Monday, March 23, 2009

What Writing Has Taught Me

...about slowing down and being me.

It's not all the time, though I haven't figured out the determining factors, but sometimes I'm the kind who, in person, struggles with what to say. My mind goes blank, with nary a question to ask, a dearth of topics to discuss. Or, it backfires, and I rush to fill silence with whatever inane thing is beating around upstairs.

It's not that I'm uppity - because I'm not, or that I'm not interested - because I am; it's that social settings make me nervous. Even just the small risk of seeing someone I know while running errands, the possibility of a chat with someone at my daughter's school or a phone call with an acquaintance, can turn me into an anxious mass of quivering innards. My thoughts consume me, and my brain locks up. Best I can tell, it's because I put too much stock, too much thought, into the whole thing. It causes me to panic inside, and then bubble up with forced words, in an effort just to get them out and over with.

I've often wished I could edit my verbal words, like I do written ones, so what I say flows beautifully, and my point is well-elocuted, every time. And maybe that's part of my problem: that I can't.

Or can I?

The slow and painstaking process of writing has begun to teach me something: There is no need to rush. Just as I might take a few moments with a carefully constructed sentence, I can pause to reflect upon what I'm about to say. Why not take a little extra time to figure out what is most apt? Because only mere seconds pass in the process, not creeping eons of time, as my self-consciousness would have me believe. I can take a deep breath, collect myself, and say what I truly want - instead of letting my impulses take over. [This is why, after all, I thrive in the written word, and through the filters and securities of the internet.]

I've been running experiments. I give myself pep talks, and slow myself down so I'm in the moment. I think. I respond. It's working well.

I'm trying to remember this lesson, and apply it with consistency.



How are you in social situations?



What has writing taught you?

39 comments:

Capri K said...

I don't tend to have this problem, my family would tell you that I have the opposite.

But, some folks are more difficult to talk to than others. And rather than have just dead air, I have found that asking them something about themselves usually takes care of the problem. Then all you have to do is respond!I would imagine you to be a caring, good listener!

Ask about their family, what are they reading, what are they making for supper. All pertinent information! Keep it light and easy!

Turkey Lurkey said...

I know people who pause a lot when they are speaking. I also have family members who speak very slowly. Usually, I find myself slowing down with them, and to appreciate the sound of each word as I say them.

People today tend to have faster output and faster input. Have you ever witnessed a preschool teacher quiet a room with her low, slow, and calm voice? There is a certain beauty in it.

The same can be said for writing. (Especially poetry) Choosing words carefully can have a profound effect on your story.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this. :)

Janna Qualman said...

Capri K - The listening I'm good at. It's what comes after that I get tripped up over. And not all the time, either, because I can carry on smooth conversations without a blip of concern - it just doesn't happen as often as I'd like. Light and easy - I'll remember that. Thanks. :)

Janna Qualman said...

Turkey - Absolutely, it does, and I want to always exude that kind of calm and ease. And maybe it's all in my head (I've already established I over-analyze everything), I just want to feel the same cool inside people might see on the outside.

T. Anne said...

I have the same problem. It does help to slow down, Lord knows a slew of odd things have been known to fly from my mouth. I attribute it to the fact my mind is always partially on my novels. What can I say? I'm passionate.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Writing has taught me I'm perfectly happy to be alone, with myself, whatever...and that I have hidden things that spring out from nowhere and I think "huhn, where'd that come from?"

I used to put my foot in my mouth all the time, now I find I don't rush headlong to say something as I did when younger....thank gawd; although maybe I still put my foot in my mouth at times? I don't know...

Rebecca Nazar said...

Oh gosh, I'm like you. My hubby says I come across as confident, but HA! You have a great approach and the right attitude. Shy souls need tender care. That's one of the reasons I write.

Joanne said...

I think everyone's had those awkward strained silences or a rush of words. It happens, and I like your idea of slowing down and being in the moment. Actually, that's the type of conversation I'd prefer to be engaged in, a thoughtful, considerate one rather than just words filling in the space. So what has writing taught me about this? Just simply be yourself.

scarlethue said...

