The words that come out of my mouth are not nearly as powerful as those that come from my fingers.
As a school student, getting up in front of my peers to deliver a ‘talk’ used to make me feel sick. In fact, putting up my hand to contribute to discussion also made me queasy. It wasn’t only those formal, at school situations either. I didn’t have a large group of friends, and I really didn’t enjoy attending large parties, because I would have to make conversation with a lot of people at the same time, or with people I didn’t know so well.
Very little has changed now. Sometimes, because I’m an ‘adult’, I force myself to speak in meetings and in crowds. But that does not change the fact that I still don’t like doing this. In fact, being with a large group and knowing that, at some point, I am going to have to contribute, often renders me voiceless.
This does not mean I have nothing to say. Oh – I have plenty to say. I am extremely opinionated, often to my detriment.
Neither does this mean that I haven’t understood the subject at hand.
Words, responses, conversations – they all go through my head; they are processed, edited and polished – but by the time they are ready, the opportunity has often been missed.
Or, if I do actually open my mouth to speak, to my utter and complete embarrassment those carefully formulated words do not come out the way I intended. I stutter, I waffle and then my response peters out into mumbled silence.
However, ask me to write something down and I do not have an issue.
Writing affords me the time to get my thoughts in order and to choose my words carefully for maximum impact. Even when I am writing off the cuff (as I am now), my words just seem to come out with a tad more eloquence. There is no umming and aahing, it does not take me forever to formulate my ideas … I do occasionally think, ‘oops, can’t write that’ and hit the delete key … but in general I write so much more fluently than I speak.
Thinking about why this is so, I would have to say it boils down to confidence.
Once something is said, you cannot unsay it. Sure, you can apologise and say other things to qualify, justify or save face … but you can’t unsay something.
Until a piece of writing becomes published – that is, once I hit the ‘publish’ key on this blog, hit ‘send’ on an email, or hand in a piece of writing to be marked – you can un-write it. An eraser if, god forbid, you are handwriting or the well-used delete key are gifts.
I think the other reason I prefer writing to speaking is that you do have that opportunity to edit. You can replace one word with a more powerful one (or less derogatory one). I feel my stuttering when I speak is my brain’s attempt at editing … sadly, it is not as effective and makes me sound like an incompetent, incoherent twat.
If I ruled the world, we might all have to communicate in writing.
Come to think of it … the advent of the mobile phone (which sees people sitting in restaurants in complete silence apart from the tap-tap- swoosh of their phone) and the increase of the BYOD (bring your own device) program in many schools (which sees teachers communicating with their students directly onto their work via their device) … well, it may just be happening already.
* I saw this quote on a Facebook post from WritersLife.org