right”. The irony made it all the more amusing.
There are probably typos and grammatical errors here, in this post. I read and re-read things until the words blur into a fog of unknown meaning, and then I just throw my figurative hands up and hit “post”. It’s not that I don’t care about quality—I am still irritated by poor grammar and mistakes, yours and mine and especially mine—but not speaking, not writing is not the option I’m choosing. Mistakes will come, theirs will be theres and right may come out write, but it’s worth the effort. It’s worth trying to communicate in all forms: writing, thinking, speaking.
This post feels very self-indulgent but I told you I had a deep inner conversation always happening. (I write like I think. I’m sorry if that makes things confusing.) I will endeavor to hear what you mean and I hope you'll do the same, and maybe little by little we’ll make a culture that cares for words because words are expressions of our hearts—not simply displays of power or knowledge or grammatical snobbery. What you think is more important than correcting the way you say it, and I will get over worrying about what you think when I say things wrong. We’ll just keep trying.
(I forgot to say anything about reading until now. Reading will help the thinking, will help the saying, will help the writing. That’s probably a post for another day.)
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Odds and Ends (and links)
When will I ever use this?
An effort to be more practical
Creating an outline for good things to run wild
What 'Much Ado' teaches us about the benefit of the doubt