I seem to give new people the impression that I'm snobby because I generally don't talk to them. More than once in my life I've been told that that's the vibe I put out when meeting someone new, which is terrible because it's the opposite of what I am. In actuality, I'm shy, and like you I have trouble deciding what to say. I'm fine in formal conversations-- job interviews for example, because they're more rehearsed and I know what I can and can't say. But social situations are difficult. I find it hard to just be normal, always worrying something stupid is going to slip out.

I think before I speak too. A lot of "hmms" and deep breaths like you're trying. I speak very slowly with new people. It's something I'm working on as well. I don't want anyone to think I'm a snob anymore; that's even worse than them thinking I'm weird or stupid for something I might say.

Cindy said...

Janna, I love this post! This is the dilemma of my life. I constantly tell my husband that I wish I could be as eloquent in person as I am on paper. I am sooo going to do what you do and try to slow down, try to calm my mind when I'm asked a question or I feel the spotlight is on me, and be myself!

Janna Qualman said...

T. Anne - We should share sometime! I've got a list of cringe-worthy comments, too. :D

Kat - I'm sensing (with all today's responses), we all have moments like that. What's important is that you've realized it, and you try NOT to stick your foot in your mouth anymore. :)

Rebecca - Shy souls need tender care. I love that. And so true!

Joanne - Considerate is a great word here, because one of my biggest concerns is seeming inconsiderate. I'd hate that.

scarlethue - "I find it hard to just be normal, always worrying something stupid is going to slip out." It's so awful and awkward, isn't it? This is what I'm hoping to change - because if I don't WORRY about saying something stupid, then chances are less likely I will. :)

Cindy - Okay, we'll work on it together! Report back to me, and let me know how it goes. Deal?

Lori Tiron-Pandit said...

Are you describing me? I am starting to think that many writers have these issues and that's why they turn to writing.

I'm also trying to train myself to talk slower and breathe in between words, so that I have time to think while I talk. Also, people who talk slower seem more confident to me, for some reason.

Janna Qualman said...

Lori - Wow, you too? I'm overwhelmed by how much we're all thinking alike with this. Maybe there is truth behind it leading to our writing.

Mylestones said...

Janna, I think you're on to something here. I used to be exactly as you described. Social situations still are not within my default "comfort zone", but I've changed dramatically over the past 10 years in feeling more comfortable. In addition to slowing things down like we do when we write, I find that with lots of "practice" (being forced into a variety of social interactions--very frequently), I became more and more comfortable. I think practice part is true of writing as well. The more you do it, the more comfortable and "natural" you feel doing it!

Janna Qualman said...

Mylestones - This is where the phrase fake it until you make it applies. ;)

Melissa Marsh said...

I am the same way most of the time. Unless I'm around my really good friends, I clam up and feel incredibly shy. I can't figure it out. I used to be such a social outgoing person. No longer.

I would much rather chat online or email someone than talk to them on the phone. Weird, isn't it?

I agree with you on the writing - there's no need to rush. Take your time, enjoy the process. :-)

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I guess I'm the "social butterfly" in the group! I love to be with people and chat. I often would rather, and I have, get up in front of church, a group meeting, etc. and give a talk, than write it down! Even though I type fast, I can talk faster--which isn't necessarily good either! There are many times I stick my foot in my mouth, but when I do, if it needs a "I'm sorry!", then I'm the first to speak. If it's just me boo-booing, then I laugh at myself and invite others to join in!

I like what Capri K said that thinking about the other person and asking them questions about themselves. It helps to relax you and that person and make conversation enjoyable.

Terri Tiffany attended the Toastmasters and felt it helped her with the same uncomfortable feeling of speaking in front/to others. Perhaps something like that would be helpful.

JOY said...

I like the reminder to slow down. I've always admired those who take their time, you can see them deliberately forming the words from their thoughts.

It is frustrating when I think of that right phrase 2 to 3 hours after the conversation and then it's too late.

I do go through blank periods where I am a deep well of emptiness. Part of it is fear of letting out what I want to say so I pace and circle around it doing a rain dance! Eventually the words rain down.

scarlethue said...

Thanks :)

Actually, looking at the two pictures, me and her both "done up," I guess we do favor a little, maybe in the smile. Who knows. I'll have to catch an episode sometime.

Janna Qualman said...

Melissa - Me, too. I'll take e-mail ANY day.

