It’s better I write. Trust me.
I’ve heard it said I write the way I speak and write with simplicity. But I don’t take offense. Large words have always intimidated me and I’ve learned to avoid them in ordinary conversation. Still, I’m delighted to read them or hear others pronounce them out loud, with unabashed boldness. I only wish I had that kind of confidence. As it is, I usually fear I’ll misuse words and embarrass myself in front of my peers. But when I write, the pressure’s off and I can stop and think of how I’ll say things, liberally using my thesaurus to be more audacious and valiant with my pen. Maybe someday my bravery with the written word will match that of my spoken word.
Improvisational speech is its own peril for me. If I’m nervous or intimidated I’ll likely mispronounce or forget ordinary words. It happens most often when I meet celebrities. If there’s something important I want to say but can’t find the courage to say it out loud, I’ll write it. We could have the best conversation if we were pen pals!
An epistolary friendship would free me from the humiliation of being put-on-the-spot in any confrontational discussion with someone who holds an opposing view. In such scenarios I tend to go on emotional tangents anyway, unable to remember facts. When intense emotions cloud my judgment, I need to step away from the other person, seek solitude, and write from a calmer place with easy access to the source material I never can memorize.
Maybe all my relationships should begin in writing, for all the above reasons. But there is an exception I need to address. Texting, Tweeting, Messaging – all these have caused more problems in communication than even phone conversations for me. I think it’s because, when we’re trying to say something meaningful, it’s hard to read tone. True, I can and do have great, light-hearted conversations this way, but if there’s something important that needs to be said, do me a favor and send me a text that says something like this: “Let’s meet for coffee.” We’ll meet in person, just you and me. Then I’ll be able to focus entirely on you and not be confused by what I think you’re trying to say.
French is another exception for me. Even though my B.A. is in French and I can speak, read, and comprehend the language well (for an American), I know my written French leaves much to be desired. In fact, as my French friends can attest, I’m far better at speaking French than writing it. I want to blame French grammar and spelling but in truth it’s actually more personal, going back to my early days of learning French. Back then I’d attempt to write my French friends emails in French and they’d be so distracted with my errors that they’d hardly notice the content. I learned early on that, in France, you don’t mess with the written language. My spoken French, on the other hand, didn’t cause nearly as much upheaval. To be sure, I, in no way, speak perfect French. However, most of the time, no one corrects my pronunciation or grammar. Usually they’re impressed just to meet any American who speaks French.
At least here in the US I have access to spellcheck and French dictionary apps to help me overcome my shortcomings in written French. And, to be fair, my English typos in texts have also distracted my more grammatically sensitive friends to the point where they can’t see beyond them either.
But in English, it’s better I write. It’s better I give myself time to pause between thoughts and to ask myself, have I said all that I needed to say?
It’s better I write so I can read my words back to me.
It’s better I write because written words live forever.
It’s better I write because I have to share these thoughts, stories, and lessons I’ve accrued with age. Somewhere there’s an audience for them. I refuse to keep them all to myself.