Donna - Need you to run off on us a little! ;)

Joy - Oh, that's horribly frustrating! I either think of the perfect response too late, or something better to have said than the first go round, and kick myself for it.

scarlethue - Some episodes are hard to watch due to subject matter, but it's one of my favorite crime dramas! (When I actually have time for tv, that is. ;)

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, that's funny you mention this because while recording my video, I had to force myself not to chatter mindlessly. I thought the silences were ENDLESS, but it wasn't nearly what I envisioned when I played it back. I do try to take care when speaking but I talk quickly and I do jumble things up on occasion.

Jessica said...

LOL I'm like you. So much more comfortable writing my thoughts than saying them.
I stick my foot in my mouth a lot, or say something that makes sense to my busy mind but someone else is like, What? What does that mean. LOL I also can get nervous in social situations, but it really depends on my mood. Sometimes I feel like connecting. Having a job as a bank teller was the best experience in teaching me how to talk to people on a superficial basis. (casual conversation)
I don't know what writing has taught me. Great question.

Janet said...

In social situations? Sometimes good, sometimes stick my foot in my mouth. Oh well. I like to think I've gotten better over the years, but I don't dare ask anyone to find out...

Woman in a Window said...

I'm ridiculous in social situations which is why I hide in my house and NEVER answer my phone. Writing has taught me that it is safer to hide in my house and NEVER answer my phone.

Janna Qualman said...

Melanie - That's funny! But I didn't notice 'em, either, because I was so wrapped up in taking in all the scenery.

Jessica - You're right, I think it's a mood thing for me, too. Maybe it's hormonal. Heck, nearly everything else is for me. LOL ;)

Janet - Maybe one day you'll be brave enough to ask! Or, you'll be so old you just won't care... :D

Woman - ROFL! I'm a homebody, too. :)

JKB said...

I've found, myself, that people are willing to talk and will take all the time to tell you everything. So I just kick back and listen.

I'm not much of a talker.

(And thank you for visiting my blog! It's really nice to meet you!)

Janna Qualman said...

JKB - I'll try that, too. :)

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I feel like I know you but I just found your blog - and I love it! Your vlog is awesome. If I can be brave enough, I'll do one too!

Janna Qualman said...

Amy, thank you! What a great compliment. And I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a vlog from you. ;)

Terri Tiffany said...

Although I am a talker, there are times I know I talk as I hate the silence. I think it's great you are experimenting with it! I'm more comfortable in one-on-one settings but it is the crowds etc. that get me. My husband pauses before he speaks... and thinks about it...I should do the same!

colbymarshall said...

Writing has also taught me not to rush, because I have a tendency to force it out if its not there. I have also learned some kind of patience!

giddymomof6 said...

Mty writing has taught me to really listen to teens and the way the talk--how they're pronoucing their words and what they are talking about. It's been fun and allowed me to live in my youth this past year! Now I think I know why so many people write for teens! LOL! Jenni

Janna Qualman said...

Terri - I can fake it in big crowds, better than one-on-one, I think.

Colby - Ah yes, patience. Good one!

Jenni - You might be on to something! :)

thedomesticfringe said...

Are you saying that we need to think before we speak? I should've learned that lesson long ago. It would've saved me a world of trouble; however, I'm a no thought type of person. My words slip out before I can stop them. I'm hearing for the first time when they are audible to others. Know what I mean?

It's pure trouble sometimes.

I actually think it's easier to talk to strangers sometimes. I mean, who cares what you say. You'll probably never see them again in your life. I didn't mean that in such a terrible way, really. I'm quitting while I'm ahead.

-FringeGirl

Janna Qualman said...

FringeGirl - ROFL! I get it. And maybe you could teach me a thing or two. ;)

Chad said...

What has writing taught me!?!? It has taught me that I am not a perfect writer, that's for sure. When I write, I begin to feel the sense of achievement that never quite seems permanent when I speak. It is the longevity of the written

Janna Qualman said...

Chad - Welcome! :) I really like this sentence: "When I write, I begin to feel the sense of achievement that never quite seems permanent when I speak." Such a true and perfect sentence! Thanks for putting this thought into words.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Can ya tell I'm soooo far behind on reading my favorite blogs?

The message was nice to hear. I can't rush right now, so why angst over it. Thank you. Hugs

Janna Qualman said...

Angie - And hugs to you!